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Sharing Experiences in Environmental Sustainability

Environment Reforms must Accelerate to reach 2015 Poverty Goals, says UN Report

Developing-country governments must recognize and address the natural world’s central role in poverty, says Dervis New York, 15 December--Egypt, Peru, Vietnam and Mongolia are among a number of countries taking the lead in putting the environment at the heart of their plans to cut poverty by 2015, according to a new report launched today by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in partnership with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). However, unless more governments take more ambitious steps to protect the natural world, overall development goals will be jeopardized, according to the Report.

“A healthy, sustainable environment is a vital national asset and when it is eroded, the poorest people suffer the most,” said UNDP Administrator Kemal Dervis. “This report highlights the progress of some countries towards more environmentally sustainable development planning but it also presents a harsh reality: If our delicate ecosystems are not firmly at the heart of all national plans to reduce poverty, then all other efforts to reach the Millennium Development Goals by 2015 will be undermined,” he said.

The UNDP report, entitled “Making Progress on Environmental Sustainability:

Lessons and recommendation from a review of over 150 MDG country experiences” charts the progress of developing countries’ efforts to make the environment a priority in their national plans to reach the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

The environment is very much a part of efforts to reduce poverty. While the role of the environment in poor people’s lives varies from country to country, the Report’s authors stress that the best progress is made when countries first adopt the principle of environmental sustainability, and then adapt their development plans to their own specific ecosystems.

Deforestation is a major challenge in Kenya, for example, where the poor chop down trees as their only source of fuel for cooking and heating. As part of its plan to reach the MDGs, the Kenyan Government proposes to protect at least 3.5 percent of its forested area by 2008 and introduce renewable options like solar energy to the rural population.

The conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina left behind a different set of environmental challenges: Between 75 and 80 percent of identified minefields, accounting for approximately five percent of the country’s overall land surface, have yet to be cleared. The mines are incredibly damaging to the environment and their presence means that access to safe, productive land on which the country’s citizens can earn a living is restricted. As part of their MDG planning, the Government is working to increase the percentage of de-mined land from five percent of the minefields in 2000 to 36 percent in 2007 and 80 percent in 2015.

In Egypt, where protecting the environment is a priority for the country’s eco-tourism industry, the Government is already actively monitoring and reporting progress on water access, waste management and land degradation, with a view to ensuring it understands what still needs to happen to reach the MDGs, and sets targets accordingly. Albania, Buthan, Lesotho, Nepal, Syria, Thailand and Vietnam were also cited among the leaders by the Report.

Achim Steiner, UNEP Executive Director, said: “Achievement of environmental sustainability is not only a national concern but one with significant international dimensions. Countries, by mainstreaming environment into poverty reduction and development strategies, can achieve a great deal.

However, national environmental degradation and conversely environmental sustainability is also inextricably linked with trading regimes, economic instruments and the values placed on ‘nature-based’ goods and services within a globalised world”.

“Together and as part of UN reform, UNEP and UNDP can be a catalyst for drawing together and weaving these national and international threads into a seamless whole. Together we can play a big part towards achieving environmental sustainability and the realization of the Millennium Development Goals,” he added.

The Report, which drew support from the governments of Canada, Sweden and the United Kingdom, is part of a wider “toolbox” of services designed by UNDP to help developing countries prepare national plans to reach the MDGs on time.

Media enquiries: Please contact Niamh Collier-Smith, New York, +1 212 906 6111, or +1 212 906-5382, niamh.collier@undp.org

About UNDP: UNDP is the UN's global network to help people meet their development needs and build a better life. We are on the ground in 166 countries, working as a trusted partner with Governments, civil society and the private sector to help them build their own solutions to global and national development challenges. Further information can be found at www.undp.org

The report is available at http://www.undp.org/energyandenvironment/index.html as well as the UNEP homepage -- www.unep.org




Further Resources

Sharing Experiences in Environmental Sustainability
(Download PDF)

United Nations Development Programme

Millennium Development Goals

UNEP and the Millennium Development Goals

UNEP Economics and Trade Branch

UNEP Finance Initiative


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