Progress on incorporating ecosystems and governance into the Millennium Development Goals and the PRSP process is only a first step in the effort to make the environment a way out of poverty, rather than another source of vulnerability for the poor. Completing this transition will require much more. It will demand local institutions that are accessible to the poor and empowered to manage local ecosystems; secure tenure that gives the poor a legal stake in good resource management; and viable models to commercialize nature-based products and services, including access to credit, transportation, and marketing savvy. And it will demand scientific guidance and technical help to optimize ecosystem management at low cost, and to ensure that local uses of nature do not threaten ecosystems at larger geographical scales and are consistent with national environmental goals. Facilitating this must be pro-poor political change that increases the accountability of government officials and service providers to the poor, and recognizes the potential role of the poor in national economic growth.
The chapters that follow expand on these themes, providing examples of the vital role that nature can play in poverty alleviation if governance, economic, and management factors are aligned. In doing so, it shows how both social and environmental goals depend on each other for their achievement and must be pursued simultaneously. World Resources 2005: The Wealth of the Poor is not only an exploration of the power of nature to provide sustainable livelihoods and support rural growth that increases the incomes and options of the poor. It is equally an exploration of the power of nature as a means toward democratic change and greater social equity.