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Belfast Healthy Cities

Our vision is to be a leader in creating
a healthy, equitable and sustainable city

Healthy Cities 21st Century

WHO Mayor’s Summit

A Belfast Healthy Cities delegation returned from the WHO Mayor’s Summit recently. Joan Devlin looks back on a busy two days. 
 
As we continue to make plans for the International Healthy Cities Conference in Belfast this October, the World Health Organisation hosted an International Mayors Summit in Copenhagen on 12-13th February. Belfast was ably represented at the event by the city’s deputy Lord Mayor, Cllr Sonia Copeland; Cllr Brian Heading, Chair of Belfast Healthy Cities Dr David Stewart, Valarie Brown from City Council and myself. Caroline Scott, WHO Belfast Secretariat had arrived in Copenhagen on the previous Sunday to support arrangements for the Summit. 
Thankfully and perhaps even surprisingly we found on arrival that the weather was milder in Denmark than at home. 
 
After a pre event reception hosted by the Mayor of Copenhagen and WHO Europe Regional Director, Dr Zsuzsanna Jakab it was time to move onto the main reason for our visit, the International WHO Mayors summit.  This was the first event of its kind within the WHO European Healthy Cities Network and almost 200 delegates attended, including 60 Mayor and other elected politicians as well as senior officials from cities across the network. 
 
It was wonderful to catch up with many old friends who represent cities which, like Belfast, have been in the WHO Europe Network for over 20 years. Of course Belfast is one of the handful who have been members since the very beginning but the network grows all the time. For example Grenoble is a new member of the WHO French Healthy Cities network and interestingly the Mayor - from the Green Party - comes from a political structure which includes 20 Deputy Mayors serving under him. We were delighted to also see our colleagues from Derry/Strabane here too – the Mayor Councillor Maolíosa McHugh and council official Seamus Donaghy.    
 
This was a working meeting and our delegation had the opportunity through Cllr Copeland to contribute to discussions on how politicians can act as champions for Healthy Cities at home, as well as on the proposed content of the Copenhagen Consensus. It was agreed that notwithstanding the different political structures which exist around the network it should be an elected politician in each city who leads on and champions Healthy Cities during each 5 year phase. 
 
On the second morning of the summit all Mayors / high level politicians and delegates were formally welcomed by Zsuzsanna Jakab, Director of the World Health Organization's Regional Office for Europe. Indeed there was a special welcome for the Mayor of Almaty – the first Mayor from Central Asia to be a member of the network and the city in which the Alma Ata Declaration which put public heath in an international context was signed in 1978.  Belfast also got a special mention and we took the opportunity to invite delegates to join us in Belfast on the 1st October this year. This was a proud moment for the members of the Belfast delegation but also for the whole city, it was huge promotion for Belfast across the diverse WHO European region. 
 
The summit also included an excellent key note by Prof Andy Haines who emphasized the links between human health and environmental change and the need to redesign sprawling cities to reduce greenhouse gasses and address the challenge of air pollution which causes  7 million deaths worldwide annually. Prof Haines will be in Belfast for our own conference. 
Of course we also to sample the local hospitality sector and after the summit concluded the Belfast delegation returned to hotel using the super efficient train system before joining the Utrecht, Rennes, Newcastle and Cork delegates to taste some of the fine Danish food in the famous Nyhavn area. 
 
This was a busy two days with a packed agenda and we returned to Belfast with a clear vision for our International Healthy Cities Conference and a renewed focus on the importance of Changing Cities to Change the World. 
 
An important outcome of the Mayors Summit as the adoption of the Copenhagen Consensus which can be read in full here.