The following is a position statement circulated by the COHAB Initiative Secretariat at the CBD COP12 meeting in Pyeongchang, Republic of Korea, ahead of discussions on the text of a draft decision relating to Biodiversity and Health, under Agenda Item 16 "Biodiversity and Sustainable Development" . Specifically, the statment addresses issues relating to theproposed text on the joint programme of work between the CBD Scretariat and the World Health Organisation, and related work with other stakeholders. The draft text to be discussed at the meeting can be found here.

* Updated on Tuesday 7th October to reflect commments from several COHAB Partners and COP12 delegates.

** Updated on Friday 10th October to futher reflect commments from our partners and delegations regarding links between the Ebola crisis and biodiversity.

Thank you to all who provided feedback.



Position Statement from the Secretariat of the COHAB Initiative

(Co-operation On Health And Biodiversity)

regarding discussions at CBD COP12 in Pyeongchang, Republic of Korea


The preamble to the Convention on Biological Diversity explicitly recognises the importance of biodiversity to meeting the health needs of the growing world population, and since the Convention was opened in 1992 the connections between biodiversity, ecosystems and human health have become a critical issue for science and decision makers. However, there remain many barriers to effective co-operation between the health and biodiversity communities.

These barriers include, for example -  

  • A lack of suitable frameworks and forums for cross-sector dialogue
  • A lack of understanding of perspectives between sectors
  • The need for a stronger evidence base suitable for use by scientists, decision makers and actors in the health and biodiversity communities.

The Conference of Parties to the CBD has taken some important strides in recent years towards addressing these barriers. In particular, since 2010, the COP (1)  has mandated the development of a joint work programme between the CBD Secretariat and the World Health Organisation, to help bridge the gap between the two sectors and to explore opportunities for greater integration and partnership.

The outputs of the joint programme of work have been hugely significant. These include the regional capacity-building workshops in South America (2012) and Africa (2013) (2), outreach and engagement with key stakeholders and experts in a wide range of relevant disciplines, and most recently the preparation of the report “Connecting Global Priorities: Biodiversity and Human Health – A state of knowledge review”, the advanced draft of which is available for COP12 (3).

However, much more work is needed.  There is a need for further capacity-building and workshops in other regions in order to encourage dialogue, experience-sharing and co-operation between actors at regional and national levels. There is a need for further work to develop the evidence base and ensure that new knowledge on links between ecosystems and health is captured and effectively communicated to CBD Parties and other stakeholders. There is also a need for the development of tools to assist Parties to effectively make the connections between health and biodiversity in policy and practice, including through National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans.  Furthermore, there is an urgent need to bring the message of biodiversity and its importance to health to more actors within the health sector, and to work to ensure that biodiversity is formally recognised as a critical issue within the scope of discussions at the World Health Assembly. The severe threat to human health represented by the current Ebola crisis in West Africa, in addition to other emerging infectious diseases in this and other regions, further highlights the importance of the current joint work programme between the CBD Sceretariat and the WHO, and underlines the need for it to be continued and strengthened.

Therefore, the COHAB Initiative and its partners recommend that COP12 Decisions dealing with health, which will be discussed under Agenda item 16 in WG 1, should seek to strengthen the joint work programme between the CBD and the WHO, in order to facilitate greater support for Parties and relevant stakeholders, and to further address the barriers to effective co-operation on health and biodiversity. The COP should ensure that the effort behind the capacity-building activities and the State of Knowledge Review is continued, and that the momentum towards greater integration of health and biodiversity be sustained.

Having reviewed the draft decisions relating to health and biodiversity (see COP12 document UNEP/CBD/COP/12/1/Add.2/Rev.1; page 55) (4), and following consultation with its partners,  the COHAB Initiative recommends that the proposed text for a decision relating to biodiversity and health should be amended to ensure that the outputs of the State of Knowledge Review are widely disemminated and appropriately considered in relevant decision making, and to ensure that the CBD-WHO joint work programme is continued and strengthened. Also, whilst we welcome the recognition of "One Health" as being consitent with the CBD's ecosystem approach, we feel that focus on one specific approach is problematic. Many different ecosystem approaches to health have been proposed or are in use, with more under development - because not all such approaches are applicable to all relevant and important areas of science, policy and practice. Whilst the COHAB Initiative strongly endorses One Health as one valuable means of promoting cross-sector collaboration, we note that it is not all-inclusive (e.g. its focus on animal and human health can neglect the importance of agrobiodiversity and plant health), and it is not necessarily useful for certain settings-based approaches to health policy development. We therefore recommend that the reference be amended to recognise ecosystem approaches to health more generally.

