Environment and governance must be used as screens and points of orientation for all the other Goals, not just MDG-7. The MDGs are designed to be a collection of interdependent goals that must be pursued in concert with one another. Integrated strategies featuring interventions that advance multiple goals and targets simultaneously will have faster, deeper, more cost-effective, and more lasting impact on human well-being than sequential measures addressing individual goals in isolation. However, all too often, governments operate as if the goals were separate, independent entities, resulting in little coordination or cooperation between various ministries and agencies whose actions bear importantly on the likelihood of reaching MDG targets by 2015.
To be effective, MDG-7 on ensuring environmental sustainability must prompt us to raise questions about how strategies and activities under each of the other goals affect the environment and the long-term capacity of ecosystems to provide the fundamental services required for human survival and well-being. Governments and institutions that fail to recognize this reality and act upon it are at high risk that the investments and reforms they advocate for reaching one goal are likely to undermine efforts to reach another goal. Nowhere is this more true than in the case of the environmental assets of the poor and the potential for environmental income to contribute to poverty reduction.
An integrated approach to meeting the MDG targets should be focused on improved management of ecosystems and their capacity to sustainably deliver multiple types of ecosystem services (MA 2005b:19.2). A goal-by-goal analysis of the implications of ecosystem conditions for achieving the 2015 MDG targets indicates that most of them depend directly on ecosystem services, including the targets on poverty, hunger, gender equality, child mortality, disease, and sustainable development. Moreover, multiple MDGs depend on the same ecosystem services (MA 2005b:19.4-5).
To reach all the MDGs simultaneously, it is crucially important to look carefully across the board at the required investments in ecosystem services (that is, the continued capacity of ecosystems to provide provisioning, supporting, and regulating services) and the necessary governance reforms and institutional capacity-building. For instance, interventions to reach MDG Target 1 on eradicating extreme poverty must fully explore and integrate the role that ecosystems and their services can play in improving livelihoods. Similarly, efforts to reach MDG Target 2 on ending hunger need to be based on an ecosystem- focused analysis of how to most effectively maintain and improve soil fertility, water quality and supply, plant genetic resources, watershed management, and so forth.
To date, however, such assessments have rarely been undertaken in national and international planning for the MDGs. The IMF and World Bank have proposed a five-point agenda for accelerating progress toward the MDGs from which improved environmental management is conspicuously absent (IMF and World Bank 2005:3) Since this agenda was developed with particular reference to Sub-Saharan Africa