A reformed United Nations for addressing environment-development problems in developing countries : a case study approach : a thesis presented in fulfilment of the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Economics at Massey University, Manawatu, New Zealand

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The unsustainable use of natural resources is a serious and worsening problem world wide, affecting the life and health of many millions of people. It is seriously undermining wealth creation in many countries and contributing to violent conflicts and is also a human security problem. Such problems – where the environmentally unsustainable use of natural resources has a direct or indirect negative impact on the achievement of development objectives – are defined as Environment-Development Problems. The UN plays a significant role in attempts to deal with environment-development problems (EDPs), leading international initiatives such as the Millennium Development Goals and leading or participating in many programmes to address them. It also has a very important role in catalysing other entities, including governments and donors, to address EDPs and other development problems. The fact that EDPs are worsening in many developing countries, particularly in Africa, raises questions about the effectiveness of the UN in addressing EDPs. The focus of this thesis is on assessing the effectiveness of the UN in dealing with EDPs and identifying ways to improve its effectiveness. This research takes a mixed methods approach to assess the level of UN effectiveness in addressing EDPs and the reasons for UN effectiveness. The research found that, overall, the UN has been less than moderately effective in addressing EDPs but that it has achieved some successes. One success is that the UN had developed and applied an effective model for addressing EDPs that, if enhanced and applied broadly, would significantly improve UN effectiveness in addressing EDPs. The research also found that development aid design, organisational culture and complexity were significant explanatory variables for UN effectiveness. Further, it also identified programme and project implementation modalities, national capacity and donors as explanatory variables. It concluded that many of the factors inhibiting UN effectiveness in addressing EDPs are general UN factors. Therefore, significantly increasing UN effectiveness requires addressing both EDP specific and more general UN effectiveness factors. A number of recommendations for improving UN effectiveness in addressing EDPs and more generally were made. It was concluded that if the reforms needed to significantly improve UN effectiveness are not implemented, then the UN should phase out its operational development activities, given the magnitude of the need for reform.
United Nations Environment Programme, United Nations Development Programme, Environmental policy, Economic development, Developing countries, Economic conditions