Healthy Environments for Children Alliance

Framework for Action

30 July 2003

Preamble

1 We, national governments, intergovernmental bodies and agencies and organizations of the UN system, non-governmental organizations, bilateral development agencies, foundations and trusts, academic and research institutions, the private sector, community, adolescent and children’s groups, conscious of the urgent need to address in a concerted and effective manner the environmental risks to children’s health in the places where they spend their time, pledge to establish a global alliance, within which we will harness the diverse efforts already underway, and undertake synergised, co-ordinated action to create healthier environments for children.

2 Accordingly, we commit to the following mission statement of the Healthy Environments for Children Alliance (HECA):

A world-wide alliance to reduce environmental risks to children’s health that arise from the settings where they live, learn, play, and sometimes work , by providing knowledge, increasing political will, mobilizing resources, and catalysing intense and urgent action,

3 Stressing that a substantial proportion of the global burden of disease can be attributed to environmental risk factors, with over 40 per cent of this burden falling on children under five years of age,

4 Considering that the major risks factors to children’s health include, lack of household water security, inadequate personal hygiene, lack of sanitation, unsafe food, air pollution, disease vectors, chemical hazards, and unintentional injuries,

5 Understanding that these risks can lead to diseases such as diarrhoea, acute and chronic respiratory illnesses, malaria and other vector-borne diseases, poisonings, neuro-developmental disorders, as well as injuries,

6 Conscious of the fact that children may be particularly vulnerable to the acute and chronic health effects of environmental hazards, in places such as their homes, schools, and communities, as well as those associated with global change,

7 Taking into account that poorer children are more likely to be exposed to these risks,

8 Recognizing that children are at the heart of sustainable development and that by tackling the environmental risks to children’s health we contribute to the economic, social, and environmental pillars of sustainable development,

9 Acknowledging the obligation of states to protect children’s health, and that several international and regional agreements have specifically recognised the links between children’s well-being and the protection of the environment,

10 Recognizing that creating healthy environments for children (HEC) requires peace and security and that too many children are adversely affected by environments characterized by war, conflict, and strife,

11 Cognizant of achievements to date, and building on the momentum already underway in communities, countries and regions to create healthier environments for children,

12 We, Members of the Alliance, recognizing that together we are many times stronger and more effective than the sum of our individual contributions, agree to the following description of our approach, functions and expected achievements, principles and values, and structure and criteria for membership, of our alliance.

Approach

13 The Healthy Environments for Children Alliance is dedicated to an integrated approach to children’s environmental health in diverse settings, with particular attention to the home, school, and community environments. An integrated approach is necessary because:

  • Children are often exposed simultaneously to several risk factors in the settings where they live, learn, play, and sometimes work;
  • These risks are typically interconnected and influenced by political, social, economic, psychological, and cultural factors;
  • Addressing such crosscutting issues can allow effective approaches to tackling multiple risk factors;
  • Even when risks are addressed individually, the Alliance will serve as a platform through which these efforts can be synergistic and create overall healthier environments in the various settings.

14 The action taken at household and local levels needs to be supported and accompanied by broader environment and health policies at the global, regional and national levels.

Functions

15 The Healthy Environments for Children Alliance (HECA) aims to support countries and communities in creating and maintaining healthy environments for children by carrying out the following functions:

16 Building political will
Effective communication underpins the alliance’s ability to galvanize the political will to tackle the threats to children’s health in their daily environments. Advocacy and awareness raising facilitates resource mobilization; encourages global, national, and local movements; inspires general public engagement; ensures effective media attention; and engages children on healthy environments for children issues.

17 Expected achievements: Within 2 years, many more decision makers and communities are aware of and committed to the need to ensure healthier environments for children as a result of:

  • Broadening the representation of HECA by engaging more stakeholders, especially in developing countries;
  • Raising the profile of HEC on the political agenda, so it is a higher priority for more international (UN system and other intergovernmental) organisations, governments, foundations, and NGOs;
  • Increasing the availability of advocacy guides, creating and supporting networks for HEC advocates and synchronizing campaigns to address priority issues.

18 Ensuring exchange of knowledge, information and expertise for decision-making
A key role of the alliance is establish vibrant networks that enable decision makers – at all levels - to access and debate results of research, share experience with the application of global standards, and receive useful and reliable guidance on measures they can take to protect and promote children’s health in the settings where they live.

19 Expected achievements: Within 2 years, many more decision-makers, communities, and programme personnel are aware of HEC issues and potential responses through:

  • Networks for the exchange of knowledge and information on HEC, together with know-how for decision-makers drawn from a range of different sources;
  • Expanded access to effective tools for action, including assessment instruments, means for prioritizing action and systems to track progress;
  • Improved skills and capacities so that they can respond better to HEC challenges.

