Changing Cities to Change the World
Celebrating Thirty Years of the Healthy Cities Movement


Healthy people and healthy places: participation and prosperity for a healthy and peaceful planet


Approach and objectives

The International Healthy Cities Conference is a unique opportunity to join mayors, innovators, political decision-makers and experts in the international community in forging greater health, well-being and sustainable development in cities and urban settings. It will provide a wealth of examples of pioneering initiatives; opportunities for learning, knowledge exchange and collaboration; and ideas and solutions to take home and apply to local challenges. 

The Conference is an important international gathering for political leaders, health professionals, city planners, engineers, design professionals, innovators and activists. It creates a forum for presenting progress and exploring the issues and challenges that will shape the vision for an invigorated future for the global Healthy Cities movement. 

Putting cities on a sustainable and resilient development path requires bold and transformative steps underpinned by new tools, data, ways of working and resources. By engaging leaders from health, environment, planning, transport, housing, technology, education, science and other sectors, the Conference aims to inspire delegates and to reimagine Healthy Cities in the context of tomorrow’s challenges. It will emphasize the role of cities in implementing the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.   

The Conference objectives are to:

  • exchange knowledge from leading-edge practices on challenges and progress from healthy cities’ and healthy communities’ initiatives across WHO global regions;

  • demonstrate the critical role of governance for health and sustainable development at the local and urban levels;

  • inspire and strengthen commitment to healthy cities in the context of tomorrow’s challenges and the implementation of the 2030 Agenda;  

  • consider strong local leadership and its impact on successful collective action; and 

  • foster discussions through special events and knowledge-exchange seminars that reshape and reimagine Healthy Cites in all WHO regions.

Conference themes

The Conference is taking place at a time of immense challenges to health and sustainable development, but also of immense opportunities. It will focus on the six themes of the new political vision for the WHO European Healthy Cities Network, drafted by the Network’s Political Vision Group: people, place, participation, prosperity, planet and peace.

The Political Vision Group, made up of mayors, was appointed by WHO Regional Director for Europe Dr Zsuzsanna Jakab in September 2016. The vision has been widely consulted on with mayors and experts since its inception, and is fully aligned with the United Nations New Urban Agenda and the 2030 Agenda.  

The Conference will address the interlinkages and integrated nature of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that make up the 2030 Agenda through its 6 themes. It will focus on improving equity, health and well-being, and on strengthening peace that will profoundly change the lives of people in cities and the world for the better.


Healthy people and healthy places: participation and prosperity for a healthy and peaceful planet


People: a human focus to societal development that prioritizes investment in people to improve equity and inclusion through enhanced empowerment.


This theme includes equity and inclusion, empowerment, non-discriminatory governance, a rights-based approach to participation, universal access to public services, gender equality, and health literacy.    


Place: the social, physical and cultural environments that align to create a place that is actively inclusive, and that facilitates the pursuit of health and well-being for all.


This theme includes the physical and natural environment, the social environment, equity, trust and ownership, ethics, inclusivity, commerce, transport, and co-design and co-benefits.   


Participation: ensuring the participation of all individuals and communities in the decisions that affect them and the places they live, work, love and play.


This theme includes coherent governance, inclusive civic participation, accountability, empowerment, and city health diplomacy. 


Prosperity: enhanced community prosperity and strengthened assets through values-based governance of common goods and services.


This theme includes enhanced community prosperity, strengthened assets, investment in the

circular economy, ethical investment, sustainable economic development, and innovative solutions.


Planet: ensuring that the protection of the planet is at the heart of all city policies, both internal and external.


This theme includes divestment, disaster risk reduction, sustainable consumption and production, resilience, and mitigation of and adaptation to climate change.    


Peace: promoting peace through inclusive societies that focus on places, participation, prosperity and the planet, while putting people at the centre of all policies and actions.


This theme includes just and inclusive societies, freedom from fear and violence, sustainable development, respect for human rights and human dignity, equality and non-discrimination, ethnic and cultural diversity, equal opportunities, and shared prosperity.


Knowledge-exchange seminars

Knowledge and skills in key areas are essential to managing and delivering the elements and qualities of equity, health and sustainable development. The Conference’s knowledge-exchange seminars will build capacities related to the key aspects of health and sustainable development. The range of seminars will be announced on the Conference website.

Who should attend?

The programme will be of interest to mayors, national and local politicians, professionals, academics, activists, and representatives of nongovernmental organizations and community organizations operating at the national, regional and local levels. This includes:

  • delegations from cities participating in the Healthy Cities movement in all WHO regions, the WHO Healthy Cities European Network and European national healthy cities networks;

  • delegations from networks of healthy municipalities, healthy communities, healthy villages, healthy districts, healthy islands and other similar WHO initiatives;

  • representatives of all levels of government, including heads of government, ministers, mayors, councillors, members of local government, regional assemblies and members of parliament;

  • cities and towns involved in initiatives to create age-friendly cities, smart cities, resilient cities, learning cities and other healthy settings networks; 

  • representatives of community/voluntary organizations and nongovernmental organizations, and interested people;

  • academics working on Conference themes;

  • professionals working for urban health in areas such as public health, urban planning, regeneration, transport, health promotion, housing, environmental health, social care, urban economics, technology, primary health care, community development and equity;

  • representatives from relevant international agencies; and

  • staff members from all WHO regional offices and headquarters.

The Conference will include the latest findings and up-to-date progress reports on the SDGs through plenary keynote addresses by leading experts, researchers and leaders; panels; workshops; posters; and small-group and societal meetings. The venue and the programme will allow for plenty of informal interaction and networking. 

More information is available from: 

Monika Kosinska
Regional Focal Point for WHO European Healthy Cities Network
Programme Manager, Governance for Health


Maria Rundstroem

Division of Policy and Governance for Health and Well-being


​Joan Devlin
Head, WHO European Healthy Cities Network Secretariat (Belfast)

Caroline Scott
WHO European Healthy Cities Network Secretariat (Belfast)