The UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) and its operational arm, the Global Mechanism (GM), have published three booklets showcasing partnerships on the restoration of degraded land, a cornerstone of the Convention's implementation within the framework of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The booklets are titled: ‘A Natural Fix: A Joined-Up Approach to Delivering the Global Goals for Sustainable Development;' ‘Land Degradation Neutrality: The Target-Setting Programme;' and ‘The Great Green Wall: Hope for the Sahel and the Sahara.'
28 April 2016: The UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) and its operational arm, the Global Mechanism (GM), have published three booklets showcasing partnerships on the restoration of degraded land, a cornerstone of the Convention’s implementation within the framework of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The booklets are titled: ‘A Natural Fix: A Joined-Up Approach to Delivering the Global Goals for Sustainable Development;’ ‘Land Degradation Neutrality: The Target-Setting Programme;’ and ‘The Great Green Wall: Hope for the Sahel and the Sahara.’
At the 12th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 12) to the UNCCD in October 2015, Parties adopted the target of Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) as a key driver in achieving the SDGs, defining LDN as “a state whereby the amount and quality of land resources necessary to support ecosystem functions and services and enhance food security remain stable or increase within specified temporal and spatial scales and ecosystems.” Parties also adopted a set of three sub-indicators to help monitor progress on LDN: land cover and land cover changes; land productivity; and carbon stocks above and below ground.
In the publication, ‘A Natural Fix: A Joined-Up Approach to Delivering the Global Goals for Sustainable Development,’ the UNCCD emphasizes that with 12 million hectares of productive land lost each year to land degradation, it will be impossible to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development unless strategic and joint action is taken to achieve SDG 15 (Life on land), and especially target 15:3 (strive to achieve a land degradation-neutral world). Noting that many of the SDG targets are dependent on healthy land and soils, the UNCCD publication describes LDN as an effective tool for building partnerships to “link the dots,” and manage potential conflicts and trade-offs across the SDGs.
The booklet draws on numerous practical examples to illustrate “the clearest linkages and benefits” of the LDN target in delivering on the SDGs, organized around a number of thematic SDG clusters: “Opportunities for all” (SDGs 1, 4, 5 and 8), through focusing efforts on the land-use sector, with its high concentration of poor people, to enhance opportunities for green growth and prosperity; “Doing more and better with less” (SDGs 2, 3 and 12), for example through supporting farmer-managed natural regeneration and other sustainable, resource-conserving, and low-external input techniques in drylands; “Blue lifelines” (SDG 6) through scaling-up land-use practices that improve water efficiency and quality in a cost-effective and sustainable way; “Fuel for life” (SDG 7) through promoting practices such as agroforestry and silvo-pastoral systems to provide sustainable alternatives to wood fuel harvesting from natural forests and woodlands; “Working with nature” in urban areas (SDG 11), for example through expanding green spaces and integrating urban agriculture into land use planning; and “Staying on target” on climate action (SDG 13) through maximizing the potential of the land sector to actively reduce emissions and sequester carbon in the short to medium term. Alluding to SDG 17 (Partnerships for the goals), the UNCCD concludes the list with “An invitation” to all stakeholders to participate in partnerships for life on land.
The second publication, ‘Land Degradation Neutrality: The Target-Setting Programme,’ describes the GM’s efforts to build national capacity for LDN target-setting, implementation and monitoring, noting that Target 15.3 provides the UNCCD with a roadmap for the next 15 years, and describing the overall aim of the LDN project as “to see the implementation of transformational projects gathering pace with tangible positive changes on the ground, particularly in those countries that establish voluntary LDN targets.” Emphasizing that the UNCCD is, therefore, well placed to lead global reporting on the LDN target, the booklet describes ongoing efforts to build robust monitoring and reporting frameworks in more than 80 countries, based on the “tiered” methodological approach developed by the UNCCD’s Science-Policy Interface (SPI). This approach combines globally available data sets and Earth observations on the three LDN sub-indictors, with “groundtruthing” through local observations and validation. The booklet concludes by summarizing the rationale and work plan for the GM’s LDN Target Setting Programme that became operational in March/April 2016. This Programme seeks to support UNCCD country parties to define their national baselines and to identify voluntary targets and measures to achieve LDN by 2030.
The final publication, on the Great Green Wall, discusses how an ambitious African-led project to create “a mosaic of well managed and restored land” across the driest parts of the continent is creating hope that decades of land degradation, drought and desertification can be reversed. Among some achievements of the Great Green Wall for the Sahara and the Sahel Initiative (GWSSI), which was launched by the African Union in 2007 and has mobilized nearly 20 countries “from Dakar to Djibouti,” include: the restoration of millions of hectares of degraded land through farm-based regeneration of indigenous tree species; improved land tenure security and incentives for communities to participate in landscape rehabilitation; the creation of continuous green belts through the combined efforts of hundreds of local communities across Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger; and the training of thousands of farmers in natural regeneration and agroforestry techniques, leading to new income-generation opportunities, especially for young people.
The booklet also features the EU-funded Front Local Environmental pour une Union VertE (FLEUVE) project coordinated by the GM. The project aims to contribute to the integration of sustainable land management in local development plans by investing in micro-projects in five Sahelian countries (Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Niger and Senegal), with complementary regional-level activities to strengthen capacity building, the dissemination of good practices and innovative financing. [UNCCD Press Release] [Publication: A Natural Fix: A Joined-Up Approach to Delivering the Global Goals for Sustainable Development] [Publication: Land Degradation Neutrality: The Target-Setting Programme] [Publication: The Great Green Wall: Hope for the Sahel and the Sahara] [GGWSSI Website] [IISD RS Story on Process to Align UNCCD Reporting Templates with SDG 15.3] [IISD RS Sources] [IISD RS Guest Article #56: A Green Wall of Hope for Africa] [IISD Coverage of UNCCD COP 12] [IISD RS Policy Update # 19: Can Three Indicators Spur National Implementation Across the Rio Conventions? Insights from the UNCCD] [IISD RS Policy Update # 18: Biodiversity and Land in the SDGs: A Forward-looking Review] [The Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform]