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Supporting environmental sustainability in developing countries

People around the world depend greatly on the natural environment for their health and livelihoods— especially people in developing countries. A healthy environment supplies the necessities of life, like water, food and air. It also provides resources for economic growth and the means to fight natural hazards. The well-being of developing countries is often linked to the state of the natural environment and the opportunities it offers.

But globally, many inter-connected environmental issues have been worsening recently. They include:

At the root of these problems are factors such as poor water quality and access, vector-borne diseases and exposure to toxic chemicals. These factors cause much death, disease and disability worldwide, particularly in developing countries.

These environmental challenges are making the relationship between environmental sustainability and poverty reduction stronger. So are new economic opportunities related to green growth and technology. This is why it is important to help developing countries to improve and sustainably manage their natural environment.

Women are particularly affected by worsening natural environments, as they frequently rely more directly on the environment for income and food. Women are often the ones who collect water and fuel, and do subsistence farming. Despite being the main managers of natural resources, women are often not included in decision making and have limited access to services.

Global efforts

The international community has been working together to preserve the environment for more than 30 years. Canada has played a major role in negotiating a number of important international agreements. As a party to these conventions, Canada also helps developing countries implement them. These conventions include the:

These agreements underscore the connection between poverty, equity and environmental sustainability. So, too, does the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Environment is an integral element of sustainable development. As such, over a third of the agenda’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals focus on environment-related outcomes. These include the goals on water (Goal 6), climate change (Goal 13), oceans (Goal 14) and land (Goal 15). Environment targets are part of all Sustainable Development Goals. This highlights the interdependence of economic, social and environmental issues.

Canada also works with, and supports, different international partners to contribute to global efforts on environmental sustainability. Among these partners are the United Nations Environment Programme and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

Our support for environment initiatives in developing countries

Canada works with bilateral, multilateral and Canadian partners to support environmental sustainability. This includes funding to the Global Environment Facility, a partnership of 18 agencies that helps developing countries implement international environmental agreements.

Global Affairs Canada carries out an environmental integration process to ensure the environmental sustainability of Canada’s development initiatives. This process also helps ensure that Canadian international assistance investments do not result in significant adverse environmental effects. (This is in accordance with the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012.) The environmental integration process also helps make sure that strategic environmental assessments are done. These assessments must be applied in line with the Cabinet Directive on Environmental Assessment of Policy, Plan and Program Proposals.

Implementing this process involves assessing all of Canada’s development assistance activities for potential risks and opportunities to achieve environmental sustainability in developing countries. The following principles guide the integration of environmental sustainability in Canada’s international assistance:

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