UNCCD Publications Glean Lessons from LDN Target Setting
Photo by IISD/ENB | Kiara Worth
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The UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) launched three publications to support countries' translation of the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) target (15.3) on land degradation neutrality (LDN) into country-specific targets and actions.

The publications present a scientific conceptual framework for LDN, discuss lessons from 14 pilot countries and present building blocks for LDN target setting at the country-level.

18 October 2016: The UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) launched three publications to support countries’ translation of the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) target on land degradation neutrality (LDN) into country-specific targets and actions. Within the first year of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development’s adoption, 102 countries embarked on voluntary LDN target-setting processes.

The three publications are titled: ‘Land in Balance: The Scientific Conceptual Framework for Land Degradation Neutrality;’ ‘Scaling up Land Degradation Neutrality Target Setting: From Lessons to Action – 14 Pilot Countries;’ and ‘Achieving Land Degradation Neutrality at the Country Level: Building Blocks for LDN Target Setting.’ The publications were presented during the fifteenth session of the UNCCD’s Committee for the Review of the Implementation of the Convention (CRIC 15), held from 18-20 October in Nairobi, Kenya. The meeting included an interactive session to hear experiences from countries involved in the LDN exercise.

Within the first year of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development’s adoption, 102 countries embarked on voluntary LDN target-setting processes.

‘Land in Balance’ is a science-policy brief prepared by the UNCCD’s Science-Policy Interface (SPI) to explain the conceptual framework behind the LDN goal. It uses illustrations to depict the interrelationships among the diverse factors contributing to land degradation, how to redress imbalance through a “hierarchy of responses,” and how, once achieved, neutrality can be monitored over time using a set of land-based indicators. The brief further notes that these indicators, as well as most of the interventions that contribute to LDN, such as intensifying sustainable land management practices and land rehabilitation, also contribute to other SDGs by helping to improve ecosystem functions and services. The brief concludes by listing a series of actions that policy makers can “do now,” as well as a list of 19 principles that should govern the application of the framework to help prevent “unintended outcomes” during implementation and monitoring of LDN.

The other two publications are published by the Global Mechanism (GM) of the UNCCD. ‘Scaling up Land Degradation Neutrality Target Setting’ discusses five key lessons learned by an initial group of 14 countries that participated in a GM-led pilot project in 2014-15 to explore how a LDN target might be developed and implemented. The project worked with the pilot countries to: identify and test relevant indicators for planning and monitoring LDN; formulate voluntary national LDN targets and associated measures; and integrate the selected targets into relevant national policy processes, such as the National Action Programmes (NAPs) under the UNCCD, the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) Aichi Targets and the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) developed under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The lessons learned highlight the pilot countries’ experiences in: fostering LDN country ownership and stakeholder involvement; overcoming data challenges; setting preliminary targets and prioritizing LDN actions; using the LDN process as an accelerator for achieving diverse other SDGs, including those related to food security and climate change; and leveraging LDN to introduce changes required in the broader policy, legislative and financing environment to deliver transformative action at scale.

Building on lessons from the pilot project, scientific guidance from the SPI, and feedback from UNCCD country Parties and stakeholders, ‘Achieving Land Degradation at the country level’ delves into the specific steps involved in translating the LDN concept into practice. The publication discusses four building blocks to help make the most of the LDN target-setting process: leveraging LDN; assessing LDN; setting LDN targets and associated measures; and achieving LDN.

During an interactive session on LDN implementation experiences at CRIC 15, delegates agreed that LDN can contribute to improved implementation of the Convention, but noted the need for political leadership, technical competence, good baseline data, and effective partnerships and financial support. The final meeting report to be forwarded to the next Conference of the Parties (COP) in 2017, inter alia: acknowledges the SPI’s work in developing the LDN conceptual framework and response hierarchy, “thus providing a sound scientific basis for Parties wishing to adopt LDN targets;” calls for the continuation of the GM’s efforts to operationalize the voluntary LDN target-setting programme; and notes the importance of tapping the opportunity to promote more effective implementation of the UNCCD by linking LDN implementation with the NAPs. The CRIC 15 report also encourages the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and the GM to support countries in identifying more opportunities to promote synergies and policy coherence across sectors and at all levels, “particularly within national agendas relating to the SDGs” and highlights the need to mobilize additional financial resources for voluntary LDN target setting and implementation. [GM Press Release] [Land in Balance: The Scientific Conceptual Framework for Land Degradation Neutrality] [Scaling up Land Degradation Neutrality Target Setting: From Lessons to Action – 14 Pilot Countries] [Achieving Land Degradation Neutrality at the Country Level: Building Blocks for LDN Target Setting] [UNCCD LDN Website] [IISD RS Story on CRIC 15 Outcomes]


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