The Poverty-Environment-Development Nexus: Implications for Sustainable Development
By admin July 3, 2018

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The Poverty-Environment Initiative, a global UN enterprise that supports country-led efforts to mainstream poverty-environment linkages, has produced exciting new knowledge drawn from the last ten years of specific UN interventions in 23 countries in Africa, Europe, Latin American and the Caribbean, Asia and the Pacific. The term ‘poverty-environment-development nexus’ refers to the mutually inclusive linkages among the environment, natural resources, and human and economic development. In fact, in many countries, the issues of livelihood, poverty reduction and inclusive growth significantly depend on the quality and availability of natural resources; hence those issues are vulnerable in respect to the degradation of natural resources and climate change.

According to the report “Accelerating Sustainable Development in Africa: country lessons from applying integrated approaches,” natural capital accounts for 36 percent of total wealth in less-developed countries and are the principal source of income for social protection, employment creation and human capital development for many men and women in Africa. Together with non-market goods, these assets make up between 50 percent and 90 percent off the total “GDP of the poor.”  Similarly, in Latin America and the Caribbean, another report – “Articulating social and environmental policy for sustainable development: practical options in Latin America and the Caribbean,” found that natural capital in the region does not only account for almost 50 percent of the region’s exports, but also serves almost exclusively as the resources and ecosystems for their well-being and subsistence. Thus, whether in Africa or Latin America and the Caribbean or Asia and the Pacific, production and consumption patterns in those regions continue to be unsustainable given the growing population and the demand to use the natural capital for both consumption and exports.

Consequently, the lack of proper coordination in the development and use of natural capital and non-market goods have implications for sustainable development across the various regions – Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, and Asia and the Pacific.  This quagmire implies that the present generation has to simultaneously balance the consumption of natural capital to satisfy its own needs while at the same time ensuring the protection of the environment. Therefore, the UN suggests that the significance of these linkages means not only that the sustainable use of the environment and natural resources can contribute to achieving development objectives, but also that unsustainable use of these resources can make it impossible, especially for the poor, to develop beyond subsistence.

For Further Reading:

  1. Accelerating Sustainable Development in Africa: Country lessons from applying integrated approaches
  2. Articulating social and environmental policy for sustainable development: Practical options in Latin America and the Caribbean
  3. Poverty-Environment Accountability Framework (PEAF): Application to inform Public Investments in Environment, Climate Change and Poverty
  4. UNDP’s Strategy for Inclusive and Sustainable Growth


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