Global leaders in wildlife and human health are taking further active steps to ensure that governments, academia, and civil society break down barriers and form a united effort to prevent the emergence or resurgence of diseases, like COVID-19, that threaten people, wildlife, and livestock. Simply put: Governments and policymakers across the globe need to embrace and operationalize the concept of One Health first put forth by WCS more than 15 years ago in The Manhattan Principles and again put forth one year ago with an urgent call in October 2019, The Berlin Principles.

Steps being taken now:

  • On November 17 and 18 (Tuesday and Wednesday), WCS and the German Federal Foreign Office will jointly host a virtual meeting on how to operationalize One Health across the globe. This landmark meeting, one year after the meeting in Berlin that launched The Berlin Principles, will bring together notable scientists and policy experts from around the world. To sign up for the virtual two-day meeting and to learn more go HERE.

Said WCS’s Chris Walzer, the senior author of The Berlin Principles: “We know that governments and others for decades failed to heed the warning signs consistently about risks of global zoonotic pandemics. The One Health approach must be embraced and operationalized by governments and all of society to reduce future risks. An ounce of prevention is indeed worth a pound of cure.”

In the paper on The Berlin Principles published this week, the co-authors state: “COVID-19 has shown us the exorbitant cost of inaction. The time to act is now.

“…If we had adopted a precautionary approach to hazards and coordinated in advance a global preparedness plan that bridged all the normal sectoral silos, we would have greatly reduced the risks and impacts of a pandemic. Instead, due to the disconnect between science, economics and politics, we collectively failed.”

Niels Annen, Minister of State, German Federal Foreign Office, said: “The Covid-19 pandemic is at its worst yet - and climate change has not stopped for Covid-19. If the international community can overcome this pandemic in a spirit of solidarity, it will also help us to tackle climate change the same way. The One Health approach demonstrates that international cooperation delivers better, faster and more sustainably than if we all just looked after ourselves.”

Cristián Samper, president and CEO of WCS said: "Now is the time to learn, regroup and move forward to do everything we can, collectively and cooperatively, in all countries, to ensure that we prevent pandemics like COVID-19 in the future. Business as usual is not an option. This includes creating new funding opportunities that break down silos and enable collaborations that allow different sectors and practitioners to work together toward a common goal.”

You can read The Berlin Principles paper here; and they are:

We urge world leaders, governments, civil society, the global health and conservation communities, academia and scientific institutions, business, finance leaders, and investment holders to:

  • Recognize and take action to retain the essential health links between humans, wildlife, domesticated animals and plants, and all nature; and ensure the conservation and protection of biodiversity which, interwoven with intact and functional ecosystems, provides the critical foundational infrastructure of life, health, and well-being on our planet;
  • Take action to develop strong institutions that integrate understanding of human and animal health with the health of the environment, and invest in the translation of robust science-based knowledge into policy and practice;
  • Take action to combat the current climate crisis, which is creating new severe threats to human, animal, and environmental health, and exacerbating existing challenges;
  • Recognize that decisions regarding the use of land, air, sea, and freshwater directly impact health and well-being of humans, animals, and ecosystems and that alterations in ecosystems paired with decreased resilience generate shifts in communicable and non-communicable disease emergence, exacerbation and spread; and take action to eliminate or mitigate these impacts;
  • Devise adaptive, holistic, and forward-looking approaches to the detection, prevention, monitoring, control, and mitigation of emerging/resurging diseases and exacerbating communicable and non-communicable diseases, that incorporate the complex interconnections among species, ecosystems, and human society, while accounting fully for harmful economic drivers, and perverse subsidies;
  • Take action to meaningfully integrate biodiversity conservation perspectives and human health and well-being when developing solutions for communicable and non-communicable disease threats;
  • Increase cross-sectoral investment in the global human, livestock, wildlife, plant, and ecosystem 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 to life on our planet;
  • Enhance capacity for cross-sectoral and trans-disciplinary health surveillance and clear, timely information-sharing to improve coordination of responses among governments and non-governmental organizations, health, academia and other institutions, the private sector and other stakeholders;
  • Form participatory, collaborative relationships among governments, NGOs, Indigenous Peoples, and local communities while strengthening the public sector to meet the challenges of global health and biodiversity conservation;
  • 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.

The co-authors of the paper are from academia and science institutions including University of Oxford, China Agricultural University, Kwame Nkruma University of Science and Technology, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Texas A&M University, Technical University of Munich, University of Oslo, and Research Institute of Wildlife Ecology Vienna; Civil society/NGOs Wildlife Conservation Society, EcoHealth Alliance), Museums (Berlin Natural History Museum; and Intergovernmental Organizations (World Organisation for Animal Health/OIE).

You can read the announcement of The Berlin Principles on October 25, 2019 here: 

Global Health Leaders Issue Urgent Call for United Effort to Stop Diseases Threatening All Life on Earth

You can read the announcement of The Manhattan Principles from 2004 here: 

One World, One Health: Building Interdisciplinary Bridges to Health in a Globalized World