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Interactive Handbook

Sustainable Development in Practice: A Guide to Integrating Environment, Climate and Poverty Reduction

Chapter 4 Planning – integrating poverty/environment objectives into plans

Draft, Steve Bass. Rev 31st August 2022


This chapter offers guidance on integrating poverty-environment objectives into national, subnational, sectoral and thematic plans, focusing on the mainstream planning processes that are typically in place in a developing country. The United Nations Development Programme–United Nations Environment Programme (UNDP-UNEP) Poverty-Environment Initiative (PEI) and its successor, Poverty-Environment Action (PEA), have supported the integration of poverty-environment issues into hundreds of plans in developing countries, often using the national development plan (NDP) as the starting point. PEI/PEA’s extensive lessons serve as the basis for the guidance in this chapter.


This chapter covers:

  • The importance of understanding existing plans and planning processes, their significance for poverty-environment outcomes and their common drawbacks
  • Means of stakeholder involvement in plans and planning processes
  • Lessons and three brief case studies from PEI/PEA on the above
  • Six practical steps for integrating poverty-environment objectives into planning processes, with associated checklists and tools that can be applied in and tailored to individual countries
4.1 Understanding planning processes

A good understanding of the main plans and planning processes that affect poverty-environment is essential for integrating poverty-environment objectives. In order to successfully integrate poverty-environment objectives into government-led national development efforts, we need to identify and understand the various planning processes and their associated timelines, institutions and actors. We also need to know what policies and plans are already in place and their status (i.e. if they are due for review or revision). The institutional and context analysis methodology described in chapter 2 can help in identifying and understanding these.

Here we address national, subnational, sectoral and thematic plans, focusing on the mainstream planning processes that are typically in place in a developing country.


4.1.1 National development plans

NDPs are the umbrella planning framework commonly used in developing countries. They are usually the paramount national planning instrument: they are mandated at high levels, with an established government machinery behind them; they link directly to budget and implementation measures; and they provide an agreed-upon basis for much development cooperation. They are often also a high-profile focus of debate and lobbying.

NDPs are a bridge between vision and action. They may take their overall goals from long-term national vision statements or policies which cover 20 or more years, many of which may be quite aspirational in terms of sustainable development. NDPs normally set macro-level targets for a range of economic and social indicators over a period of five years; in many cases, they also set broad sector objectives. NDPs are the main reference document for prioritizing programmes for inclusion in the national public budget and for government’s efforts to seek other financing from international and private sector partners. They also inform other plans: annual plans, sector plans and subnational plans through guidance which is usually issued by ministries of finance and/or planning.

NDPs are prepared by groups of technicians who tend to be organized in sector working groups and coordinated by a core secretariat from the ministry responsible for national planning. The plans typically focus on economic growth, poverty reduction, and job creation and incorporate targets that address gross domestic product (GDP), rates of employment and poverty levels. As such, they have implications both for reducing poverty and for how the environment and natural resources (ENR) are managed. Yet it is not common that both poverty and ENR are accorded a high profile in NDPs – the notable exception being several countries that have been supported by PEI/PEA.

In spite of the major opportunity for change that NDPs offer, the political and institutional context has tended to resist the kinds of major change needed to include poverty-environment issues. But if the critical, cross-cutting, complex issues of poverty-environment are not well reflected in an NDP, it is all too easy for them to become invisible drawing little mainstream attention to them. To reverse this situation is the challenge – a challenge that PEI/PEA has addressed in several developing countries, helping them make significant strides towards coherence and coordination of ENR sustainability and poverty-linked issues within their NDPs.


4.1.2 Sector and subnational plans

Sector and subnational plans usually relate closely to the NDP, but also have their own roles and attributes that make poverty-environment integration necessary. In many countries, NDPs are primarily implemented through sector plans and strategies as well as local development plans. PEI/PEA’s experience found that poverty-environment integration in NDPs had unsatisfactory outcomes unless this was followed by activities aimed specifically at poverty-environment integration in sector and subnational plans.

Sector plans. Sector plans direct investment within key economic sectors in most developing countries. They are a major determinant of the quantity and quality of ENR management, as well as the quantity and quality of goods and services produced, associated livelihoods, employment and consumer benefits. Integrating poverty-environment issues into sector plans can help tackle the negative poverty-environment impacts of some investment options – and, more positively, also improve the quality of planned investments in ENR management. Ways to do this are usually established in a country’s NDP and sector planning guidelines. The sector plan is not simply a more detailed articulation of the national plan, but the result of a two-way process. Sector challenges and objectives come to influence the NDP, the formulation of which is often done with sector working groups set up under the NDP preparation architecture, and with which poverty-environment integration efforts should engage.

