Global leaders in wildlife and human health today issued 10 principles – The Berlin Principles – with an urgent call to governments, academia, and civil society that all sectors need to break down barriers to ensure a united effort to prevent the emergence or resurgence of diseases that threaten humans, wildlife, and livestock.
The Berlin Principles were developed and issued today at the One Planet, One Health, One Future conference organized by the Wildlife Conservation Society and the German Federal Foreign Office.
The conference included the top minds from around the globe addressing how human development and interference on nature are generating threats affecting all life on Earth.
WCS President and CEO Cristian Samper emphasized in his remarks in Berlin:
Said Niels Annen, Minister of State at the German Federal Foreign Office: “I invite you – this afternoon – to adopt a call to action that has been jointly developed by a panel of international experts: the Berlin Principles. This declaration again underscores the significance of a healthy environment for health, sustainable development and political stability.” Read his full statement here:
The conference was moderated by Sir Andrew Haines. Speakers included i.a. Sabine Gabrysch Professor Climate Change and Health, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research Charité — Lothar Wieler President, Robert Koch Institute — Chris Walzer Executive Director Health Program, Wildlife Conservation Society — Maike Voss Associate, Research Division Global Issues, German Institute for International and Security Affairs — Beate Jessel President, German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation — Cristina Romanelli Convention on Biological Diversity – World Health Organization liaison — Peter Daszak President, EcoHealth Alliance
The Berlin Principles follows an earlier call for the one-health approach – The Manhattan Principles – developed in New York City in 2004.
Fifteen years ago, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) brought together stakeholders to discuss global health challenges at the nexus of human, animal, and ecosystem health. The symposium “Building Interdisciplinary Bridges to Health in a Globalized World” at the Rockefeller University gave birth to the “Manhattan Principles”. These detailed a collaborative, trans-sectoral, and cross-disciplinary approach, coined ‘One World - One Health’ (OWOH; oneworldonehealth.org). Since 2004 this approach has been adopted by numerous global entities and is generally portrayed as ‘One Health’. Today, ‘One Health’ is often narrowly focused on a few select topics, such as emerging infectious diseases and antimicrobial resistance. While these are undoubtedly important issues, such a constrained OWOH approach cannot deliver to its full global health potential.
Rapid and profound socio-ecological changes are driving a species extinction crisis while severely impacting the health—of people, wildlife, domesticated animals, and plants. This is happening not in a remote landscape or in some distant future, but here and now. Moreover, immediate action is imperative. Outbreaks and the international spread of infectious (communicable) disease impacting people and wildlife, including Ebola virus disease, SARS, monkeypox, MERS, avian influenza, peste des petits ruminants, African swine fever, chytridiomycosis, wheat rust, cassava mosaic disease and the emergent threat of antimicrobial resistance, remind us of a basic fact that cannot be ignored: Human, animal, plant and environmental health and well-being are all intrinsically connected and profoundly influenced by human activities. Rapid urbanisation, causes increased temperatures and enhanced carbon dioxide emission that negatively impact non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in humans, animals, and plants. Heat spikes give rise to dehydration with subsequent exacerbation of cardiovascular disease, especially in the young and the elderly. Air pollution exacerbates NCDs such as chronic obstructive airway disease (COPD), diabetes, and cardiovascular disease, including stroke. Beyond the cities, increased heat and flooding destroy fertile land causing undernutrition and micro-nutrient deficiencies in poor populations.
Also, it is critical to reinforce that we are predominantly failing the poor –The Bottom Billion– together with their livestock and the environment on which they directly depend, due to our unbridled consumption patterns and environmental destruction. Communicable and non-communicable diseases demand a truly comprehensive understanding of health and disease, a unity of approach that is achievable only through convergence of human, domestic animal, wildlife, plant, and environmental health, on a planetary scale – One Health.
