Climate change and environmental degradation pose threats to the global economy and to the well-being of citizens in every country. These interacting processes have the potential to undermine development investments and recent gains in poverty alleviation, food and water, security and human health, particularly in the most vulnerable developing countries. Though the poorest countries historically have been least responsible for climate change and ecosystem degradation, they face the most severe consequences of its effects (ranging from altered rainfall, reduced crop yields and increased weather-related disasters, to rising sea levels and exacerbated disease).
Reducing vulnerability and building resilience to ecological changes are best viewed as development challenges. Because the health and productivity of ecosystems underpins agriculture, stable ecosystems are the foundation for livelihood and food security. Pressures to produce more food for growing populations will need to be met on agricultural landscapes that have been depleted by unsustainable production systems. In order to regenerate agricultural resources, new approaches to natural resource management are needed. Decentralized economic governance and resource management capabilities can enable farmers and rural communities to assume responsibility for sustaining the productivity of rural landscapes. Incentives to better manage natural resources must become part of market systems and signals that shape decision-making in agriculture.
Decisions on policies and programs for resource management need to be based on broad citizen participation and the engagement of rural communities that have often been disenfranchised or marginalized. Women are disproportionately responsible for agricultural production, household nutrition and resource management in many countries. Because women experience more direct and greater impacts from resource degradation and climate change than men, steps to empower, educate and support them in improving food security and stabilizing rural landscapes are essential. Legal reforms that enable women to own and manage land and to control the returns to their labor are critical for the well-being of farm families, increased investment in agricultural productivity and sustainable management.
InterAction believes the NGO community can play a critical role in broadening awareness of the connections between environmental issues and development, and in shaping more integrated responses. InterAction is committed to promoting strong, effective U.S. domestic and international leadership to respond to the range of challenges in the transformational shift to more sustainable development pathways. This shift is not just necessary, but doable and cost-effective. The voice of the NGO community can powerfully support the call for more integrated and appropriate development policies and programs.
Through the Environment and Development Working Group, InterAction and its members keep policy makers and program managers focused on the importance of healthy ecosystems for food security and poverty reduction. The working group advocates for appropriate levels of adaptation assistance and for the integration of climate response and environmental regeneration across development sectors. It also supports aid effectiveness principles, especially broad-based and inclusive country ownership based on active participation by citizens and stakeholders. The working group advances these principles through collaborative policy advocacy, information sharing and the exploration of key issues at the intersection of environmental protection, climate change and rural development. For more information, contact Brian Greenberg.
If you are involved in international environment and development work, you can sign up for InterAction's E&D Working Group by registering for an account and requesting membership. For more information on InterAction's climate change work, please contact Danielle Heiberg.
The Nature of Development - This research paper calls for the immediate alignment of development and environment policy and practice. The benefits of an integrated approach are clear. Countries that will suffer the most from climate change are likely to be those most lacking in resources, infrastructure and overall capacity to deal with the problems. Supporting these countries’ overall development goals and protecting the natural systems that ensure human well-being is cost-effective and will help ensure the success of U.S. investments in international development and the environment.
Climate Change Adaptation Marketplace - At the InterAction Forum 2011, USAID, Pact and The Nature Conservancy collaborated with the Society for International Development to host an intensive workshop to take a closer look at the current state of adaptation practice and to provide an interactive venue for learning and exchange. Over a dozen presenters set up a marketplace of cases, technologies and tools which participants could sample and discuss in small groups.
Monthly Developments Magazine's "Climate Change in the Developing World" cover story warns of the potential for global climate change to undo decades of progress in international development.