20 Promoting effective policies and action
HECA promotes evidence-based policies. While prevention of exposure to known risks is generally the soundest policy, the alliance will also draw on internationally agreed norms and standards in dealing with both known and uncertain risks. It will advocate for stakeholders to implement the most effective intervention strategies, and ensure coordinated efforts to address environmental threats in all child settings.

21 Expected achievements: Within 2 years there is evidence of much more HEC-related action across a range of sectors and at all levels through:

  • Evidence of greater and more effective cooperation between health, environment and other sectors;
  • Children’s environmental health concerns more frequently – and substantively – integrated into relevant policies and programmes;
  • Demonstrations of ways in which risks to children’s health and the environment can best be addressed;
  • Increased attention to decision-maker commitments – in ways that encourage accountability.

22 Mobilizing resources: funds and people
HECA actively engages with stakeholders at all levels to mobilize people's commitment and energy. By continually expanding the circle of participation, and galvanizing popular movements, the alliance enlists increasing amounts of expertise, time and funds that are dedicated to safeguarding children's environmental health

23 Expected achievements: During the next two years there will be increased resources of all kinds mobilized for HEC at all levels through

  • The establishment of local HEC alliances in at least 30 countries;
  • Focusing attention on a smaller number of countries from diverse regions, to demonstrate HECA value-added in mobilizing resources, taking action, and documenting impact, working with the local HEC alliances;
  • An increase in financial resources for HEC tracked at national and global levels
  • Evidence of an increasing involvement by multiple sectors in addressing HEC issues;
  • Development and implementation of strategies that will result in increased support for CEH from bodies that finance sustainable development;
  • Building capacity for HEC prioritisation and action in countries through the transfer of knowledge and skills between communities and countries.

24 Tracking progress
The Alliance has a responsibility to specify ways in which it intends to make a difference to children living in unhealthy environments around the world. In addition, clear and transparent reporting is necessary to build credibility. The alliance will track progress on:

  • Improving healthy environments for children, by encouraging the regular monitoring and public dissemination of results using existing systems, and – as they become available –internationally prescribed indicators of children’s environmental health; and,
  • The progress of the Alliance itself, using agreed on indicators such as funding levels, public commitments, and the attainment of the expected achievements described in this document.

25 Expected achievements: During the next two years there will be greater attention to the extent to which children’s environments are made more healthy through

  • Baseline studies which help to establish the current situation with relation to children’s environmental health, and the state of movements for HEC;
  • Local and national efforts to measure the environmental health risks they face, the resulting burden of disease and the extent to which these are being reduced through HEC action, as part of the wider monitoring of MDG achievement;
  • Systems for tracking global achievement of HEC.

Principles and Values

26 Alliance members work collectively to create and maintain healthy environments for children. The alliance draws on the comparative strengths of members when working towards this common goal, taking cognizance of their individual mandates. HECA will undertake its mission adhering to the following principles and values:

27 Inclusiveness
Membership of the Alliance is open to consideration by any organization that demonstrates a commitment to HECA’s mission to end the environment-related ill-health and deprivation associated with the places where children spend their time.

28 Political Commitment
Members advocate for intensified action – at all levels and in all relevant sectors – on environmental risks to children’s health. They may do this by providing knowledge, increasing political will, mobilizing resources, or catalysing action.

29 Engagement of local groups
HECA values local level groups and communities for their knowledge, expertise and capacity to act.

30 Shared Responsibility
As a true alliance, rewards and risks must be shared by all members. Members of HECA are accountable for the results and deliverables of this initiative, both individually and collectively.

31 Spirit of Cooperation
Recognizing the diversity of mandates and priorities of each alliance member, HECA operates through an open, transparent process of cooperation to reach agreement on strategies for ensuring healthy environments for children.

Structure

32 HECA is composed of the following entities:

  • The full alliance, composed of stakeholders with a commitment to reducing environmental risks to children’s health;
  • A “steering group” comprised of representatives of stakeholder groups and regional representation acting as the core decision-making body, providing overall direction and guidance to the alliance, supported by working groups as needed;
  • A lean Secretariat responsible for managing, coordinating and facilitating implementation of alliance functions and agreed activities.

Membership criteria

33 HECA is an inclusive, participatory and action-oriented global alliance including institutions or organizations inter alia national governments, intergovernmental bodies and agencies and organizations of the UN system, non-governmental organizations, bilateral development agencies, foundations and trusts, academic and research institutions, the private sector, community, adolescent and children’s groups that:

  • Commit to the mission and approach of the alliance.
  • Agree to be accountable for the results and deliverables of this initiative, both individually and collectively.

34 Criteria for acceptance

  • Review of what the candidate brings to HECA, including a description of how the applicant would further the aims and objectives of HECA.
  • Review of statement of extent and nature of stated and/or potential vested interests/conflict of interests.
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