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The two international instruments that have a direct influence on the development of the linkages between health and biological resources are the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).  Their goals intersect in areas related to ensuring availability of medicinal resources, and the role of traditional medical practitioners and communities in using these resources to provide health care. While the CBD recognizes the rights of communities over their knowledge and practices, the WHO’s focus has been on ensuring safe and effective health care to populations, especially to those whose first point of contact for health delivery is a traditional healer.


Fostering the linkage between biodiversity conservation and human health

However, official documents of the WHO focus on setting standards for national health systems, with limited guidelines for community level health practices. It is important and urgent that the WHO provides such advice. To address the gap, both agencies the CBD Secretariat, a partner of the BaCH Initiative, and the WHO are increasingly cooperating since the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD-COP) called for cooperative action between relevant organizations to promote health and biodiversity goals in its decision X/20.

The different dimensions related to biodiversity and health objectives are captured across various goals and targets of the Aichi Targets of the New Strategic Plan of the CBD (Targets 4, 5, 7, 12, 13, 14 and 18). This was strengthened by decision 16 of the Sixteenth meeting of the Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice (SBSTTA) that brought out specific linkages between achieving health targets and achieving the Aichi Strategic Plan targets (UNEP/CBD/SBSTTA/16/16). COP-11 decisions XI/3 on co-operation between different international organizations, XI/14 (on Articles 8 (j) and 10 (c) and XI/22 (poverty and development) further accentuate the need to address development priorities with conservation priorities at the local level.

Attached to the Aichi Strategic Plan there are a number of indicators relevant to biodiversity and health including trends in benefits that humans derive from selected ecosystem services, trends in health and well-being of communities that depend directly on local ecosystem goods and services, and trends in the nutritional contribution of biodiversity and food composition.

As such, the COP-11 requested that these indicators be developed further and used by different stakeholders. In line with this, following an initial CBD/WHO workshop at WHO Headquarters in April 2012 in Geneva, Switzerland, the CBD Secretariat and the WHO initiated collaborative activities with regional workshops in September 2012 in Manaus, Brazil. Within the first regional workshop on the inter-linkages between human health and biodiversity in the Americas, the 52 participants from 25 countries agreed on 17 key activities to address related issues.

For Highlights of the CBD & WHO collaboration see here