Table of Contents

  • Commonwealth Heads of Government have given environmental issues a high priority in the context of sustainable development. In response, the Commonwealth Secretariat has built up activities for environmentally sustainable development in areas including biodiversity; forestry; energy; water, coastal, marine and land resources; aquaculture and fisheries; industry; climate change; legislation; health; women and youth. Commonwealth Ministers of Health selected environment and health to be the theme of their tenth triennial meeting held in Cyprus in 1992.

  • An expert group meeting was arranged by the Commonwealth Secretariat, London, as part of its response to proposals on environment and health made by the 10th Commonwealth Health Ministers' Meeting (10CHMM) held in Cyprus, 1992. It was hosted by the Centre for Environmental Management and Planning (CEMP) of Aberdeen University.

  • An important milestone in the global effort to minimise environmental degradation caused by development was the institution of EA (then called Environmental Impact Assessment, or EIA) as a legally required component of project proposals, in accordance with recommendations made by the first UN Conference on the Environment, held in Stockholm in 1972. It was first launched in the United States, concurrent with the establishment of the USEPA. As it is now widely accepted that properly conducted EA contributes to the long-term sustainability of economic development, a continuously growing number of countries, including many in the developing world, are incorporating EA provisions into their planning legislation.

  • Because of the vast variety of situations prevailing in individual countries, there can be no single approach to promoting the improved integration of health assessment in EA. Depending on the state of the economy and the environment, public health priorities, political structure and legislation, strategies to be adopted must differ from country to country.

  • Without attempting to undertake a full inventory of resources available, both within the Commonwealth and in other countries, the meeting noted the existence of various specialized institutions, including those represented by the participants (see Annex 2). A wider inventory would need to be made in order to identify potential sources of expertise, potential capacity for the delegation of specific tasks, existing databases, documents, training materials and programmes already underway for the promotion of HA as part of EA. The meeting stressed that, as there should be no duplication of effort, the main focus for follow-up would need to be on harmonization and coordination, particularly in the development of country-level activities.

  • The meeting identified the need to address the priorities in the formulation of project proposals that would help to develop additional core materials on the application of HA as part of EA.

  • In response to recommendations made on environment and health by the 10th Commonwealth Health Ministers Meeting (Cyprus, 1992), an expert group meeting was arranged to prepare suggestions for improving the role of health assessment (HA) in overall environmental assessment (EA) of projects, plans and policies. There was considerable consensus that such an improvement would depend on many factors, including increased awareness of the importance of human health in the economic development effort, more appropriate legislation and more adequately trained human resources. Concentrating on the training needs, the meeting went on by establishing a logical framework of EA components, which led to the identification of skills required and key sources of information to be used.