(March 2009) Leaders of the East Africa Population, Health, and Environment Network met in Kigali, Rwanda, from Feb. 23-27, 2009, to reaffirm their commitment to examine the linkages between population, health, and environment (PHE) and explore integrated solutions to address these complex issues. The meeting brought together 30 champions of PHE from Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda. These champions include practitioners, researchers, policymakers, and advocates who are committed to working across disciplines to meet the general health, family planning, and livelihood needs of communities while also conserving the environment.
The mission of the East Africa PHE Network mission is to “provide leadership and create partnerships to promote and support the integration of population, health, and environment for sustainable development in Eastern Africa.” PRB works with the group to facilitate an active network for information exchange, professional networking, capacity building, and collaborative advocacy to raise awareness about PHE issues and promote greater cross-sector integration in the region.
Opening Session and Launch of the Rwanda PHE Policy Brief
The meeting began with a large opening session with invited guests from select governmental agencies and nongovernmental organizations, and international funding agencies in Rwanda in order to raise awareness about the Rwanda PHE working group. A keynote speech was delivered by the Rwandan Minister of Natural Resources Stanislaus Kamanzi, who noted “Rwanda faces great challenges, many of which are related to the complex relationships between population trends, poverty, and environmental conditions.” He also stated, “Rwanda is not, however, without the policy tools to address these complex integrated challenges of population, health, and the environment.” He pointed to The Vision 2020 and the National Environment Policy, which both recognize the strong links between population, health, poverty, and environment. Following his address, Jason Bremner, PHE program director at PRB, launched a policy brief that assesses the integration of population, health, and environment in Rwanda.
Capacity Building on Policy Communications
Two days of the meeting were devoted to building the capacity of PHE champions to work on policy communications and advocacy. Training focused on a framework for translating knowledge into action that uses knowledge, coalition building, and agenda setting to create windows of opportunity for policy change. Working in country groups, participants created communication strategies and action steps for communicating about PHE issues in their respective countries.
The PRB Policy Process: A Theoretical Framework
Field Visit to Projects in Rwanda to Learn About Integrated PHE Approaches
A final important aspect of the trip was a field visit to two projects supported by USAID that are integrating aspects of population, health, and environment service delivery. The visit illustrated macro-level PHE relationships and provided participants with examples of innovative, integrated solutions to addressing these PHE issues. Furthermore, participants were encouraged to reflect on how information from these integrated projects could be used to further communication and advocacy objectives.
Next Steps For Moving Forward
The meeting highlighted the great progress that the network and country groups had made since their initial launch in November 2007, but participants also acknowledged the many challenges they faced to working collaboratively on PHE issues and integrated solutions. All network members acknowledged the need for better tools and platforms for information sharing and a new AFRICAPHE listserv to facilitate this. In addition, the network leaders agreed to form a small group for additional strategic planning and resource mobilization. The meeting ended with a renewed commitment to working together and across disciplines toward the vision of the network, “An Eastern African region where men, women, and children are healthy, the environment is conserved, and livelihoods are secure.”
For more information on the meeting or to sign up for the AFRICAPHE listserv, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jason Bremner is program director, Population, Health, and Environment at the Population Reference Bureau.