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European Report on Development 2011/2012
Towards better management of water, energy and land

Confronting Scarcity: Managing Water, Energy and Land for inclusive and sustainable growth

The European Report on Development (ERD) for 2011/2012 examines the constraints on water, energy and land and how they interrelate. It also considers how these resources can be managed together to promote growth in developing countries that is both socially inclusive and sustainable.

The report states that a combination of public and private action is required to respond to the challenges and urges the international community to radically transform approaches to managing water, energy and land (WEL) in order to support inclusive and sustainable growth in the poorest developing countries.
The ERD is an independent report published annually that bridges the gap between policy and research and contributes to the EU's perspective on major development issues. Its messages and conclusions do not necessarily reflect the EC position 

It is becoming ever more difficult to provide universal access to water and energy and achieve food security in a sustainable way:
- Close to 1 billion people are undernourished,
- 0.9 billion lack access to safe water
- 1.5 billion have no source of electricity.
Improved governance of water, energy and land will play a vital role in achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). At the same time the context in which resources need to be managed is changing rapidly. Many life-supporting natural resources are increasing in scarcity.

This report examines the constraints on water, energy and land, the interrelationships between them and then considers how they can be managed together to promote sustainable and inclusive growth. A rising world population and global economic growth place new pressures on natural resources.


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The demand for energy and water is expected to grow by 40% and for food by 50% by 2030 compared to present levels. In an interconnected world, these pressures are exacerbated when solutions to resource constraints in one area place additional strains on another.

The report urges the international community to radically transform approaches to managing water, energy and land (WEL) in order to support inclusive and sustainable growth in the poorest developing countries. This radical transformation is needed to satisfy the growing demand for water, food and energy without transgressing environmental limits or tipping points. It involves institutional change and joint implementation by the public and private sectors. An integrated approach managing the WEL nexus accentuates the importance of certain solutions (e.g. payments for ecosystem services) and downplays the appropriateness of others (e.g. mandates on biofuel production).

Three types of actors must address transformation challenges towards inclusive and sustainable growth:

  • The national public sector sets the regulatory and legal framework, uses public expenditure and coordinates and facilitates;
  • The private sector can respond by making its business models more inclusive and sustainable and by investing in sustainable outcomes.
  • The European Union (EU) can support poorer countries through internal policies on production and consumption, as a major trade and investment partner, as a major donor, and through contributions to global governance, as well as by promoting better policy coherence for development.

This ERD argues that the scale and urgency of the problems require transformative action in a combination of four pillars:

  1. Influencing Demand patterns to reflect scarcity values (e.g. sustainable consumption and production by cutting waste and changing lifestyles).
  2. Improving the quantity and quality of Supply (e.g. partnerships on renewable energy, soils, water storage through appropriate finance, regulation and knowledge sharing).
  3. Increasing Efficiency (e.g. technology transfer, national innovation systems).
  4. Increasing Resilience against shocks and benefits for the poorest (e.g. benefit-sharing, social protection, Corporate Social Responsibility, inclusive land policy).

VIDEO: Interview with Dirk Willem te Velde, ERD Team Leader http://multivu.prnewswire.com/mnr/prne/erd/53810/

What is the European Report on Development?

The ERD is an independent report published annually that bridges the gap between policy and research and contributes to the EU's perspective on major development issues.
The report is the main output of the Mobilising European research for development policies initiative supported by the European Commission and seven EU Member States, namely Finland, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom".

The views expressed in the European Report on Development (ERD) are those of the respective authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the European Commission or of the Member States of the EU.

Who wrote the ERD 2011/2012?

The 2011/2012 was commissioned to the Overseas Development Institute (ODI), in partnership with the European Centre for Development Policy Management (ECDPM), and the German Development Institute (Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik) (GDI/DIE).

The ERD 2011/2012 Core Team was composed of Dr Dirk Willem te Velde (Team leader, ODI), Imme Scholz (DIE-GDI) and James Mackie (ECDPM), supported by a team of experts from the three institutes. The ERD team worked in close consultation with top-level academics, researchers, policy-makers and civil society actors from Europe and developing countries. Peer review, background papers and stakeholder participation are crucial elements of the authoring process.

The report was officially launched in Brussels on 16 May 2012.

Last update: 16/05/2012 | Top