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UN launches health partnership plan for European, Israeli and Palestinian cities

UN launches health partnership plan for European, Israeli and Palestinian cities

The United Nations health agency co-launched a new partnership programme today aimed at improving the public health of European, Palestinian and Israeli cities through information exchange, study tours, training initiatives and workshops, leading eventually to direct Israeli-Palestinian cooperation.

"The partnership will make an invaluable contribution to addressing the concrete health needs of the municipalities of Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory," said Gro Harlem Brundtland, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), which launched the initiative in Geneva in conjunction with the International Solidarity Fund of Cities against Poverty.

"In particular, it will focus on improving the health and social conditions of vulnerable groups that result from armed conflict on all sides," she added.

In the initial phase, European municipalities, including local health and social service professionals, as well as representatives of civil society, will invite health officials from Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories to participate in study tours and workshops. At a later stage direct exchanges between Israeli and Palestinian municipalities will be arranged.

The programme envisages specific collaboration initiatives in public health, primary health care and the health and social conditions of vulnerable groups.

WHO has invited representatives from seven European cities – Geneva, Barcelona, Lyon, The Hague, Brussels, Turin, and Hamar, Norway – to launch the initiative. Representatives were meeting in Geneva today with the Deputy Director General of the Union of Local Authorities in Israel (ULAI) and the Executive Director of the Association of Palestinian Local Authorities (APLA) to develop concrete next steps to speed up implementation of the partnership.

WHO, which has already sponsored similar partnerships with cities in the Balkans, said the programmes could have significant benefits for people living in conflict-affected cities by fostering a culture of dialogue and tolerance and contributing to reducing social, cultural and professional isolation.

“Such a partnership among municipalities has clear advantages," Ms. Brundtland said. "It allows concentration on day-to-day needs and common concerns. It can play an important role in promoting health and peace-building initiatives."