How does one achieve the United Nations' Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) (UN, 2000) in arid ecosystems, which are often also economically deprived? The MDGs provide very little guidance on addressing this question and one must seek elsewhere for guidance. One such source is Reynolds et al. (2007), who provide meaningful insights, and sound principles for managing human–environmental – or socio-ecological – systems in arid regions. They fall short, however, of linking their work to any economic model, restoration, or the MDG's. There is therefore a vacuum between the work of Reynolds et al. (2007) and the MDG's.
In this essay, I hope to make a contribution towards addressing this vacuum by presenting a systemic ecological economic approach to economic development that acknowledges the fact that arid ecosystems deserve special and deliberate action in order to achieve the MDGs. Applying this economic development approach should reduce pressure on natural capital and enhance ecosystem functioning. Capacity-building is an essential part of the approach.