IDD Policy Brief: Making Environmental Mainstreaming Happen

Posted on Friday 22nd June 2012

The institutional framework for sustainable development is one of two main themes for discussion at the UN Rio+20 Conference taking place this week. This brief highlights lessons from a review of experience in nine countries. Written by Fiona Nunan, Adrian Campbell and Emma Foster, it asks what can be learnt from organisational arrangements for environmental mainstreaming to contribute to greater success.

Key messages

  • Governments use or develop either largely ‘vertical’ or, more commonly, largely ‘horizontal’ organisational arrangements to enable mainstreaming. The former emphasise top-down pressure for compliance and the latter cross-sectoral coordination by an environment agency or inter-ministerial task force. 
  • Mainstreaming often involves the setting up of environment units in ministries and departments or of cross-sectoral working groups. To be effective, however, these need to be supported by strong political commitment – expectations, with adequate resources, from the highest levels of government. 
  • A combination of elements of both vertical and horizontal approaches could facilitate better mainstreaming. This would involve strong political pressure (demonstrated by a clear vertical reporting structure), combined with two ‘horizontal’ elements: (1) technical support from a well-resourced environment agency, and (2) cross-sectoral coordination and monitoring. 
  • A combined approach could be achieved incrementally as capacity for, and commitment to, mainstreaming grows. This might involve a gradual shift from sole reliance on the core of government for monitoring and coordination functions to greater reliance on an inter-ministerial group.

IDD Policy Briefs support evidence-based decision-making in international development, presenting the policy implications of research in a concise and accessible format.

Read the Policy Brief: Making environmental mainstreaming happen (PDF 330KB)