Some countries produce ENR sector plans. Treating ENR as a sector in itself has the advantage of offering clear links to budgets and investments for otherwise marginalized environmental authorities. There is growing experience of integrating poverty issues into ENR strategies and plans. UNEP–World Conservation Monitoring Centre (WCMC) and the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) have helped several countries integrate development issues into national biodiversity strategies and action plans (NBSAPs) and environmental issues into NDPs – giving rise to reciprocal mainstreaming, which has networked planners across environmental and development authorities. This closer working relationship has helped stakeholders understand the need to treat ENR as both a cross-cutting theme and a sector in its own right (IIED and UNEP-WCMC, 2017).

Local plans. Local authorities and other local organizations are highly significant for ensuring poor people can access and benefit from ENR services. Local plans translate national policy and plans and sometimes sectoral plans. They identify and make the case for government budgets to address local needs, and are the principal framework for mobilizing local resources and capabilities. They also provide an agreed-upon framework for civil society and business to make local intentions clear. All of this can be favourable to prioritizing poverty-environment outcomes, which tend to be deeply local in their manifestation and impacts. Subnational plans may be accorded special priority where there is an intention to decentralize governance, improve equity between regions, and mobilize local populations and their resources. Participatory planning processes involving local stakeholders and intended beneficiaries, sometimes with field-based consultations (chapter 3), can ensure rights-based approaches and gender mainstreaming are integral components of ENR-based initiatives featured in village or district development plans.


4.1.3 Other common planning processes relevant to poverty-environment outcomes

Other forms of planning may also have strong implications for poverty-environment outcomes.

  • Thematic national plans and strategies have become increasingly high profile, typically covering cross-cutting issues associated with national and local public goods such as food, energy and water security. Increasingly, plans also focus on global public goods such as climate change and biodiversity, in part because of the interests of the international community and aid programmes. Various waves of national strategy – for biodiversity (NBSAPs, see above), climate change (nationally determined contributions), poverty reduction strategies), or green/blue economy – have emerged. Even if they emphasize only one politically significant aspect of sustainable development, they can be holistic and open to poverty-environment issues. However, many are stand-alone strategies outside the main planning system (especially if they address very new concerns);as such, they are less able to influence more mainstream plans.
  • Spatial plans, such as regulatory land use and zoning plans, can be powerful tools for discouraging activities with negative impacts on ENR management and poor people’s livelihoods – or alternatively that encourage sustainable approaches. From a management perspective, integrated landscape management is now being recognized as a useful framework for balancing poverty, social distribution and many environmental issues within and across diverse land uses.

In conclusion, a country’s mandated planning processes are a principal catalyst for poverty-environment integration. They are a recognized, central entry point to an orderly change process. There are existing planning resources and capabilities attached to them, including coordination by powerful central authorities. They present the main acknowledged opportunity for external bodies to engage. On the whole, they tend to be broadly transparent and result in an anticipated and agreed-upon plan around which stakeholders can offer their own contributions. Finally, they provide direct and significant inputs to sector and local plans and – importantly – budgets and investment deals. If implemented well with the right information and stakeholder inputs, national planning processes often provide the best chance of handling otherwise marginalized poverty-environment issues. In the real world, however, outcomes are not determined by formal plans alone, as discussed in chapter 2.4.

4.2 Lessons from PEI/PEA

One of the most significant aspects of PEI/PEA’s legacy has been making existing national, subnational and sector planning processes work for poverty reduction and the environment. Hundreds of plans of many types across numerous developing countries have received support in integrating poverty-environment issues, first by PEI and then by PEA. This legacy is well illustrated by PEI/PEA’s experience in Africa.

Box 4.1 PEI/PEA’s integrated planning experience in Africa

The African countries that worked with PEI/PEA now benefit from a considerable legacy. All have national plans and several subnational and sectoral plans and commitments that mainstream poverty-environment concerns. In the process, they also strengthened planning capacities, procedures, data and financial provisions for poverty-environment outcomes. This legacy has established a strong precedent for poverty-environment inclusion in future planning that makes each country fitter for achieving sustainable development.

  • National development plans with integrated poverty-environment goals and targets were produced in all PEI/PEA countries except Kenya. Integration in these NDPs was not simply one-off: poverty-environment objectives were mainstreamed into two successive NDPs in most countries; and in Rwanda and Mali, into three NDPs. Since the development path of most African countries remains driven by NDPs, and government machinery revolves around NDPs, this mainstreaming is a real gain – but implementation needs to be ensured.
  • Sector plans with mainstreamed poverty-environment issues and specific goals and targets were developed in Burkina Faso, Kenya, Malawi, Mauritania, Mozambique, Rwanda and Tanzania. PEI/PEA realized that it was not enough to assume that the NDP would be translated into each sector, and so made special efforts to become fully involved in the planning of relevant sectors, notably agriculture, forestry and fisheries.
  • District and other subnational plans with mainstreamed poverty-environment issues and specific goals and targets were completed in Burkina Faso, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda. This effort was particularly extensive in Rwanda, with 30 district development plans; and in Mali, with 11 local economic, social and cultural five-year development plans. As with sector plans, PEI/PEA realized that decentralization – while a strong political imperative – was often weak in practice and that “trickle down” from the NDP could not be assumed. PEI/PEA gave considerable support to participatory dialogue and diagnosis in forming the local plans.
  • Green villages are a new integrated spatial planning and development approach pioneered with PEI/PEA support in Rwanda. Centred on participatory planning with the community and cross-government collaboration, green villages aim to improve environmental management alongside strengthening community governance and organizational capacities. The aim was to have at least one green village in each of the country’s 30 districts; there were already 44 by late 2018.
  • Gender mainstreaming was driven by the clear identification of women as both the principal focus of, and major solution to, many poverty-environment challenges. By 2018, 36 policies and monitoring frameworks across Africa had gender mainstreamed into them. The PEI/PEA partnership with UN Women was invaluable in this achivement.

