Environment & Poverty Times
Poverty Environment Initiative in Asia-Pacific
By PEI Asia Pacific regional team
Around 641 million people – two-thirds of the world’s poor – still live on less than $1 a day in the Asia-Pacific region despite it hav- ing the world’s fastest growing economy. The majority of the region’s poor live in rural ar- eas and their well-being is inextricably linked with the surrounding natural environment. Climate change-related and other natural disasters render them even more vulnerable to poverty. At the same time, access to natural resources by the poor and marginal groups is increasingly constrained due to development pressures and population growth – by about 50 million people a year. Confronted with prospects of rapid economic growth, many countries fail to comprehend the real value of ecosystem services that are being degraded, or the full social and environmental impli- cations of development trends, particularly the impacts on the poor. The environment remains a low priority for most contries in the region and is treated as an externality leading to low investment in environmental management – often less than 1% of GDP. Consequently the natural resource base on which the region’s poor heavily depend on continues to be degraded.
Around 641 million people – two-thirds of the world’s poor – still live on less than $1 a day in the Asia-Pacific region.
The Joint UNDP-UNEP Poverty Environment Initiative (PEI) programme for the Asia- Pacific region focuses on the links between environment and both poverty reduction and economic growth. PEI aims to improve the well-being of poor women and men by im- proving opportunities for livelihood develop- ment based on sustainable natural resource management and by making them less vul- nerable to natural disasters, particularly in the context of climate change. As a policy-based initiative, PEI aims to achieve these objectives through integrating pro-poor environmental concerns into national, sectoral and sub-na- tional development planning and economic decision-making processes.
PEI-supported activities are currently under- way in 10 countries in the region: Bangla-
desh, Bhutan, Cambodia, Lao PDR, Nepal, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Thailand, Timor-Leste and Vietnam. Key highlights of the PEI country level support in Bhutan and Lao PDR are summarized below.
Bhutan: pursuing gross national happiness through sustainable natural resource management Bhutan has adopted a constitutional obliga- tion to preserve its environment, conserve its rich biodiversity and prevent ecological deg- radation. This forward-looking, far-sighted constitutional pledge is intended to ensure the long-term sustainable use of natural resources in a manner that not only benefits present and future Bhutanese generations but also contributes in a small measure to global environment health.
Within this constitutional framework the Gross National Happiness Commission (GNHC), Bhutan’s apex planning agency, aims to mainstream pro-poor environmen- tal management measures across key devel- opment related sectors. The Government’s targeted poverty intervention programme, the Rural Economic Advancement Pro- gramme (Reap), offers a useful entry point for PEI to demonstrate the strong linkages between poverty and environment. Through Reap GNHC has been able to define a systematic approach to identifying sustain- able livelihood opportunities for the poor, in most cases based on natural resources. PEI has also supported GNHC in preparing a set of guidelines for effective integration of pro-poor environmental management measures in various sectors. As a result of these guidelines, sectors are expected to adopt more environmentally-friendly development strategies.
Also in connection with Reap, PEI is sup- porting GNHC in preparing a planning manual for local authorities. This simple manual will guide local government admin- istrators on adopting an integrated, bottom- up, consultative planning process giving due consideration to the linkages between pov- erty reduction and environmental manage- ment. The manual will be particularly useful in ensuring that decentralized budgets are used efficiently and effectively.
PEI supports an assessment of public expen- diture, with a view to identifying direct and indirect environmental expenditure in all sectors. This exercise will serve as the basis for formulating a baseline and a reference
framework for measuring future environ- ment-related public investment trends in Bhutan and is also considered as a first step towards adopting a set of Green Accounts.
These initiatives have had a significant im- pact on the way the environment is perceived in the context of development planning in Bhutan. An approach maximizing both sustainable use and conservation of natural resources is particularly important for Bhu- tan as the country is finding it increasingly difficult to reconcile development and liveli- hood opportunities with the need to conserve the environment.
Lao People’s Democratic Republic: managing private investment for rural poverty reduction and environmental conservation
Despite the significant decline in poverty at a national level, poverty persists throughout the country. More than 70% of the poor live in rural areas. Food insecurity still affects the rural population and the poor are very vulnerable to natural hazards and extreme climatic events.
The economy of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Lao PDR) is primarily based on natural resources. Direct use of biodiversity resources in Lao PDR at household and commercial levels, has been estimated to be worth some $650 million a year. Natural resources account for three-quarters of the nation’s per capita GDP, more than 90% of all jobs, almost 60% of exports and foreign exchange revenue, just under a third of government revenue and nearly half foreign direct investment (FDI) inflows.
FDI has become as a major source of govern- ment revenue, while driving faster economic growth. The availability of relatively “cheap” land and long-term concessions (30–50 years) is attracting foreign investors want- ing to establish commercial production of rubber, cassava, sugar, pulpwood, maize, etc. FDI in commercial plantations is the main form of investment after mining. In many cases, corroborated by reports from several provinces, plantations are exacerbating exist- ing (seasonal) food shortages, accelerating environmental degradation and causing adverse social impacts. Private investment in the mineral sector has registered almost 34% annual growth over the past five years (2002–6). Threats to the environment and rural livelihoods from activities associated with the mining sector are observed in the
country, in particular increasing pressures on the availability and quality of land for ag- riculture, and hazardous chemicals. Another growing investment sector is hydropower which has raised serious concerns: flooding of forested areas; changes in natural water flows; biodiversity loss; resettlement of the rural poor; loss of access to and control over water resources; and conflicts over the use of water resources for power generation and for irrigation.
The Government has taken a number of important measures to secure the social and environmental sustainability of these investments, such as setting up the new Environment and Social Impact Assessment Department in the Water Resources Environ- ment Administration. However, the pace and scope of investments in Lao PDR currently exceeds their capacities. This is a critical moment to provide support for more robust investment planning, management and en- forcement capacities. The PEI framework, developed jointly with the Government of Lao PDR and the UNDP country office, has just begun its implementation for the period 2009-11. PEI will provide targeted support, among others to:
support the use of integrated spatial planning resources for investment man- agement;
promote the application of existing stud- ies on the environmental and social costs and benefits of investment choices to develop strategic investment management approaches;
support development of national and provincial investment strategies; improve inter-ministerial coordination and strengthen existing institutional mechanisms and negotiation capacities to manage the social and environmental impacts of investment;
enhance capacities for moniting and en- forcing investment compliance; and strengthen the role of community con- sultation to inform investment decisions, management and monitoring.
Complementing sound investment man- agement efforts, PEI will also assist with integrating environmental sustainability in the 7th National Socio Economic Develop- ment Plan 2011-15, enhancing the national capacity of Environmental and Social Impact Assessment and strengthening the National Assembly’s legislative function related to en- vironmental conservation, rural livelihoods and natural resource management.
Photos. Pandida Charotok, PEI.
An Intha fisherman, Inle Lake, Northern Shan State, Myanmar. Pandida Charotok, PEI.
| Page 2
| Page 3
| Page 4
| Page 5
| Page 6
| Page 7
| Page 8
| Page 9
| Page 10
| Page 11
| Page 12
| Page 13
| Page 14
| Page 15
| Page 16
| Page 17
| Page 18
| Page 19
| Page 20
| Page 21
| Page 22
| Page 23
| Page 24
| Page 25
| Page 26
| Page 27
| Page 28
| Page 29
| Page 30
| Page 31
| Page 32
| Page 33
| Page 34
| Page 35
| Page 36