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Environmental mainstreaming and policy coherence: essential policy tools to link international agreements with national development—a case study of the Caribbean region

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The 2030 agenda for sustainable development adopted in September 2015 advocates for a balanced integration of the economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development. Existing multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs) can provide guidance for policy-makers to promote inclusive and sustainable economic growth, within safe ecological limits. This paper presents a practical approach to mainstream international obligations of MEAs with national development priorities and strategies. It identifies pathways of policy coherence from national strategies to specific instruments and indicators to advance implementation of MEAs and help counties to fulfill agreed obligations. The approach is grounded in the driving forces–pressure–state–impact–response (DPSIR) framework, and it was applied in two national and two regional case studies in the Caribbean. The outcomes from the case studies show that mainstreaming rate of MEAs is low, and linkages across multiple MEAs are rarely considered. The DPSIR framework was useful for addressing national development priorities and those of MEAs in tandem, through adopting a cross-sectoral, multistakeholder perspective. The research shows that addressing environmental degradation and improving MEAs’ implementation requires that international and regional agencies identify linkages among MEAs to assist in creating policy coherence to ensure their integration into national strategies by connecting with policies and strategies in tandem implementation of MEAs for national policy-makers to work with.

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  1. Of the 18 countries in the Caribbean, 12 developed State of the Environment reports and seven of them updated them within less than five years (UNEP 2012).

  2. This is suggested in prior research of UNDP (2009), Soussan (2007)and Dalal-Clayton and Bass (2009).


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The authors would like to thank the participants in the case studies for their valuable inputs and colleagues from CARICOM and IISD for their assistance with this study. This research was undertaken in the Small Island Development States of the Caribbean (Caribbean SIDS), within the framework of a program for capacity building in the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries commissioned by the European Commission.

Author contributions

The individual contribution and responsibilities of the authors were as follows: Livia Bizikova: research design, grant holder of research financing, participation in the interviews, workshops and related data collection, data analysis, supervision of data collection and analysis, article writing. Graciela Metternicht: literature review, participation, data analysis, article writing and formatting.

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Correspondence to Livia Bizikova.

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Bizikova, L., Metternicht, G. & Yarde, T. Environmental mainstreaming and policy coherence: essential policy tools to link international agreements with national development—a case study of the Caribbean region. Environ Dev Sustain 20, 975–995 (2018).

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