Ecosystems and Natural Resources

Son Kimhourn, 30, fills a jar at her house with water from a reservoir which has been built with funding from SIDA. With water, her backyard is no longer empty but filled with vegetable, animals, while her children can go to school full-time. Photo: Chansok Lay/UNDP Cambodia

Human survival and well-being depend on healthy ecosystems and biodiversity and the goods and services they provide. UNDP supports countries in Asia and the Pacific to effectively and sustainably govern land, freshwater and marine ecosystems, and foster participatory management and benefit sharing with local communities. UNDP helps countries to access financing to develop and implement sound sustainable management practices on-the-ground and build capacity to sustain them. In this way, UNDP supports governments to: conserve and use their natural assets sustainably; secure livelihoods, food, water and health; enhance resilience; conserve threatened species and their habitats; increase carbon storage; and avoid greenhouse gas emissions.

Recognizing the potential of protected areas to conserve biodiversity while contributing to sustainable development, UNDP has supported the strengthening of national protected area systems in Asia and the Pacific, directly affecting 360 Protected Areas, including indigenous and community-conserved areas, covering a total area of 547,925 km². For example, in Malaysia UNDP support is creating novel financing mechanisms to offer incentives to state governments so that they are encouraged to increase their investments in protected area management. In particular, the project aims to safeguard remaining forest areas, which serve as natural ‘water towers’. UNDP also works to integrate biodiversity-friendly policies into planning processes and production sectors and to enhance resilience by incorporating nature-based solutions into strategies for adapting to and mitigating the negative impacts of climate change.

UNDP also supports countries to manage transboundary water systems, such as rivers, lakes and groundwater resources shared by several countries or seas bounded by more than one nation, which require cooperation to steward. UNDP builds capacity for management of these shared ecosystems and resources to reduce stress on the marine and coastal environment as well as on scarce fresh water resources in Pacific island states.

UNDP’s environment work recognizes the importance of poverty issues and moving the environmental discussion beyond Ministries of Environment to include policy and economic decision making bodies. In Asia and the Pacific, the Poverty-Environment Initiative (PEI) has supported countries to integrate poverty, environment and climate issues into policy and budgetary planning processes, with the ultimate aim of achieving greener, more inclusive economies.

Many of our projects and programmes enhance the resilience of ecosystem and natural resource management and work with communities to reduce their vulnerability to climate change impacts. For example, the Mangroves for the Futures programme supports coastal communities to invest in conservation for sustainable development.