The State of the Nexus Approach 2017

  • 2018/04/05     Dresden, Germany

    Scientists and practitioners focus on providing examples of implementing the Nexus Approach.

    By Rachel Ahrens, Communications and Advocacy

    In order to realise a truly sustainable development agenda, the goals must be conceptualised and pursued in an integrated manner. This revelation was so central to the creation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that it was written into the preamble to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development – the outcome document in which the SDGs are laid out.

    “The 17 Sustainable Development Goals and 169 targets which we are announcing today demonstrate the scale and ambition of this new universal Agenda. They seek to build on the Millennium Development Goals and complete what these did not achieve. … They are integrated and indivisible and balance the three dimensions of sustainable development: the economic, social and environmental.”
    A/RES/70/1 – Transforming Our World: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, Preamble 

    This sentiment is particularly relevant regarding how we use and manage our environmental resources in the pursuit of sustainable development. Not only are environmental resources limited, but they are diminishing faster than natural due to all types of global change (climate change, population growth, and urbanisation, for example).

    The key, however, will be to properly understand the linkages and interconnectedness of resources. In this regard, a Nexus Approach is required, and will, therefore, be instrumental in achieving the SDGs.

    While the importance of the Nexus Approach and integrated strategies for achieving the SDGs is rather straightforward – if you have limited interconnected resources to achieve integrated goals, you will want to choose strategies for managing them that maximise synergies and reduce trade-offs – the more complex question remains how to implement them.

    This was the big question at the Dresden Nexus Conference 2017 (DNC2017). Building on the success of the inaugural Dresden Nexus Conference in March 2015, DNC2017 brought together over 400 representatives from academia, government, and civil society from 50 countries to share their insights and experiences in researching and implementing the Nexus Approach. Participants looked at examples of resource management in two systems: multifunctional land-use systems and resilient cities.

    The conference report “State of the Nexus Approach 2017” is a comprehensive overview of the presentations and discussions shared at DNC2017, with summary reports from all sessions, as well as keynote speeches and key listener speeches. A valuable resource for researchers and practitioners alike, the report offers a unique cross-section of contemporary initiatives to implement the Nexus Approach.

    Report Highlights

    • A unique cross-section of the most contemporary nexus-oriented initiatives concerning multifunctional land-use and resource management in resilient cities
    • Six concrete case studies showcasing efforts to implement the Nexus Approach in resource management
    • Insights from leading experts on the success and challenges of implementing a Nexus Approach to the sustainable development of environmental resources
    • A comprehensive summary of all sessions, panel discussions, and plenary speeches given at the Dresden Nexus Conference 2017

    Just like each day of the conference, each chapter in the report begins with more theoretical discussions from thought leaders from academia and policy. Summaries of the keynote speeches capture insights on the Nexus Approach in multifunctional land-use systems, in resilient cities, and in the pursuit of the SDGs from experts Prof. Eugenie Birch, Prof. Stefan Bringezu, Prof. Nicole Fohrer, Dr Luca Montanarella, Prof. Jerome Delli Priscoli, and Dr Stephan Uhlenbrook.

    These accounts are complemented by summary reports from 16 different sessions. Each report captures the key messages, solutions, or knowledge gaps identified, and the heavily debated issues from each discussion. The result is a unique collection of success stories and challenges to implementing a Nexus Approach to sustainable development.

    Presentations at DNC2017

    Conference video playlist

    DNC2017 photo gallery

    A highlight of the conference and the report, are the six concrete case studies from China, Czech Republic, Germany, Kenya, Tunisia, and Viet Nam. Each of the case studies showcased tangible examples of implementing the Nexus Approach to resource management in the respective countries, with examples ranging from mineral resource extraction to the use of wastewater and sludge.

    The integrated management of environmental resources is still, above all, a topic discussed in science. However, for the broad implementation of linked strategies in practice, it really comes down to the people, as mentioned in one of the final speeches.

    Above all, the findings from science, the good initiatives, and ideas must be communicated to the right actors – political decision makers as well as local stakeholders and representatives of the business community. In science itself, the discussion around the approach should be more interdisciplinary and, for example, the social sciences should also be more closely involved.

    Further Reading

    Dresden Nexus Conference. 2017. State of the Nexus Approach 2017: Multifunctional Land-Use Systems and Resource Management in Resilient Cities. DNC Conference Report. United Nations University Institute for Integrated Management of Material Fluxes and of Resources (UNU-FLORES). (Available for free download)