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Health and Biodiversity

Health is often considered as a basic human right, and is defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as not simply being free from illness, but in a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being. Biodiversity can be considered as the foundation for human health as it underpins the functioning of the ecosystems on which we depend for our food and fresh water; aids in regulating climate, floods and disease; provides recreational benefits and offers aesthetic and spiritual enrichment. Biodiversity also contributes to local livelihoods, to both traditional and modern medicines and to economic development.

All human health ultimately depends on ecosystem services that are made possible by biodiversity and the products derived from them. While the inter-linkages between biodiversity, ecosystem services and human health are inherently complex, inter-disciplinary research is aiming to develop a more thorough understanding of these essential relationships.

At its tenth meeting in 2010, the Conference of the Parties(COP) adopted, in decision X/2, the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020 with 20 global targets known as the Aichi Biodiversity Targets, to guide national and international efforts to conserve biodiversity. While all the Targets have potential linkages to health and well-being, Aichi Target 14 focuses explicitly on ecosystem services that contribute to health, livelihoods and well-being. Actions that support implementation of the Aichi Biodiversity Targets provide opportunities to improve both global human health and ecosystem health. In that perspective, the COP also adopted a decision calling on the Secretariat of the Convention to further strengthen collaboration with the World Health Organization as well as other relevant organizations and initiatives with a view to promoting the consideration of biodiversity issues in health programmes and plans as appropriate, including the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020, and as a contribution to the achievement of other global commitments. By 2012, with a strengthened mandate for global cooperation on biodiversity and health, the Secretariat's Joint Work Programme on Biodiversity and Health was formally established pursuant to COP decision XII/21.

The current rate of biodiversity loss may potentially have grave consequences and hamper efforts to meet a range of Sustainable Development Goals and targets, including those related to poverty, hunger and health, by increasing the vulnerability of the poor and reducing their options for sustainable development. The poor and the marginalized, in particular children, will suffer first and most severely as they rely directly on biodiversity and associated ecosystem services for their very survival.

Our fundamental reliance on biodiversity and ecosystem services offers significant opportunities to more consistently recognize and manage biodiversity’s services for human health and to contribute to biodiversity conservation and sustainable use at all scales. We can improve our understanding of the complex linkages between biodiversity, ecosystem services and human health as well as promote co-benefits through joint policies and implementation activities by strengthening collaboration with the health sector and better integrating biodiversity into national health strategies and programmes and health into national biodiversity strategies and activities.

Health and Biodiversity at COP 13

Health documents at COP 13:

Health Side events at COP 13:
  • All side events on biodiversity and health:
  • Health and Biodiversity at COP 11

    Health Documents for COP 11:

    Health Side Events at COP 11:

    • United Nations
    • United Nations Environment Programme