Founding Editor: Shafqat Munir   

Sound environmental management enhances development policy, actions 

11 Augustus 2010 02:05:15

Sound environmental management enhances development policy, actions

Governments and other stakeholders can boost sustainable development with the help of a new online resource that identifies effective tools and approaches for getting the environment properly included in plans and decisions.

International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) has launched the new resource ‘Environment Inside’. The United Nations Development Programme, United Nations Environment Programme and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development are likely to contribute to the resource, which shows ways that sound environmental management can enhance development policy and actions.

"The environment underpins our health, wealth and security yet international studies show that most environmental indicators are in sharp decline," says Dr Barry Dalal-Clayton, a Senior Fellow at IIED.

"Governments make countless speeches and policy statements that are peppered with environmental good intentions but they rarely make the environment central to the key decisions and institutions that shape economies and people's daily lives."

Most countries have laws that require environmental impact assessments, and institutions to manage and regulate their use, and a growing number are introducing strategic environmental assessment ahead of new policies, plans and projects.

But whilst there are excellent examples of practice, it is widely accepted that in most countries these tools don't function as effectively as they could.

Research by IIED partners shows, for example, that in southern Africa environmental impact assessments are used in a highly variable way and too many fail to consider cumulative and trans-boundary impacts. Such assessments pay little attention to important sectors such as agriculture, fisheries and tourism.

"Too few governments use too few tools for mainstreaming the environment into their policies and actions, and those that do rarely make good use of them," says Steve Bass, also an IIED Senior Fellow.

"Decisions are often made before an environmental assessment has taken place, or its findings and recommendations are simply ignored,” adds Bass. “Assessments tend to be technical studies that don't engage properly with stakeholders so they fail to contribute to human wellbeing in the long term. Or they assume the environment is a cost-centre only, and don’t look at its potential revenues".

Despite this, research by IIED and partners around the world has revealed a wide range of other approaches that are already being used to mainstream the environment in development decisions and institutions, budgets and strategies.

Environment Inside highlights approaches that deserve to be recognised and built on  – for example, public environmental expenditure reviews that identify what a country is getting out of environmental assets, what it is spending on their development, and how to improve cost-benefit ratios.

Bass and Dalal-Clayton say governments can do much to ensure that sound environmental management contributes to social and economic development but, for this to happen, they must consider the environment in all areas of policy – and not just focus on a single national plan.

Environment Inside is intended to help all those involved in development to do just that. It will be rolling resource, updated and expanded on an incremental basis. The first version is launched today. Environment Inside includes case studies, key documents and links to other sources of information. It is structured to enable new inputs based on diverse experience.

IIED invites other organisations and individuals around the world to use the website to share their own recommendations and advice, and welcomes offers of materials and contributions to improve the resource.

Environment Inside and the research findings upon which it is based were funded by the UK Department for International Development, Irish Aid, AusAid and the UN Development Programme.