With time, the depth and level of ambition for poverty-environment integration has increased. For example, in Rwanda, integration of these objectives in successive NDP processes has led to poverty-environment being central in the National Strategy for Transformation ( see Rwanda case study at 4.4).


Key lessons on planning from the PEI/PEA experience have been well documented (see e.g. UNDP-UNEP PEI, 2018, 2019a and 2019b) and are summarized here:

  • Work with existing planning processes rather than develop one-off stand-alone poverty-environment plans. Because government budgeting and resource mobilization are directly linked to existing planning processes, aiming at these processes is more likely to lead to action than setting up a separate “satellite” plan. Once such objectives are integrated in the respective plans, existing coordination and accountability mechanisms can be used to incentivize and monitor implementation – for example, through job descriptions, staff performance contracts and sector performance reviews. This then feeds into continual improvement. PEI was able to support up to three successive five-year planning cycles in some countries, with each iteration raising the ambition. With each iteration, too, many countries prioritized new issues which had risen in prominence, such as gender equality, climate change, disaster risk reduction, and other cross-cutting issues that will catalyse sustainable development.
  • An effective central coordinating mechanism is critical for poverty-environment integration, with strong leadership of central authorities, notably planning or finance agencies. Earlier poverty-environment mainstreaming efforts had tended to focus on ministries of environment, but this faltered as such ministries are often poorly resourced and function largely outside the centre of government power. The emphasis shifted to planning and finance as lead ministries, and to ensuring they had dedicated capacity to understand and handle poverty-environment issues and to communicate with identified contacts in line ministries. This shift also helped to ensure that poverty-environment objectives in the national plan were reflected in sector and subnational strategies.
  • Improve the environmental mainstreaming strategy of environment authorities. To strengthen the capacity of environment ministries to support poverty-environment issues, it was often necessary to improve their willingness and ability to engage with the main planning and sector ministries, departments and agencies. This entailed supplementing environmental authorities’ commonly deployed one-way arguments for environmental mainstreaming, and dispelling their assumptions that any funding labelled “environment” or “climate” is best assigned to them alone. The environment is, to a large extent, a shared and cross-cutting affair and not a silo – all agencies need to conduct some environmental work. Moreover, in order to truly present environmental potentials, environment authorities need to understand mainstream policy aims. Thus effective poverty-environment integration requires integrating relevant poverty perspectives into environment plans, and not only integrating relevant environment perspectives into poverty plans – reciprocal mainstreaming so the two types of plan are coherent.
  • Poverty-environment integration is an ongoing task. The work of poverty-environment integration is not over when relevant objectives have been integrated into national plans. Instead, the workload increases geometrically from a single NDP to multiple local plans and sector plans, with considerable communication and participation tasks entailed in doing so. Getting the guidelines and procedures right can help with efficiency, but it is critical to build local capacity so poverty-environment integration is in the job descriptions and key tasks of many planners.
  • Poverty-environment outcomes are not determined by the formal plan alone. Several things can trump orderly planning processes and plans. Political attitudes, hot issues in society and the media, transactional opportunities and unforeseen events can all mean plans are cast aside. Entrenched policies can limit or distort how poverty-environment issues are included in plans.1 Thus we cannot rely on formal planning and plans alone to ensure poverty-environment needs are addressed. This is why chapter 2 emphasizes the informative power of political economy analysis. It is also why this handbook encourages continual improvement, using poverty-environment evidence judiciously and engaging with other stakeholders tactically to influence politics, policies and transactions with relevant poverty-environment evidence and stakeholder engagement.

These and other lessons inform the summary “how-to” guidance on integrated planning covered in the next section.

4.3 Steps in integrating poverty-environment objectives

Based on PEI/PEA experience, six main steps make up the process of integrating poverty-environment objectives into national plans and planning:

  • Scope which major plans and planning processes have a poverty-environment focus or poverty-environment implications.
  • Map the players and procedures involved in the target plan and process(es).
  • Develop a strategy for integrating poverty-environment issues into the target plan and process(es).
  • Engage with the planning process, drawing in relevant stakeholders and information.
  • Write up and review the poverty-environment integrated plan, highlighting opportunities for implementation.
  • Identify how to embed poverty-environment concerns across relevant planning machinery in the future.

