| In proximity
Many environmental problems are grounded in institutional failures and poor governance. Three institutional failures are especially important for environmental management: inadequate property and user rights, insufficient information and opportunities for local stakeholders to participate in decision-making and weak monitoring and enforcement of environmental standards.
At the international level institutional and governance problems are evident in struggles to develop fair, effective systems to manage global resources such as oceans and the climate. At the national level, weak property and user rights are a common cause of environmental problems such as deforestation, overgrazing and overfishing. Managing open access to a common resource is difficult because the decisions of individuals and companies are based on private costs and benefits — and so can reduce environmental and community well-being.
To respond, local people must have the power to manage the environmental systems on which their livelihoods depend. How' Partly by clarifying overall property and user rights to common resources, which may require reforming policies and institutions that control access to land and natural resources. And partly by strengthening women’s property rights, because women tend to be more dependent on environmental resources for their livelihoods.
Decentralization can improve environmental governance. But it should be accompanied by efforts that build community capacity to manage environmental resources and influence planning and policy-making...
Though cities are often associated with environmental destruction, their high population densities offer opportunities to build crucial infrastructure — such as sanitation, transport and health care services — at lower costs per capita than in rural areas. Urban environments can also offer better prospects for making governments more responsive and accountable to people’s needs. The success of slum dweller associations around the world, such as in Mumbai, India, and Nairobi, Kenya, suggests that higher population densities and closer proximity to decision-makers enable poor urban residents to make their voices heard.
Most sector policies affect the environment, but too often environmental considerations do not inform policy-making. More scientific advice can ensure that understanding of the natural world feeds into the political process at all levels. Economic analysis, incorporating valuations of environmental assets, should also inform policy-making in all sectors. Sector policies with significant effects on the environment should be subject to rigorous environmental impact assessments...National governments, multilateral organizations and bilateral aid agencies need to systematically incorporate environmental impact assessments into their policies and programmes...
So, environmental policies need to address the gender dimensions of the links between poverty and the environment, integrating them into the formulation, implementation and monitoring of poverty reduction strategies and related policy reforms.
National frameworks, such as strategies for sustainable development, should guide policies for natural resource management in light of a country’s specific resources and concerns. Many national environmental action plans fail to address their effects on other sectors and on the needs of poor people. To improve environmental policy-making, such plans should explicitly address these concerns — as well as their contributions towards reaching the goals.