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Last Updated: Monday, 3 April 2006, 14:35 GMT 15:35 UK
Environment 'key to aid policy'
Sudanese woman carries maize to market, AFP
Sustainable use of natural resources is vital, campaigners say
More than 40 environmental and aid groups are calling on the UK Government to put the environment at the heart of its international development policy.

They say many people wrongly think measures to protect the environment are barriers to economic growth.

The organisations say a forthcoming White Paper on the issue is an ideal opportunity for the UK to show global leadership on eradicating poverty.

Ministers are expected to publish the White Paper this summer.

The call to action was made by members of the Bond Development and Environment Group (DEG) in its submission to the Department for International Development (DfID), which is currently seeking opinions on the issue.

'One planet economy'

The DEG, a network of charities and agencies operating across the world, says the new policy must acknowlege the role of a healthy environment and should embrace a "one planet economy" philosophy.

"It is about recognising that everyone on the world has to live together and share the resources of just one planet - the Earth," says Joanna Phillips, head of trade and development policy at the RSPB and co-chairwoman of the group.

"We have to do this within the parameters of natural resources, equity and justice."

Within these limits, Ms Phillips says developed nations have to be aware that resources need to be shared with developing nations if they are also to enjoy the benefits of economic growth.

"We would like to see the principle of sustainable development underpinning everything," she told the BBC News website.

"This will ensure that decisions being taken in developed nations like the UK are not having an adverse impact on the rest of the world.

"This means recognising the major opportunities that a healthy, functioning environment provides and on which we all depend."

According to the DEG, an estimated 250 million people are directly dependent on small-scale fisheries for food and income, and about 70% of the world's poorest people live in rural areas, and make their living from farming.

Delivering promises

Income and the environment: win-win solutions

Last August, an influential report concluded that the key Millennium Goal of halving poverty in a decade could not be met without better environmental protection.

The World Resources 2005 document said most of the world's poor depended on nature for their income.

Its authors said a focus on aid had taken attention away from more complex issues such as the environment.

DfID is currently consulting on how it can build on plans to promote development and tackle poverty made last year at the G8 Summit and in its Africa Commission report.

International Development Secretary Hilary Benn, in a speech on the White Paper consultation, said it was important to develop a policy "fit for the 21st century and not the last", and which could help "achieve the promise of 2005 to eliminate poverty".

Mr Benn said the new measures would focus on three areas:

  • responding effectively to conflict and disasters
  • improving global governance
  • becoming better at supporting development

The consultation period ends on Friday and the White Paper is expected to be published in the summer.

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