Developing an interlinkages approach to policy responses holds promise for identifying comprehensive solutions and for building synergies between diverse policies, thus maximizing the resources available for implementation. Interlinkages between different scales – temporal and spatial – potentially enhance opportunities for implementation. The successful implementation of many policies is dependant on an interlinkages approach. Increasingly an interlinked approach is evident in policies themselves.

In the two decades since Our Common Future was published, governments in Africa have increasingly given policy attention to both green and brown environmental issues. Governments today are equally concerned about brown issues, which include air and water pollution, and solid waste management, and acknowledge the link with green issues. Previously, environmental management in Africa focused on the preservation of wildlife and other natural resources; in many countries, particularly in Eastern and Southern Africa, this policy was directly linked to tourism. Environmental management and policy has evolved considerably since the mid-1980s from a wildlife conservation focus to being more integrated, taking into account social and economic issues. Several policy interventions since the 1992 Earth Summit, from Agenda 21 to the WSSD Johannesburg Plan of Implementation to NEPAD’s Environmental Action Plan (NEPAD-EAP) give credence to the need for an integrated approach to environmental problems. Development policies are increasingly following suit.


Policies that are comprehensive and adopt an interlinkages approach provide better opportunities for addressing multiple, related challenges and for developing effective solutions.

The World Bank’s poverty reduction strategies (PRS) have broken with the narrower economic interventions of the 1980s and 1990s and adopted a more interlinked and comprehensive framework to reducing poverty, that is results orientated (Bojö and Reddy 2003b). Many countries in Africa have or are developing Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSPs), as shown in Table 3. In many of these PRSPs, the environment is treated as a key factor because improved environmental conditions, among other results, can help reduce poverty. The reduction of extreme poverty and hunger, and environmental sustainability – both of which are part of the MDGs – are closely linked to the poverty objectives of PRSPs.

Figure 2: Process of preparing environmental sections of a PRSP For PRSPs to be successful they should take into account a comprehensive understanding of poverty in a particular country, choosing the most effective public actions to reduce poverty, and to monitor outcomes and impacts. Figure 2 shows the process of preparing environmental sections of a PRSP.

In highlighting the rationale for systematic mainstreaming of environment in PRSPs and associated processes, the World Bank stresses that environmental conditions have major effects on the health, opportunities, and security of poor people. For example, the World Bank reported in 2001 that the burden of disease in sub-Saharan Africa from major environmental risks was 26.5 per cent, compared to 18 per cent in all least developed countries (LDCs) (Bojö and others 2004). The environmental risks considered include poor water supply and sanitation, vector diseases (such as malaria), indoor and urban air pollution, and agro-industrial waste. Table 2 shows the main causes of mortality in Africa. Many of these, including respiratory diseases, diarrhoeal diseases and malaria, are caused by environmental factors.

Table 2: Main causes of mortality in Africa
Communicable diseases, maternal and perinatal conditions and nutritional deficiencies
Type Disease Numbers of deaths % of all deaths Cumulative

Infectious and parasitic diseases HIV/Aids 2 196 956 21% 21%
Respiratory infections Lower respiratory infections 1 025 455 10% 30%
Infectious and parasitic diseases Malaria 962 736 9% 39%
Infectious and parasitic diseases Diarrhoeal diseases 702 822 7% 46%
Infectious and parasitic diseases Childhood diseases 695 187 7% 52%
Perinatal conditions Perinatal conditions 576 278 5% 58%
Infectious and parasitic diseases Measles 426 743 4% 62%
Infectious and parasitic diseases Tuberculosis 335 142 3% 65%
Total number of deaths from all diseases 10 681 000 100% 100%

Source: Ssemakula 2002 [Data adapted from WHO 2002, Annex Table 2]

While PRSPs are mainly concerned with addressing poverty, the objectives are also important for achieving sustainable development and, thus, dealing with environmental concerns. The realization of the MDG targets is closely related to reducing and eradicating poverty. Appendix 1 lists the MDG targets and shows progress towards achieving these. However, the extent to which these considerations have been included in country PRSPs varies considerably. Box 10 identifies some of the major trends and Table 3 evaluates environmental mainstreaming in PRSPs.

