If we don't address poverty and inequity soon, we will face greater conflict and greater damage to ecosystems.
Reducing poverty and fostering human development are fundamental prerequisites for achieving sustainable development. Growing inequity within and across countries is a troubling trend which, if not addressed soon, will lead to greater social conflict and an increasing rate of ecosystem deterioration. There is a need to address these issues in novel ways. We need to move away from conventional responses relying on the fruits of economic growth trickling down to the impoverished, to policy responses that embrace broader participation, greater opportunities and more empowerment of the poor in their own development process.
Since 1992, IISD has sought to provide these responses through policy analysis; intelligence gathering; impacts assessment and modelling; and public engagement and outreach. Our approach recognizes the need for constructive global engagement at the international level combined with strong national policies and action by individuals.
IISD believes that the most effective actions for reducing poverty and fostering human development are those that integrate the sustainable management of ecosystem services, the promotion of economic development and ensuring social equity within a single comprehensive framework. Implementing these actions requires the use of a wide range of tools—from public participation techniques to integrated assessment tools—to understand the complex nexus among constituents of well-being, ecosystem services and institutions.
Our team possesses considerable experience and skills in a variety of areas which has made IISD an international leader on understanding the links between human development and ecosystem services. To maintain continuity in our work on poverty and environment IISD has established a cross-program 'Working Group on Poverty and Environment.' Members are Aaron Cosbey, Anne Hammill, Dale Rothman, Marlene Roy and Oli Brown.
Multilateral Environmental Agreements and Poverty
Multilateral environmental agreements such as the Convention on Biological Diversity, Convention to Combat Desertification and the Framework Convention on Climate Change contain mechanisms to protect the environment that can also be harnessed to reduce poverty. We are researching ways that these mechanisms can be linked to poverty alleviation efforts through local-level natural resources management. This work is funded by an IISD Innovation Fund grant.
Connecting Poverty and Ecosystems
IISD developed a framework that connects people's well-being to ecosystem services, which was then used to provide a preliminary overview of the state of poverty and ecosystems in seven sub-Saharan countries.
Participatory Techniques and Capabilities
Although the poor are becoming increasingly involved in the various stages of development, questions remain as to whether their inclusion constitutes genuine participation and whether people's capabilities have been increased in such a manner as to enable them to chart the course of their destinies in collaboration with the government, NGOs and the international community. IISD’s work addresses these issues within the specific context of participatory freedom.
Policy Coherence and Governance
The poverty-ecosystem nexus is governed by a complex system of institutions, organizations and policies at international scales right down to the local community. IISD aims to find ways that policies, organizations and institutions can work together to achieve linked poverty alleviation and environmental management goals.
Poverty and Ecosystems Report
Many reports are produced that assess various aspects of the state of human poverty and the environment, but none fully convey an assessment of essential ecosystem-poverty links. When the wide-ranging elements found in these reports are structured using an integrated poverty-ecosystem framework, a clearer picture emerges.
IISD defines a "livelihood" as the capabilities, assets (stores, resources, claims and access) and activities required for a means of living. A livelihood is sustainable if it can cope with and recover from stress and shocks, maintain and enhance its capabilities and assets, and provide sustainable livelihood opportunities for the next generation. IISD is looking at how climate change and natural disasters are impacting livelihoods and for ways to make livelihoods more sustainable.
Vulnerability and Adaptation
Many people are vulnerable to natural hazards and disasters because of where they live or because they lack the necessary capabilities and community support to survive and thrive when disaster strikes. IISD is identifying policies that promote local resilience and adaptive management so that vulnerability is reduced. Learn about our work on vulnerability and adaptation in the South; disaster resilience; resource rights and disaster resilience; and adaptation as resilience-building on the Canadian Prairies.