The fundamental connection between poverty reduction and the environment has grown ever more apparent as poor people’s lives and livelihoods continue to be threatened by environmental degradation resulting from poor management of natural resources, biodiversity loss and the effects of climate change. Every year between 1994 and 2013, 218 million people—most of them in developing countries—were affected by natural disasters on average per annum, especially floods and droughts. Populations in low- and lower-middle-income countries faced the global mortality risk from natural disasters and their countries suffer disproportionately higher economic losses relative to the size of their economies.

Recognizing these challenges, the United Nations (UN) Conference on Sustainable Development held in Brazil in June 2012 (Rio+20) highlighted the need for integrated solutions to development planning and a transition to more resource-efficient, resilient forms of growth that yield multiple social, economic and environmental benefits. The Rio+20 outcome document, “The Future We Want,” adopted by the 193 UN member states, notes that sustainable development which integrates economic, social and environmental dimensions is the only viable path for development.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted by the UN General Assembly in September 2015, recognized that an integrated approach is needed to achieving the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. As governments identify the content and priorities of their 2030 Agenda for development, the relationship between poverty reduction and environmental and natural resource sustainability must be a central objective.

This handbook draws on successful experiences from countries around the world in effectively mainstreaming poverty-environment issues into development agendas. It guides the work of the Poverty-Environment Initiative—a joint global programme of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UN Environment) now operating in 20 countries, and soon to be succeeded by a new global programme, Poverty-Environment Action for Sustainable Development Goals.

The handbook reflects lessons learned and updates on the Poverty-Environment Initiative’s programmatic, integrated approach. The handbook provides a model for action and a set of widely valid and credible approaches—particularly for implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Key messages

Governments must look to incorporate the following objectives into their development planning: 

  • Using natural resources sustainably 
  • Adapting to climate change 
  • Focusing on poverty reduction and equity, especially for marginalized groups such as women and indigenous peoples 
  • Working towards inclusive green growth

Chapter 2: Importance of Mainstreaming Poverty-Environment Concerns examines the urgency of mainstreaming poverty-environment objectives into planning and budgeting processes, and describes key concepts for understanding poverty-environment linkages, including the contribution of the environment and natural resources to human well-being and pro-poor economic growth.

Chapter 3: Political Economy of Mainstreaming introduces a programmatic approach to poverty-environment mainstreaming and a theory of change. It discusses finding the right entry points and making the case—actions which set the stage for poverty-environment mainstreaming.  

Chapter 4: Mainstreaming into National Planning Processes discusses economic development planning processes and presents guidance on how to integrate poverty-environment objectives into national planning processes. It also describes measures to facilitate implementation of mainstreamed national development plans.  

Chapter 5: Mainstreaming into Budgeting Processes explains approaches for budgeting and financing for poverty-environment mainstreaming, which include engaging in the budgeting process at various levels and improving the contribution of ENR to public finances.  

Chapter 6: Mainstreaming into Sector Strategies and Subnational Plans and Budgets examines an approach for incorporating pro-poor, gender-responsive environmental measures in sector strategies; it also discusses mainstreaming at the subnational level, including ecosystem-based approaches and experiences.  

Chapter 7: Mainstreaming into National Monitoring Processes highlights the importance of integrating poverty-environment objectives into monitoring systems, and presents a considered approach and experience-based examples. It also explores the Beyond GDP initiative for measuring national and global progress.  

Chapter 8: Managing Private Investment in Natural Resources discusses ways to support governments in managing private investment in natural resources, with a focus on primary sectors or natural resource management areas including agriculture, forestry, fisheries and extractive industries.  

Chapter 9: Lessons Learned highlights lessons from Poverty-Environment Initiative’s experience in supporting governments to mainstream poverty-environment objectives in planning, budgeting and monitoring processes.

Each chapter has been updated with new experiences, tools, references and additional resources and a small group discussion activity.

The handbook also contains seven annexes that delve deeper into topics discussed in the main text, as well as a list of abbreviations and acronyms, a glossary and references.

Annex A: Guidance Note on Institutional and Context Analysis

Annex B: Guidance Note on Integrating Environment-Linked Poverty Concerns into Planning, Budgeting and Monitoring Processes

Annex C: Guidance Note on Integrating Natural Wealth in GDP

Annex D: Guidance Note on Promoting Gender Equality in Poverty-Environment Mainstreaming

Annex E: Guidance Note on Integrating a Human Rights-Based Approach into Poverty-Environment Mainstreaming

Annex F: Guidance Note on Advocacy and Strategic Communications

Annex G: Poverty-Environment Mainstreaming Tools

A further supplement to the Handbook provides additional guidance, including an array of tools and methodologies for poverty-environment mainstreaming:

Guidance Note on Integrating Environment linked Poverty Concerns into Planning, Budgeting, and Monitoring Processes

Published Date: 
Wednesday, November 8, 2017