Pasig River
The Pasig River runs through the heart of Manila and flows from Laguna de Bay to Manila Bay. The river was a major source of water, food and livelihood and offered an alternative mode of transportation. In the 1990s, Pasig River with all its garbage and foul odor, was declared biologically dead. Rehabilitation efforts started after the Pasig River Rehabilitation Commission was created in 1999. The photo shows a section of the Pasig River two decades after rehabilitation.

Framework Creates New Opportunities for Climate Resilience

By Christine Chumbler

In July 2019, USAID launched a new Environmental and Natural Resource Management (ENRM) Framework to coordinate, unify, and elevate environmental and natural resource management across the Agency. The Framework outlines a unifying vision to address emerging challenges and the most critical threats to the environment and development, and serves as a guiding document for cross-sectoral investments in environmental and natural resource management.

“The Framework was conceived and implemented as a way to really articulate both on the natural environment and the built environment sides of resource management to have one, universal, clear framework for the way USAID thinks about these issues,” explains Kevin Nelson, Urban Governance Lead in the Bureau for Development, Democracy, and Innovation.

The emphasis on issues in the built or urban environment—improving urban systems is one of only two priority areas in the ENRM Framework—is a reemerging theme for global USAID programming, as is the recognition of the need for integrated solutions. The causes and impacts of natural resource degradation and pollution cut across all sectors in both urban and natural environments. Nelson says that he and his colleagues on the ENRM task team understood the importance of coordinating efforts across the Agency.

Unsustainable patterns of urban development are at the root of the widespread contamination, depletion of natural resources, and community vulnerability to the impacts of climate change. Poor management of natural resources and infrastructure within cities is amplifying the impact of weather-related shocks and stresses, including heat waves, droughts, and intense flooding, which 70 percent of cities already experience. Ninety percent of urban areas are coastal, which makes them more susceptible to rises in sea levels and powerful storms. Climate and pollution-related risks exacerbate one another—urban “heat islands” threaten human health and require more energy resources, and droughts and flooding further contaminate safe drinking water. All of this is why increasing resilience of urban residents, the majority of the world’s population, is one of the three goals under the Framework’s urban priority area, along with reducing pollution and reducing urban pressure on natural resources.

“The ENRM process helps validate a focus on urban resilience,” Nelson says. “The ENRM Framework provides a venue to talk about these issues, to say how can we focus on cities and how can we focus on their resiliency from an environment standpoint.”

Three cross-cutting programmatic focal areas will support the three goals, including urban resilience, under the urban priority area:

  • strengthening the governance of municipalities and utilities to adopt the inclusive management of natural resources; 
  • improving strategic, transparent, and inclusive planning processes; and
  • developing innovative partnerships, including with new and underutilized partners, especially the private sector.

In a sense, the ENRM Framework is also inspiring innovative partnerships within the Agency, between teams that may not have worked closely together in the past. For example, Nelson says that as a result of an ongoing dialogue between the Urban Team and the Sustainable Landscapes (SL) Team facilitated by working together on the ENRM Framework, some of the money for a scope of work on urban resilience started coming from SL. “I don’t think we would have had necessarily that clear of an understanding of how SL and Urban are getting at some of the same outcomes if we had not had this sort of catalyst,” Nelson says.

The Integrated Natural Resource Management (INRM) Activity is designed to help USAID operating units, whether in Washington or Missions, create these sorts of partnerships and support the uptake of principles and approaches outlined in the ENRM Framework. The activity offers technical assistance for strategic planning, project design, and monitoring and evaluation.

Nelson describes many separate workstreams and ideas across USAID regarding urban resilience and asks “How can we better align all these different conversations that are happening and see if we can come up with a streamlined approach to working on these issues?” He says the ENRM Framework creates an opportunity to do just that, moving the Agency that much closer to achieving the goal of resilience and self-reliance.

Strategic Objective
Biodiversity, Climate Change, Forestry, Infrastructure, Land Use, Sustainable Landscapes, Urban

Christine Chumbler

Christine Chumbler is a communications professional with more than 20 years experience in writing, editing, and publications design. She has expertise in every stage of publication production, from concept and writing to editing, design, and printing. In the mid-1990s, she was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Malawi. This experience led to a career using her writing and editorial skills with international development and foreign policy organizations, many of which worked to directly support USAID’s efforts. She has worked in a freelance capacity full-time since May 2016. Chumbler has a Master’s in journalism from the University of Michigan and a Bachelor’s in environmental studies from the University of California, Santa Cruz.

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