Knowledge Note

The UN University Institute for Integrated Management of Material Fluxes and of Resources (UNU-FLORES) released a report that argues an integrated approach to environmental problems is necessary to tackle global challenges. The report stresses that a change in mindset and perspective is necessary to achieve sustainable development for all. It proposes a nexus approach to overcome barriers between sectors and disciplines, and ensure sustainable natural resource management.

The report titled, ‘From Isolation to Integration: Five Years of Advancing a Nexus Approach to Environmental Resource Management,’ introduces the nexus approach to resource management, which examines the interdependencies of environmental resources between parts of a cycle and across different scales. The report argues that considering these relationships can increase resource efficiency while minimizing ecological degradation and environmental risks. Conversely, the report cautions that failure to consider inter-connectedness can result in adverse impacts.

As an illustration, the report shares how a project in China mitigated soil erosion but contributed to food and water scarcity. In this context, the project achieved progress on SDG 15 (life on land) but hindered progress on SDG 2 (zero hunger) and SDG 6 (clean water and sanitation). The report argues that understanding these interlinkages can help develop strategies for achieving multiple SDGs. It provides an example of a wastewater treatment project in Mexico City that aims to address progress on SDG 2, SDG 3 (good health and well-being), SDG 8 (decent work and economic growth), SDG 6 and SDG 11 (sustainable cities and communities).

The report identifies knowledge and capacity gaps in moving from isolation to integration. These gaps include the need for more rigorous research and examples to develop policy recommendations and development of independent, reliable and current data to identify linkages and analyze the effects of management strategies. The report further suggests development of guidelines for decision-makers to implement inter-ministerial and cross-ministerial collaboration and implementation. The report elaborates on ways to address each of these gaps based on UNU-FLORES’ experience.

The report’s recommendations center on research, data, tools, capacity development, networking and advocacy. Each of these focuses on ways to implement a more holistic approach to resource management. The report also provides information on UNU-FLORES’ research projects that elaborate the connections between water, soil and waste planning, management and trade-offs.

UNU-FLORES released the report at its Fifth Anniversary Symposium. Learn more about UNU-FLORES by visiting their site here.