These steps need to be adapted for the country, local, sector and stakeholder context – especially so they work with ongoing planning processes , mandated procedures and the relevant planning authorities. Where there are no such processes, they may need to be developed – although extensive processes parallel to mandated planning should be avoided. And, while the steps are broadly sequential, some may need to be iterated. There are no hard and fast rules. Studying relevant case studies (such as at 4.4) [link] can help decide the steps to take in a particular situation.

A secretariat, officer or working group should be appointed to coordinate the poverty-environment integration steps. This is generally most effective if best linked to, or part of, the secretariat/officer/group coordinating the existing planning process.


4.3.1 Step 1: Identify plans and planning processes with poverty-environment implications

This may involve the following activities:

  • Bring together relevant analyses (from chapter 2). Sum up the relevant poverty-environment problems and potentials for the country, locality, planning theme or sector.
  • Bring together elements of the stakeholders’ vision (from chapter 3). Sum up the sense of poverty-environment direction, consensus, preferences and disagreements, drawing on dialogue results.
  • Identify which plan(s) are relevant. Examine current plan objectives and approaches that touch on the above poverty-environment problems, potentials, debates and visions– do they potentially help poverty-environment outcomes or hinder them? Also look at any previous plans that may have tackled these problems and potentials, identifying what worked and what did not.
  • Identify planning constraints. Assess if any underlying policy, legal, capacity or resource constraints connected to the identified planning processes limit the possibility to deploy them to achieve better poverty-environment outcomes.
  • Select the target plan(s) or planning process(es). See table 4.1 for guidance on prioritization.
  • Write up the results. Document the results of Step 1 as Strategic Input 1 – Scoping.

Table 4.1 Criteria to select priority plans and planning processes for poverty-environment objectives

Criterion Questions to consider of the plan/process
Risks connected to poverty-environment – level and likelihood Which plans/processes are likely to cause serious problems for people and ENR if poverty-environment issues are not better considered?
Benefits from integrating poverty-environment – type/magnitude Which plans/processes offer the greatest prospects to improve conditions for stakeholder groups and for ENR?
Institutional improvements – potentials offered by poverty-environment integration Within which plans/processes are there good opportunities to affect positive changes in stakeholder power, motivations and relationships to support better poverty-environment outcomes?
Themes – highest current political or public profile Which plans/processes positively inspire (or alternatively cause most concern) to many stakeholders (typically those concerning jobs, poverty or climate)?
Plan tractability – clear mandate, public interest Which plans/processes are most stakeholders most likely to engage with constructively?
Critical path – value added of this plan Which plans/processes build on progress to date and complement other ongoing initiatives to improve poverty-environment outcomes?
Critical entry point – for poverty-environment information Which plans/processes are open to, and can benefit from, better information on poverty-environment links?

Adapted from UNEP, GEF and IIED (2022).


4.3.2 Step 2: Map the players and procedures involved in the target plan and processes

This may involve the following:

  • Identify stakeholders involved in the mandated planning process. Be clear how they are involved – as planning authorities, technical experts, local and sector groups, or process coordinators.
  • Identify potential poverty-environment champions or blockers. See chapter 2.4 on stakeholder analysis) for guidance on who could make a significant difference to the planning outcome.
  • Clarify the mandated planning procedures, stages and timing. It will be helpful to know which stage in the planning cycle is coming up next and what the expectations for poverty-environment inputs might be.
  • Reflect on political economy issues that influence planning processes. These include which interests are reflected and whose are excluded, change processes that work, and what the outcomes tend to be (chapter 2).
  • Check previous analyses of poverty-environment issues. Especially if they have met the procedural and quality stipulations of the planning process (chapter 2). Clarify any differences, and identify further analysis needed.
  • Check previous dialogues on poverty-environment issues. Show if and how any poverty-environment dialogue (chapter 3) has met the requirements of the planning process e.g. for consultation, participation and consensus building. Explain any differences and identify any further dialogue needed.
  • Write up the results. Document the results of Step 2 as Strategic Input 2 – Plan Processes and Players.


4.3.3 Step 3: Develop a strategy for integrating poverty-environment issues into the target plan and process

Using the strategic inputs 1 and 2 (4.3.2 and 4.3.3), develop a strategy for integration into the target plan. This may involve:

