Poverty Reduction Through Integrating Environment into the Development Process do, okt 17, 2013

As the world today observes The International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, this need-and the work of the joint UNDP-UNEP Poverty-Environment Initiative on linking poverty reduction and environmental protection-is thrown into sharper focus.

Slum on dirty canal in Bangkok, Thailand. Credit: Shutterstock

With more than a billion people living in absolute poverty, with inequality levels between countries and within countries steadily rising, and with the degradation and loss of biodiversity and ecosystem functioning continuing apace, the need to place sustainability at the heart of the development agenda and vice versa, has never been greater nor more urgent.

As the world today observes The International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, this need-and the work of the joint UNDP-UNEP Poverty-Environment Initiative on linking poverty reduction and environmental protection-is thrown into sharper focus.

With the impacts of climate change being increasingly felt by, unsurprisingly, the poorest and most vulnerable people in developing countries, the net result is that if the post-Rio+20 policy process towards a new Sustainable Development Goal framework does not facilitate a sea-change in the way environment and development “gets done”, the world risks undoing the positive economic gains made and even regressing, leaving millions of people behind and pushing vulnerable life-support mechanisms beyond planetary boundaries and possibly beyond repair.

Set up in 2005 by the two agencies, in recognition of the fact that it is the poorest of our world who are most - and most directly - dependent upon natural resources for their livelihood, the Initiative has steadily worked at changing development and investment policies, plans and budgets, through building capacities in institutions and individuals, in order to support governments across the world to deliver pro-poor environmental outcomes which do not cost the earth. After a pilot phase in Africa, PEI was scaled up to cover four regions during 2008-2012 and now operates in more than 20 countries, embarking on a new phase for 2013-2017 working together with governments a host of partners from the development community, civil society, private sector and research organizations.

In Malawi, PEI helped show the government exactly how much unsustainable resource use in agriculture, fisheries, forestry, and tourism was costing the country: 5% of GDP, more than the annual health and education budget combined. This led to decisions taken to integrate poverty-environment outcomes into the development process and significantly increase the public budget for investments into the environment sector. PEI used economic arguments to frame the issue, revealing the country’s untapped potential of natural resources for tackling poverty. For example, soil erosion alone reduces agricultural productivity by 6% by year: if this yield was recovered, an estimated 1.88 million people would be lifted out of poverty by 2015.

In the Philippines, PEI has supported the development of progress in benefits-sharing and transparency of local Governments regarding the extractive, mining sector, improving the lives of the poor whilst improving the environment at the same time.

In Uruguay, PEI supported the Government to reorganize waste management so that jobs for the urban poor could be secured in collecting, sorting, and recycling waste, at the same time improving the environment and increasing six-fold the budgets for the sector announced in 2010 until 2014.

The Tajik government has for the first time applied and replicated poverty-environment mainstreaming tools and experiences in their subnational planning and budgeting processes, demonstrating the increased capacity and leadership of the Ministry of Economic Development and Trade to coordinate and to translate pro-poor environmental outcomes in local plans and budgets.

In Rwanda, PEI was instrumental in the establishment by the Government of an Environmental and Climate Fund (FONERWA) charged with channeling investments into the public and private sectors for achieving sustainable improvements to both the environment and the wellbeing of the poor.

As noted by Achim Steiner, UNEP’s Executive Director, “the experience and results of PEI represent policy, capacity, and institutional building blocks for an inclusive green economy, and provide both lessons and inspiration for those countries and stakeholders who strive for a prosperous, socially just, and sustainable future.”

The work of PEI demonstrates that poverty eradication and environmental improvement can go hand-in-hand. See www.unpei.org for more details.

 
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