Making the world a better place

Air and land

The theme of this special is particularly dear to me. The United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the seventeen goals set out in that agenda define a series of key agreements on the road to a sustainable global society. That includes ensuring equal access to healthcare, creating healthy, climate-adaptive cities and communities, and facilitating sustainable consumption and production.

The Netherlands still has room for improvement in terms of sustainability, as evidenced by the SDG report released in early March by Statistics Netherlands, with RIVM contributions in terms of knowledge and data. Our knowledge can also be deployed to support other public health institutes and other countries in achieving sustainable systems. 

Promoting public health and caring for the climate and the human environment is embedded in our organisation’s DNA, so it’s only logical for RIVM to want to contribute to the Global Goals. We do so by providing independent advice supported by scientific research and by developing expertise and tools for application in actual practice.

What particularly appeals to me about the Sustainable Development Goals is how broad they are in scope. For example, RIVM staff members Ana Maria de Roda Husman and Harold van den Berg  regularly visit such countries as Mozambique and Ethiopia, sharing knowledge locally about infectious diseases that can be transmitted by water. In doing so, they contribute to clean drinking water: a basic necessity for survival, and one of the Global Goals. Their work takes place in the context of the WHO Collaborating Centre Risk Assessment of Pathogens in Food and Water, one of the nine WHO Collaborating Centres that RIVM coordinates. These international collaborations and knowledge-sharing initiatives are part of how we contribute to Goal 17, revitalising the global partnership for sustainable development.

Another inspiring example is the story of UN youth representative Martijn Visser. He works to support climate action and other sustainable developments, seeking to bring as many young people as possible to the table in decision-making processes involving these topics. 

You’ll also want to read the article on three representatives of the SDG focal point group from the Ministries of Health, Welfare and Sport (VWS), Infrastructure and Water Management (I&W), and Economic Affairs and Climate (EZK). In this role, they regularly meet with the focal points from five other ministries to shape and implement the seventeen Sustainable Development Goals for our country. Collaboration between the ministries is essential in order to achieve the goals. As a knowledge centre, RIVM can play a connecting role in that collaboration.

Making the world a better place by RIVM standards: that means working together to move closer to the Global Goals. These goals provide tangible challenges and a foundation for establishing connections with citizens, organisations, and partners. We are solidly at the heart of a sustainable global society – and I am proud of that accomplishment.


André van der Zande

Director-General of RIVM