  • Consider timing. If the current NDP or related plans are due for evaluation, the strategy may be best focused on getting good evidence of its poverty-environment outcomes. If plan implementation is at its mid-point, the strategy may be best focused on the poverty-environment impacts of annual plans, links to other sector/local plans, and links to budget. If it is nearing the time to discuss a new plan, the strategy may be best focused on generic poverty-environment case-making and engaging poverty-environment actors.
  • Identify the entry points and players. Use Strategic Inputs 1 and 2 above to identify poverty-environment entry points into the targeted planning process (from survey or scoping stage to prioritization to monitoring) and to identify target players to engage with (e.g. plan technical working groups, peer review groups, interministerial steering committees, aid coordination groups, secretariats for the planning process, planning authority).
  • Develop a core script on how attention to poverty-environment issues will add value to the plan. To develop this comprises three tasks:
    • Provide evidence of how poverty-environment issues may affect the plan’s principal objectives such as economic growth or jobs.
    • Describe how integrating poverty-environment issues can be expected to help the plan in doing no harm and suggest the safeguards and conditionalities that it may be obliged to include (e.g. environment, climate, gender inclusion).
    • Describe how integrating poverty-environment issues will help the plan, e.g. how this will add to productivity, wealth, resilience, equity and sustainability. Draw on existing analyses and discussions by the respective planning process, thereby ensuring ownership. Where necessary, supplement these analyses with specially commissioned assessments.
  • Consider the need for modifying the existing planning process. The standard, mandated planning process may be blind to, have a very narrow perspective on, or be biased against issues of poverty and/or environment. In this case, discussions should be held to see how the process could be modified to better reflect poverty-environment needs. Some processes and procedures may seem to be set in stone, but PEI/PEA has had demonstrable success in modifying the formal planning regulations or instructions to officials that are the basis for planning in most countries. Such modifications should be done as early as possible, with provision for review and learning about how it worked, and due recognition given to those who have pioneered in undertaking such planning innovations.
  • Write up the results. Document the results of Step 3 as the Poverty-Environment Integration Strategy.


4.3.4 Step 4: Engage with the target plan process, drawing in poverty-environment stakeholders and information

This step involves implementing the Poverty-Environment Integration Strategy produced in the previous step, usually by supporting the mandated planning process and the players involved. Because pre-existing procedures and those involved in them may not initially be fully open to poverty-environment issues, the aim is to improve stakeholder understanding and openness through the process, so that it grows and is capitalized upon. Be constructively assertive and tactfully persistent, as and when appropriate, based on good evidence and with attention to detail throughout.

  • Nurture the people involved in the process. For mainstreaming to take hold in public sector processes effectively, some government technicians and decision-makers need to become poverty-environment champions. Champions are clearly most desirable among those working in the planning coordination unit, but sector working group members and sector poverty-environment contact persons can also help drive the process. Individuals in civil society organizations, academia, research organizations, media and private sector associations can also be effective champions for mainstreaming, offering a range of lenses on poverty-environment issues and expressing demands for poverty-environment outcomes. Reliance on any one individual to lead poverty-environment integration should be limited, in part because high staff turnover in public sector institutions could stall integration efforts, and in part because the poverty-environment agenda should be widely owned.
  • Create a compelling vision for poverty-environment integration early on. The importance and promise of poverty-environment outcomes, and the need to work together, must be made clear to all. This can be critical for motivation – especially in contexts where repeated promotion of single issues has led to mainstreaming fatigue and mere box-ticking responses. All players need a good idea of what differences poverty-environment integration will achieve: e.g. higher agricultural productivity and fisheries yields and associated higher incomes, new green jobs, green small enterprises, more rights and rewards for those who look after the landscape. But the vision should be more than a few separate promises. It should also point to the poverty-environment additionality at system and structural levels – changes for the longer term, greater resilience for people and the environments they depend upon, and the power of collective action – which will require all players to work together. (See chapter 3.)
  • Offer the kinds of evidence that best fit the planning process, but that also drive the vision. It is a strategic art to provide the right information that the process and its safeguards and other conditionalities demand, and at the right time. Experience suggests giving weight to the following:
    • Economic evidence, including not only the technical information that environmental stakeholders tend to offer (e.g. on species and pollutant levels), but also and especially on the economic costs of unsustainable ENR management and the development benefits of improved sustainability
    • Gender and other distributive evidence on who will bear costs and benefits
    • Other evidence that offers a new poverty-environment perspective on the potential and risks of mainstream development priorities such as jobs and growth
  • Conduct relevant, inclusive and motivating communication throughout the process. Communications should cover profiling the poverty-environment integration initiative, so stakeholders know what it is for and how to engage; offering information on poverty-environment issues in non-technical language, including news on which poverty-environment issues are being picked up; calling for evidence so communication is not just one-way; pointing to poverty-environment leaders and best practices and encouraging others; and engaging the media to encourage their commentary. Expressing poverty-environment issues in formal bureaucratic language may be necessary for some official planning documentation, but it is also useful to communicate in everyday language that these issues are fundamentally linked to the well-being of people and the environments upon which they depend. Packaging key messages to suit different audiences is thus important. (See chapter 8.)
  • Ensure interdisciplinary and participatory decision-making. It is likely that more inclusive decision-making will be needed for poverty-environment issues than had been the case before, especially if there are built-in policy biases against environmental sustainability and/or against poor and marginalized groups. These biases may be addressed by supplementing the decision-making criteria and tools used by the mandated planning process, which tend to be dominated by economics (see box 4.3 for a list).

