UNEP joins alliance to implement One Health approach

29 March 2022

Article: 56/1211

Work to tackle the challenges of human, animal and ecosystem health using a more integrated approach has seen significant progress in the past year, leaders of three international organizations cooperating across these sectors said, as they expanded their group to include a fourth body, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP). 

At its annual executive meeting, the tripartite partnership for One Health, bringing together the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO), the World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), formally became the quadripartite as it signed a memorandum of understanding with the UN Environment Programme (UNEP). 

The One Health approach aims to sustainably balance and optimize the health of people, animals, ecosystems and the wider environment, by mobilising multiple sectors, disciplines and communities to work together, in order to foster well-being and tackle threats to health and ecosystems. Also, it addresses the collective need for clean water, energy and air, safe and nutritious food, action on climate change, and contributing to sustainable development. 

The work of the newly expanded alliance will be focused on a One Health joint plan of action, which includes six main action tracks:

  • enhancing countries’ capacity to strengthen health systems under a One Health approach
  • reducing the risks from emerging or resurfacing zoonotic epidemics and pandemics
  • controlling and eliminating endemic zoonotic, neglected tropical or vector-borne diseases
  • strengthening the assessment, management and communication of food safety risks
  • curbing the silent pandemic of antimicrobial resistance (AMR)
  • better integrating the environment into the One Health approach 

As the world enters the third year of the COVID-19 pandemic, with an estimated cost of $8 to $16 trillion, there is increased awareness and broad recognition of the importance of One Health as a long-term, viable and sustainable approach, and it is now firmly anchored on the global agenda, from the G7 and G20 to the UN Food Systems Summit. To support a global One Health Coalition, a One Health commitment was registered at the UN Food Systems Summit, aimed at building engagement across sectors, disciplines and all levels of society. This commitment will help shape national agrifood systems transformation pathways as part of the summit follow-up. 

Last year saw the tripartite also implement a number of other initiatives on One Health, including AMR, in which the One Health High-Level Expert Panel had an important scientific advisory role. As a result, One Health regional platforms were strengthened, and new ones initiated to share information and best practices. Important progress was also made in establishing a joint framework on AMR, a global leaders’ group on AMR, and in work towards an AMR multi-stakeholder partnership platform, mobilizing resources and action to fight AMR which threatens the lives of millions. These achievements reflect the successful cooperation between the tripartite and UNEP which has now reached an important new milestone with the signature of a formal collaboration agreement. 

Source: WHO, 18 March 2022