ECOSOC High-Level Segment Adopts Ministerial Declaration

9 July 2009: The High-Level Segment of the 2009 substantive session of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), which met from 6-9 July 2009 in Geneva, Switzerland, concluded its consideration of current global and national trends and their impact on social development, including health, and adopted a Ministerial Declaration that highlights current and emerging challenges that are inter-twined with public health issues, including climate change.

The High-Level Segment considered the themes “Implementing the internationally agreed goals and commitments in regard to global public health” and “Current global and national trends and their impact on social development, including public health.”

The Declaration emphasizes that climate change “poses serious health risks and challenges to all countries, particularly to developing countries, especially the least developed countries, landlocked developing countries, small island developing States and countries in Africa, including those that are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change.” Through the Declaration, High-Level participants also reaffirmed their “resolve to address the adverse impact of climate change on global public health and call for successful conclusions of the intergovernmental negotiations on climate change…”

In her opening statement to the High-Level Segment, the World Health Organization's (WHO) Director-General, Margaret Chan, noted that “climate change is a gradual and now inevitable event, but the effects of more frequent and more extreme weather events will be abrupt and acutely felt.” She stressed that “the need for humanitarian assistance, for victims of floods, droughts, storms, and famine will grow at a time when all countries are stressed, to one degree or another, by climate change.” Underlining that “crop yields in some parts of Africa are expected to drop by 50%” in the coming decade and that “among Africa's poor, 90% depend on agriculture for their livelihoods,” she added that “There is no surplus. There is no coping capacity. There is no cushion to absorb the shocks.” She concluded that “A focus on health as a worthy pursuit for its own sake is the surest route to that moral dimension that is so sadly lacking in international systems of governance.” [UNOG news release] [ECOSOC High-Level Segment website] [Draft ministerial declaration] [WHO Director-General's statement]