Box 4.3 Interdisciplinary tools for integrating poverty-environment objectives in decision-making

  • Multidimensional poverty assessment (MDPA). Such assessment widens the lens on poverty, revealing both ENR co-benefits and environmental hazards that entrench poverty. Poor groups and indigenous groups often explain their own poverty in non-financial terms (e.g. lack of access to natural resources, as well as income); this needs to be mainstreamed in decisions.
  • The nexus approach. This is a robust approach to show the interaction among key poverty and environmental aspects affected by the plan. Decision options shown in a nexus context are less likely to be taken in a siloed way.
  • Foresighting. This approach prepares for the unexpected in times of increasingly rapid change, growing complexity and critical uncertainty in the future context for poverty-environment. Foresighting uses a range of methodologies – including horizon scanning for emerging changes, analysing megatrends, and developing multiple scenarios – to reveal and discuss useful ideas about the future.
  • Scenario development. Following the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, holistic scenario development has been routinely used to posit futures based on both human and environmental trends. The methodology explores sets of plausible stories, supported with data and modelling, about how the future might unfold under alternative courses of action. It helps avoid both over- and underprediction of poverty-environment outcomes.
  • Modelling tools. These can estimate the quantitative impacts of policy, budgetary and other changes, including external shocks, on the economy. General equilibrium modelling is a quantitative method for analysing the static/dynamic, direct/indirect and short-/long-term effects of a change or proposed change across the entire economy (although sector-level modelling is also important). PEI/PEA has used general equilibrium modelling to estimate the economic impacts of unsustainable natural resource use on GDP and the poverty impacts of soil erosion.
  • Theory of change development. This approach supports critical thinking on the causal pathway and sequence of activities to reach the intended long-term poverty-environment change, noting the assumptions that underpin each step. It is able to handle both poverty and environment issues and their links, and show how common actions can address them.
  • Policy coherence analysis. This analysis looks for attributes of policy that systematically reduce conflicts and promote synergies between and within different policy areas, so as to better achieve joint outcomes. Developed by OECD to align policy so it better addresses the complex, multidimensional and multi-actor challenges faced in development, policy coherence analysis offers a number of matrices to look across the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to align efforts (SDG target 17.14 itself targets policy coherence for sustainable development).
  • Prioritization tools. These tools apply various criteria and screens to decide where to focus action. At their simplest, the tools involve matrices of two critical dimensions – e.g. importance and urgency; likely impact and effort needed; value and risk. Others check against a list of poverty-environment principles or outcomes that need to be included.


4.3.5 Step 5: Write up the plan, integrating poverty-environment objectives, and opportunities for implementation

The plan will normally be written by the coordinating secretariat and/or working group and should be peer reviewed to meet both statutory standards and any extra requirements associated with poverty-environment issues. The checklist in box 4.4 covers typical items for the writing team and peer reviewers to review. The plan is best presented as the beginning of a new approach, and not simply the end of a planning process. As far as possible, the various opportunities for implementation should be indicated. For example, the statutory planning process typically has a direct link to government budgets (chapter 5) and to some monitoring and evaluation functions. Such links should be addressed when writing the plan.

Where new issues such as poverty-environment integration are concerned, implementation in developing countries typically focuses on government and development cooperation as drivers of innovation. This needs supplementing. Although governments do need to lead on infrastructure and support programmes, plan implementation at scale can only be achieved through individual farmers, local organizations, micro, small and medium-sized enterprises and market players. Poverty-environment analysis (chapter 2) and dialogue (chapter 3) should have revealed the potential of mobilizing actors such as these to achieve poverty-environment outcomes.

Box 4.4 Ten-point checklist: ensuring a plan has integrated poverty-environment issues

  • Poverty-environment baseline: Does the plan include a poverty-environment stocktake for the country/sector/theme, covering the state of poverty and the environment, the main linked poverty-environment issues, and the political economy context for poverty-environment integration? (See chapter 2.)
  • Case for addressing poverty-environment issues: Are the positive and negative poverty-environment implications of the plan’s main goals such as jobs and growth sufficiently clear? Is the economic, social, environmental and governance case for action on poverty-environment issues compelling? Does this case have demonstrated backing from stakeholders?
  • Poverty-environment vision and principles: Is the overall vision and purpose of the plan consistent with poverty-environment objectives, e.g. does the vision address sustainable development, inclusive green economy, or other normative principles that embrace poverty-environment objectives? If not, is there provision for ongoing dialogue to generate this vision?
  • Poverty-environment safeguards: Have mandated rules and conditions related to poverty, gender and social difference, and to climate and environment, been followed in preparing the plan? Have additional means e.g. PSIA, SEA, CBA been deployed where mandated rules were insufficient to handle poverty-environment risks? (See chapter 2.)
  • Theory of change for achieving poverty-environment outcomes: Is there a pathway showing how the added value of integrating poverty-environment objectives in the plan will be achieved in the political economy context? Are there provisions and guidance on how to continually improve poverty-environment integration?
  • Poverty-environment activity work plan: Are there specific activities dedicated to poverty-environment outcomes and a realistic timetable, preferably of five years?
  • Poverty-environment indicators and data: What targets and indicators will be used in reviewing plan success or failure, and is it clear to which Sustainable Development Goals these relate? Are there adequate data and provisions for assessing them – e.g. from natural capital accounts, multidimensional poverty monitoring, or household surveys?
  • Implementing the plan: Is it clear how to make the best use of the new mainstreamed plan? And is it clear how the plan links to budget, investment, implementing, monitoring and assessment processes – i.e. other stages in the policy cycle – and to other related government plans?
  • Responsibilities for the plan: Are coordination, communication, collaboration and accountability roles agreed upon for the plan as a whole, and also for those ensuring poverty-environment integration overall and in specific areas? Are relevant subnational or sectoral authorities supportive and playing central roles?
  • Inclusion in the plan: Are the potential roles for achieving poverty-environment outcomes that are envisaged for civil society, marginalized groups and ENR interest groups appropriate and accepted by those groups? Are their powers and capacities adequate for their roles and, if not, has provision been made to improve them?