Recognising the emerging evidence of the linkages between the Ebola crisis, ecology and ecosystem change (5), the COHAB Initiative also endorses proposals for a CBD-WHO working group to explore linkages between the Ebola outbreak and biodiversity, in collaboraiton with other partners and international agencies in other relevant disciplines, as appropriate.

To better address these points, we put forward the following text be considered for inclusion in related decisions (this text is based on the draft decisions in the Add2/Rev1 document, our suggestons for amended paragraphs are in blue text, and suggested new additional paragraphs are in red):  


The Conference of the Parties


  1. Welcomes the outcomes of regional capacity-building workshops, for Africa and Latin America and the Caribbean, on the interlinkages between biodiversity and human health co-convened by the Secretariat and the World Health Organization, in collaboration with other FIOCRUZ and other partners, and encourages the organization of additional workshops, in collaboration with relevant partners, in other regions;


  2. Welcomes the State of Knowledge Review on the Interlinkages between Biodiversity and Human Health, developed by the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity and the World Health Organization and other partners;
  1. Requests the Executive Secretary to finalise the State of Knowledge Review on biodiversity and health, and to consider peer review comments and to widely disseminate the results and findings to Parties and relevant stakeholder, and consider the implications of the State of Knowledge Review for the CBD-WHO joint work programme;
  1. Requests the Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice to consider the implications of the State of Knowledge Review on the Interlinkages between Biodiversity and Human Health for the work under the Convention and to report thereon to the Conference of the Parties at its thirteenth meeting;
  1. Encourages Parties to make use of the information in the State of Knowledge Review on the Interlinkages between Biodiversity and Human Health to integrate biodiversity and human health concerns, including in the development and implementation of national biodiversity strategies and action plans, as well as policies, plans and programmes for the health sector, and broader policies, plans and programmes for sustainable development;
  1. Encourages Parties and other Governments to promote cooperation at the national level between sectors and agencies responsible for biodiversity and those responsible for human health;


  1. Recognises the value of many emerging ecosystem approaches to health, including “One Health”, “ecohealth” and “conservation medicine”, amongst others, as a means of addressing the cross-cutting issue of biodiversity and health, and as integrated approaches consistent with the ecosystem approach (decision V/6) that integrate the complex relationships between humans, animals, plants, wildlife and the environment;
  1. Requests the Executive Secretary to report the results of collaborative work on biodiversity and health to the 68th World Health Assembly of the World Health Organization;
  1. Recommends that the Secretariat continue to develop and strengthen the joint programme of work between the Secretariat and the World Health Organisation and other relevant Partners;
  1. Recommends that the Conference of Parties consider establishing a financial mechanism to adequately support the continuation of the CBD-WHO joint programme of work on biodiversity and health, including for further regional capacity-building workshops, the development of appropriate guidance for Parties on integrating biodiversity and health in policy and practice, and other tools, and further work to build on the State of Knowledge Review and assessing the evidence base for linkages between health and biodiversity;
  1. Emphasizes the relevance of the interlinkages between biodiversity and human health for the post-2015 United Nations agenda and the sustainable development goals, and, in this context, encourages Parties to make use of the information in the State of Knowledge Review on the Interlinkages between Biodiversity and Human Health to identify opportunities for further integrating biodiversity and human health concerns.


Delegations to COP12 seeking further information or support on issues linking biodiversity and health during the negotiations in Pyeongchang can contact the COHAB Scretariat by email at: CBDCOP12 (at)


(1) See CBD COP10 Decision X/20, Part 17

(2) See "Regional Workshops" section at

(3) See


(5) See for example: Bausch & Schwartz, 2014; and Frieden et al, 2014.


Statement prepared by Conor Kretsch,

Executive Director,

COHAB Initiative Secretariat

6th October 2014




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