Table 3: Average country environmental mainstreaming scores
Country PRSP type Average environment
score (scale 0-3)

Zambia Full 2.4
Ghana Full 2.2
Mozambique Full 2.2
Kenya Interim 1.9
Mali Full 1.7
Burkina Faso Full 1.7
Senegal Full 1.7
Rwanda Full 1.7
Malawi Full 1.7
Ethiopia Full 1.6
Guinea Full 1.6
Niger Full 1.5
Benin Full 1.5
Mauritania Full 1.4
Gambia Full 1.2
Uganda Full 1.1
Madagascar Interim 1.1
Cape Verde Interim 1.0
Tanzania Full 0.9
Chad Interim 0.8
Côte d’Ivoire Interim 0.8
Cameroon Interim 0.6
Lesotho Interim 0.6
Sierra Leone Interim 0.6
Democratic Republic of the Congo Interim 0.6
Guinea-Bissau Interim 0.5
Djibouti Interim 0.5
Central African Republic Interim 0.3
São Tomé and Príncipe Interim 0.3
Average score 1.2

Source: Bojö and Reddy 2003b


Box 10: Incorporation of environment in Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSPs)

Mainstreaming environment into PRSPs still faces various challenges. There is considerable variation in environmental mainstreaming. It ranges from marginal attention to consistent mainstreaming across sectors. Nevertheless, there is a low but improving average for mainstreaming. The following trends are evident:

  • Full PRSPs are better mainstreamed. In comparison to interim PRSPs, there is a tendency for full PRSPs to better integrate environmental factors. High-scoring countries include Zambia, Ghana and Mozambique.
  • Environmental priorities differ across countries. Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers devote relatively more attention to issues such as water supply, sanitation, vulnerability to natural hazards, land tenure and institutional capacity. They devote relatively less attention to indoor air pollution, biodiversity, gender and environmental relationships, urban environment and the impacts of macro-economic policies on the environment.
  • The conditions for effective monitoring are often weak. Few PRSPs present quantified, time-bound, costed, realistic targets and indicators relating to environment. Environmental health indicators generally get more attention than natural resources management indicators.
  • Failure to take a long-term perspective. A few PRSPs explicitly introduce a long-term perspective and make reference to MDGs for 2015, but most do not. PRSPs that present long-term targets corresponding to the MDG 2015 horizon often present unrealistic plans without adequate budget support and institutional capacity for implementation.
  • Lack of effective monitoring and evaluation. Implementation progress reports are generally not satisfactory in their discussions of the environmental proposals outlined in the PRSPs. Annual progress reports could provide good opportunities to address these gaps.

Source: Bojö and Reddy 2003b

A review of PRSPs of some African countries already shows strong interlinkages in, between and across environmental, social and economic issues (Bojö and Reddy 2003b) as shown in Table 3. For example, the Burkina Faso PRSP notes that climatic conditions and low agricultural productivity due to soil and water degradation are major constraints to economic growth, contributing to extreme poverty and severe food insecurity in rural areas. Income from farming and livestock raising is highly dependent on rainfall, which varies considerably from year to year (Bojö and others 2004). The PRSP highlights a soil and water conservation programme to break the vicious circle of soil degradation, poverty and food insecurity.

In Mauritania, Kenya and Zambia, the PRSPs express concern about property rights related to natural resources and how this affects poverty. Kenya’s PRSP proposes to implement a land law to create an efficient and equitable system of land ownership. It also notes that the violation of water rights, conflicts and pollution have increased (Bojö and others 2004).

The extent to which the MDGs are specifically addressed also varies. Box 11 gives some examples of African countries that have specifically incorporated the MDGs where these are directly relevant from an environmental perspective.

Box 11: Focus on Millennium Development Goals in the PRSPs

Ethiopia: The PRSP discusses issues relating to traditional energy, water and sanitation. However, baselines and targets on water supply and sanitation presented in the PRSP appear to be ambitious considering the progress on access to water and sanitation during the period from 1990 to 2000.

Guinea: The PRSP presents targets and indicators relating to water supply and electricity in terms of coverage, service delivery and cost recovery for 2010. Indicators relating to renewable energy, infections from insanitary conditions, tenure and access to affordable housing are also proposed.

Mauritania: The PRSP presents targets and indicators relating to secure tenure, subsidized housing, and access to water and sanitation. Indicators relating to current and targeted amounts in terms of litres per capita and cost of drinking water are also considered for monitoring.

Rwanda: The targets and performance indicators relating to health, education, gender, and access to water and sanitation proposed in the PRSP coincide with the MDGs’ time frame of 2015. The PRSP proposes to collect information to develop outcome, access, process and proxy indicators, and refers to relevant surveys to be used to generate the information.

Zambia: Access targets on water supply and sanitation are presented for 2015, with indicators such as number of water points, distance to water facility, volume of water treated, and number of committees strengthened to support water supply and sanitation. Targets for electrification are presented for 2010.

Source: Bojö and Reddy 2003b