4.3.6 Step 6: Identify how to embed poverty-environment concerns in the planning machinery for the future
It is unlikely that steps 1-5 will achieve a full integration of poverty-environment objectives in the plan and the planning process, at least the first time around. However, they may have revealed system bottlenecks to poverty-environment, as well as opportunities to unblock these. It is worth reflecting on this, so as to offer recommendations on how future plans could better integrate poverty-environment objectives, identifying the bottlenecks to poverty-environment integration as well as any innovations that helped the process if some modifications were already made (in Step 3). This information will prove to be valuable in support of the kinds of institutional strengthening needed to continually improve poverty-environment outcomes.


Box 4.5 Normative principles that embrace poverty-environment objectives

One way to approach poverty-environment plans and/or policies is to incorporate them into a normative framework or set of desired outcomes, such as may be embodied in a national sustainable development vision or policy. If no such national policy is in place yet, internationally recognized sets of objectives or principles can be deployed for this purpose, including the following:

  • The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the 2030 Agenda. These are very comprehensive, and include many poverty-environment issues. Many developing countries have now focused on particular SDGs and targets that reflect overall national priorities, a prioritization – reflected in national and sector plans to a greater or lesser degree.
  • Inclusive green economy principles. Five principles for assessing and planning green economies were identified by the United Nations, civil society and others comprising the Partners for Inclusive Green Economy. Each principle is based on established international conventions and bodies of evidence and law: (i) the well-being principle, (ii) the justice principle, (iii) the planetary boundaries principle, (iv) the efficiency and sufficiency principle, and (v) the good governance principle. A poverty-environment plan could be prepared or assessed against these principles.
4.4 Case examples

Planning work is highly contextual. Here we offer three brief cases to illustrate how poverty-environment issues were integrated in plans in three African countries.


4.4.1 Coherence on poverty-environment issues and strong economic analysis across successive national, sector and local development plans – a case from Rwanda

PEI/PEA has partnered with the Government of Rwanda since 2005 to integrate environmental sustainability and poverty reduction in successive national, local and sector plans. By 2018, all of Rwanda’s 15 sector strategic plans and 30 district development strategies for 2018–2024 had integrated poverty, environment and climate objectives. This culminated in government making sustainable ENR management a top priority in its National Strategy for Transformation 2018–2024, in order to transition towards a green economy. All of this has led to increased investment in inclusive green growth in key sectors and localities.2 For example, the Agriculture Sector Strategy promotes climate-resilient agriculture and sustainable crop production by investing in smallholder farmer access to and use of climate-resilient seeds and composite organic manure.

Notably, district development strategies aim to up-scale green practices piloted in Rwanda’s Green Villages. With PEI/PEA support, 44 green villages had been established by 2018 to demonstrate an integrated approach to tackling Rwanda’s environmental and poverty challenges. Sustainable solutions in the villages include rainwater harvesting and water reservoirs; new agricultural practices including agroforestry, terraces and soil erosion control; and biogas installation. This has enabled community members to earn more money, improve nutrition and food security, protect natural resources, and send children to school.

To reinforce environment and climate policy priorities, Rwanda’s 2018 national investment guidelines – also developed with PEI/PEA technical assistance – now require public projects to demonstrate that environmental and social safeguards are in place before a government institution can receive internal or external finance. Strategic environment assessments and other relevant poverty-environment safeguarding mechanisms are being introduced for public sector investments. This builds on the inclusion of a climate and environment checklist in Rwanda’s annual budget call circular for the past several years and provides guidance to sectors and districts in budgeting for environment and climate actions. Its application has helped to sustain an increase in government expenditure on ENR and climate change: from 0.4 per cent of Rwanda’s total budget in 2009/2010 to 2.7 per cent in 2016/2017. This increased expenditure has contributed to progress on broader development goals in Rwanda: poverty declined from 44.9 per cent in 2012 to 39 per cent in 2015; 2,400 hectares of natural ecosystems were rehabilitated; and 23 per cent more people gained access to electricity.