From the remotest terrestrial wilderness to the deepest ocean, to the most densely populated cities, life on our planet is being fundamentally and profoundly harmed by species loss, habitat and soil degradation, pollution, wholesale destruction of forests and coral reefs, illegal and unsustainable exploitation of wild species, and invasive species, all of which are exacerbated by the global climate crisis. Emerging and resurging communicable and non-communicable diseases threaten not only humans (and their security, food supplies, economies, and societies at large) but also the fauna and flora that comprise the critically needed biodiversity that supports the very infrastructure of life on our planet.
Today broad consensus exists that health entails more than parasites and pathogens; it must incorporate socio-economic, evolutionary, and environmental factors while considering individual attributes and behaviors. To address the myriad of health challenges of the 21st century while ensuring the biological integrity of the planet for current and future generations, we need to strengthen existing interdisciplinary and cross-sectoral approaches that address not only disease prevention (infectious and non-infectious), surveillance, monitoring, control, and mitigation but also biodiversity conservation.
No one discipline or sector of society holds enough knowledge and resources to single-handedly prevent the emergence or resurgence of diseases while maintaining and improving the health and well-being of all species in today’s globalized world. No one country can reverse the patterns of land-use change, marine degradation, carbon release, soil degradation, environmental pollution, and species extinctions that, if left unmitigated, undermine the health of people and wildlife. Intensive work within each discipline is essential to develop expertise. However, research and practices that bridge traditional disciplinary silos are a prerequisite to resolving the impact of continued human development and growth.
The quality of current and future human and animal health and well-being depend on the success or failure of humanity’s environmental stewardship. Going forward, we must overcome sectoral and disciplinary silos, apply adaptive, forward reasoning and multidisciplinary solutions while boldly integrating current uncertainties to address the opportunities and challenges ahead.
We urge world leaders, governments, civil society, the global health and conservation communities, academia and scientific institutions, business, finance leaders, and investment holders to:
1. Recognize and take action to retain the essential links between human, domestic animal, wildlife, plant and environmental health for human existence and well-being, food and nutrition security, and sustainable development; therefore take action to ensure the conservation and protection of biodiversity, which interwoven with intact and functional ecosystems provides the critical foundational infrastructure of life on our planet;
2. Take action to develop strong public health institutions that firmly engage and collaborate with policy-makers and invest in robust science-based knowledge translation into policy and practice;
3. Take action to combat the current climate crisis, which is creating new severe threats to human, animal and environmental health, and exacerbating existing challenges;
4. Recognize that decisions regarding land, sea, and freshwater use directly impact health and that alterations in ecosystems paired with decreased resiliency generate shifts in communicable and non-communicable disease emergence, exacerbation and spread, and take action accordingly to eliminate or mitigate these impacts;
5. Devise adaptive, holistic and forward-looking approaches to the detection, prevention, monitoring, control and mitigation of emerging/resurging and exacerbating communicable and non-communicable diseases that incorporate the complex interconnections among species, environment, and human society, while accounting fully for harmful economic drivers, environmentally harmful subsidies and climate impacts;
6. Take action to meaningfully integrate biodiversity conservation perspectives and human health and well-being when developing solutions to communicable and non-communicable disease threats;
7. Increase cross-sectoral investment in the global human-, animal-, and plant health infrastructure and international funding mechanisms for the protection of ecosystems, commensurate with the serious nature of emerging/resurging and exacerbating communicable and non-communicable disease threats for life on our planet;
8. Enhance capacity for cross-sectoral and trans-disciplinary health surveillance and clear, timely information sharing to improve coordination of responses among governments and NGOs, health institutions, vaccine/pharmaceutical manufacturers, and other stakeholders;
9. Form participatory, collaborative relationships among governments, NGOs and local inhabitants, and indigenous people while strengthening the public sector to meet the challenges of global health and biodiversity conservation; and
10. Invest in educating and raising awareness for global citizenship and holistic planetary health approaches among children and adults in schools, communities, and universities while also influencing policy processes to increase recognition that human health ultimately depends on ecosystem integrity and a healthy planet.