Moving Population, Health, & Environment Forward in East Africa
For two days in September 2017, Population, Health, & Environment (PHE) project implementers, policymakers, and donors gathered in Entebbe, Uganda, at the Population, Health, & Environment Symposium, hosted by the Lake Victoria Basin Commission and supported by USAID Kenya and East Africa, K4Health, and PACE. David Johnson, chief executive of the Margaret Pyke Trust, the UK NGO coordinating the Population & Sustainability Network, shares some thoughts on the Symposium. David’s PHE advocacy focuses on what he calls “new audiences.” In practice, this means working to increase the number of organisations involved and support (either from a policy or programmatic point of view) to make PHE seen as completely normal standard conservation intervention. According to David, PHE is exclusively positive—it benefits women, girls, livelihoods, and the environment—and positioning it in a more positive way might help engage organisations more.
If there was one take-home message from the Symposium, it was how unified those working in the PHE sector are about what we must do next. There was unanimity on the importance of mainstreaming and scaling up PHE. There was unanimity on the need to focus attention on generating a greater evidence base for PHE. In fact, there was unanimity on all significant issues. It is no mean feat for so many delegates to agree on all substantive issues over a two-day period. In fact, it only struck me after leaving the Symposium quite how unusual it is for those in the development sector to be so unified.
For over a decade, members of the Population & Sustainability Network have collectively and individually advocated for PHE, an integrated project methodology that appears to be, slowly but surely, gaining traction around the world. Eight of the 21 members of the Network were represented at the Symposium, and it was a privilege to represent the Network’s coordinator, the Margaret Pyke Trust. It was also a privilege to be given the opportunity to present on the work of the Trust.
Advocating for the importance of PHE is at the heart of the Trust’s advocacy strategy, and one of the key areas of collaboration between members of the Population & Sustainability Network. In fact, since the Population & Sustainability Network was formally launched as a Partnership for Sustainable Development under the UN Commission for Sustainable Development at the United Nations in New York in April 2004, the importance of cross-sectoral work and integrated programming has been a strong focus of our advocacy efforts.
At the Symposium, I presented on the Trust’s PHE advocacy and how we are focusing on what we call “new audiences.” We passionately believe that there is great interest in the conservation sector to implement PHE, but that requires us to break out of our comfort zone and actively promote PHE to those who do not already know about it. We are finding that as we engage conservation organisations on PHE, the majority have not heard of it, but almost invariably understand its importance and possibilities. Given the unanimity of those present at the Symposium, we must be doing something right as a sector. From the response of the organisations we have recently started to brief on PHE, it appears that it is an “easy sell.”
I left the Symposium more convinced than ever before that we have the ability to take PHE to scale. If we are to achieve this, though, it is essential that we promote PHE more broadly and in new ways. I am happy to restate the Trust’s commitment to doing so. I hope that by the date of the next Symposium, there will be a greater number of potential delegates, because so many more organisations will have seen the possibilities PHE presents. If we speak to those outside our sector, I believe this is an entirely plausible goal.
Thank you to PACE for sponsoring my attendance and USAID Kenya & East Africa and K4Health for sponsoring this Symposium.