The work has demonstrated the value of using economic evidence and not simply environmental facts: the economic evidence collected by PEI/PEA Rwanda on e.g. soil erosion costing 2 per cent of GDP, and how ENR sustainability could contribute to the achievement of development goals was eye-opening for many other planners. Senior government officials gained confidence in the economic findings and the PEI/PEA work became embedded in official consciousness. The environment authority started placing environmental graduates as interns in sector ministries, and several ministries soon after hired their own environmental experts, too. The new consciousness reached the highest levels, too: President Kagame used information from the Rwanda PEI/PEA economic analysis in an interview with The Times newspaper.

There is still a way to go. Rwanda and PEA are broadening and deepening the mainstreaming of ENR objectives into sectors and districts, with improved coordination mechanisms that will increase public and private investments in pro-poor sustainability, and establishing a national environment and climate fund, FONERWA.

In conclusion, the combination of energetic, adaptive engagement and good economic evidence proved to be a winning strategy for integrating poverty-environment issues into the national plan and, from there, for influencing the shape of sector and local plans and investment, too.


4.4.2 Modifying existing national planning directives and guidelines to achieve poverty-environment outcomes – a case from Malawi

An effective starting point for poverty-environment integration at the sector and subnational levels is to target the official policy directives and guidelines for sector and subnational planning, as well as for associated coordination and accountability. Such directives tend to be issued by ministries of finance, planning and/or local government. Working with these ministries, poverty-environment objectives can be built into the policy directives or issued as supplementary guidance and checklists. In a highly decentralized context, village-level planning guidelines, for example, can also be highly catalytic in achieving poverty-environment outcomes, at least as much as at the national level.

In 2006, Malawi’s Office of the President and the Cabinet identified several policies that were neither comprehensive nor mutually supportive. To make planning and budgeting more integrated, a new Guide to Executive Decision-Making Handbook was prepared. PEI/PEA supported an annex, Guidelines for Integrating Environmental Sustainability and Natural Resource Management in Policy-Making and Planning in Malawi. This shows how decision-makers can integrate poverty-environment issues into all eight stages of Malawi’s public planning cycle. It includes a practical checklist with 24 questions that help to assess the environment and poverty impacts of various policy options. Associated training modules are included in the government’s curricula for policymakers. The guide has helped in including poverty-environment issues in Malawi’s plans and policies – e.g. for the national agriculture policy, balancing agricultural production for poverty reduction with environmental sustainability (UNDP-UNEP PEI 2017, 2019b).


4.4.3 Good coordination as key to poverty-environment integration in the routine national five-year planning process – a case from Burkina Faso

In a country where 85 per cent of the population depends on natural resources for their livelihood, and 32 per cent of the GDP comes from natural resource use, plans really need to look for ways to improve economic, environmental and social gains from this use and to avoid environmental damage. PEI/PEA support underlined the urgency of this need with an economic study showing that environmental degradation is already costing 21 per cent of GDP, equivalent to half the entire development budget (UNDP-UNEP PEI, 2018).

Burkina Faso’s success in integrating poverty-environment issues into plans was in large part due to good collaboration between the ministries of environment and planning, which together embraced the participation of wider sector ministries and non-government players. The plan’s implementation was secured through a three-tiered coordination structure comprising:

  • A high-level interministerial committee at the national level
  • An intersectoral technical committee with national and subnational membership
  • Subnational coordination committees led by local authorities

All three structures included representatives from the public and private sectors and civil society organizations. Figure 4.1 lays out how the players worked together and their main activities in integrating poverty-environment issues into the new Five-Year Development Plan 2016–2022. This included some particularly powerful activities:

  • Assessing the previous NDP against sustainable development indicators
  • A multi-stakeholder study of the (in)coherence of multiple sector strategies in relation to sustainable development
  • Studies of the economic costs of poor environmental management and the social and economic benefits of better management
  • Applying a prioritization tool to decide where attention to key Sustainable Development Goals would better deliver the plan targets

Figure 4.1 Cooperation in poverty-environment integration in Burkina Faso’s five-year plan


Source: UNDP-UNEP PEI (2018).

  • 1 Current policy and laws can constrain practical poverty-environment action. Changing them can be catalytic for achieving good outcomes. However, the scope of work needed for policy revision is significant. Depending upon context it may involve: parliament and parliamentary bodies, statutory commissions, civil service reviews, think tanks, public inquiries, public opinion surveys, and various forms of lobbying. We do not focus on national policy and legal formulation and review processes in this Handbook, but our guidance can be usefully applied to policy review and development.
  • 2 Sources: Rwanda Ministry of Natural Resources, 2016; UNDP-UNEP (2018). A brief 2018 documentary on Rwanda’s success in integrating poverty-environment issues is available here: