Sustainable Development Goals in action

Paul van Gardingen is Director of ESPA (Ecosystem Services for Poverty Alleviation), a research programme part-funded by ESRC, delivering evidence and tools to create a more sustainable link between land and livelihoods in the world’s poorest countries.

Paul van Gardingen

I recently visited Bangladesh to attend the annual meeting of the Poverty Environment Partnership (PEP), a group that shares the common aim of promoting the integral role the environment can play in alleviating poverty.

The two day conference focused on ‘Sustainable Development Goals in Action’ and was followed by a field trip visiting sites linked to the threatened Hilsa fisheries (and associated Darwin Initiative project). Although the SDGs were the primary focus of the event, many speakers noted that the priorities relating to ecosystems and poverty are really defined by three separate agreements which together frame the 2030 development agenda:

Related to these, one of the most positive changes in recent years has been the enhanced engagement with a range of “untraditional” stakeholders associated with environmental management, and in a way that goes way beyond what is normally expected of impact assessments.

Bangladesh Fish Market

Bangladesh fish market

Despite this improved engagement, the biggest challenge – as highlighted by a number of speakers – still remains opening up and getting involved with the private sector on the PEP agenda. Although this is proving far harder than envisioned, it also offers the highest potential returns if done well.

It’s something we at ESPA are certainly looking at for the future.

Other areas discussed in more detail included:

  • Planning, budgeting and monitoring
  • Turning the tide on oceans and fisheries
  • Integrating the Paris climate agreement into the SDGs
  • Partnerships for SDG implementation, including mainstreaming and accelerating policy support and putting knowledge into practice.

It was an extremely valuable few days, and you can find out more in the official report (PDF).

Bangladesh Fisherman

Bangladesh fisherman

PEP22 is planned for April/May 2017 in the United States — New York or Washington DC — to engage with the UN, World Bank, philanthropic foundations (such as Rockefeller and Ford) and the World Resources Institute (WRI).


Be assured ESPA will be there making sure our science and our partners remain integral to finding solutions which can help both the poor and our planet. And in turn we will do our bit to ensure words become actions sooner rather than later, as demanded by delegates at PEP21.

You can follow Paul (@espa_director) and ESPA (@espadirectorate) on Twitter.

This blog first appeared on the ESPA website.

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