ENHANCING RESILIENCE AND ACHIEVING LAND DEGRADATION NEUTRALITY IN MULTI FUNCTIONAL LANDSCAPES

Combating land degradation for enhanced livelihoods, sustainable and resilient societies

ABSTRACT

The UN General Assembly acknowledges that action to combat desertification, restore degraded land and soil, including land affected by desertification, drought and floods, and achieve a land degradation-neutral world can deliver multiple benefits. Moreover combating land degradation can contribute to enhancing livelihoods, alleviating poverty and developing sustainable and resilient societies. Combating land degradation can simultaneously achieve multiple Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and act as a catalyst for attracting sustainable development financing and climate finance. This Ministerial Plenary session will provide high level recommendations and insights and contribute to the annual United Nations High Level Political Platform (HLPF) whose theme for 2018 is “Transformation towards sustainable and resilient societies” with an in-depth review of SDGs 6, 7, 11, 12, and 15. The outcomes of this WSDS 2018 Ministerial Plenary will be included in the UNCCD’s contribution to the 2018 HLPF.

BACKGROUND

The planet is under pressure with up to 30 per cent of the Earth’s land already degraded due to unsustainable use and management. Competition for land resources is expected to increase in the future, particularly where the population is growing rapidly. Developing countries are likely to account for approximately 97 per cent of global population growth by 2050 while land degradation continues to be a contributing factor in the cycle of poverty, diminished livelihoods and insecurity. In parallel, it is estimated that 135 million people will be at risk of being displaced by desertification over the coming decades. Large population movements are already recognized by the United Nations Security Council as constituting a potential threat to international peace and security, particularly if there are existing social and ethnic tensions.

Over the last two decades, 20 to 30 per cent of the Earth’s vegetated surface has suffered persistent declining trends in productivity. This has a disproportionate impact on small-scale farmers, the backbone of food production for millennia. Over 1.3 billion people are currently living off degraded agricultural land and for various reasons are unable to adopt more sustainable management practices. Under Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 15, the international community has formulated an ambitious vision for the future: SDG target 15.3 specifically calls on all countries to “By 2030, combat desertification, restore degraded land and soil, including land affected by desertification, drought and floods, and strive to achieve a land degradation-neutral world”.

The UN General Assembly acknowledges that action to combat desertification, restore degraded land and soil, including land affected by desertification, drought and floods, and achieve a land degradation-neutral world can deliver multiple benefits and that land degradation neutrality (LDN) has the potential to achieve multiple Sustainable Development Goals,  while acting as a catalyst for attracting sustainable development and climate finance. Combating land degradation also contributes to easing forced migration flows which can, in turn, reduce current and potential conflicts over resources in degraded areas.

The planet’s land-based natural capital and the associated flow of ecosystem services ensure economic prosperity, provide livelihood opportunities and contribute to social stability. As such, addressing land degradation, desertification and drought requires a massive scaling up of both the sustainable management of land and soil to reduce the current trends, and the restoration of land that is already degraded. Moving society towards achieving land degradation neutrality not only provides clear, measurable and beneficial targets, it also helps to communicate to the wider public the urgency of conserving our land resources. Appropriate land stewardship transforms the way in which we value and govern our relationship with the land so that no one is left behind.

A NEW LAND AGENDA IS TAKING SHAPE

LDN is not just another target but an operational framework to help countries accelerate progress towards multiple SDGs such as poverty reduction, food and water security, gender equity, biodiversity conservation and climate action. The LDN approach offers solutions to overcome governance challenges and embrace a new land agenda that is based on rights, rewards, and responsibilities. The conservation, sustainable management and restoration of our land resources – soil, water and biodiversity – are the three key pillars to anchor policy innovations that translate into action on the ground.

As of October 2017, 115 countries are participating in the UNCCD’s Land Degradation Neutrality Target Setting Programme which is supported by more than 17 bilateral and multilateral partners. This programme is assisting countries in implementing SDG target 15.3 with practical tools and guidance for the establishment of national targets; data and assessments to establish baselines for monitoring; and the development of transformative programmes and projects. Countries are using the UNCCD’s land-based indicators which are also used to estimate SDG indicator 15.3.1 (“proportion of land that is degraded over total land area”). Once the first cycle of reporting is completed in 2018, this will be the first time that comprehensive land degradation estimates are validated and reported by countries.

In brief, the LDN framework encourages coherence among sectors to implement cost-effective national policies and actions. We need to transition from small-scale pilots to transformative projects at the landscape scale to enhance resilience for both people and the planet. The creation of blended finance packages will play a critical role bringing together public and private, national and international climate and development resources. A land-based green growth and employment strategy, for example, is an effective policy response to the alarming loss of healthy and productive land. It is estimated that a transition to a greener economy could generate between 20 and 60 million additional jobs worldwide over the next two decades and lift tens of millions of workers out of poverty while providing significant improvements in productivity and income levels for rural communities.

MINISTERIAL DIALOGUE

In this plenary session, Ministers will have the opportunity to make brief opening statements highlighting their countries’ top level challenges and achievements in scaling up sustainable land management and restoration, in particular with regard to policies that help ensure equitable benefits, enhanced livelihoods and shared outcomes. A moderated interactive dialogue that follows will include more in-depth discussions on policy solutions in the land use sector, including:

  • An assessment of the magnitude of land degradation and its hindering of sustainable development, especially for the poor and vulnerable
  • The identification of gaps and areas requiring urgent attention as well as the immediate risks and challenges, including conflict and migration
  • How countries are able to leverage existing commitments and resources to sustainably manage and restore the land and accelerate the transformation towards sustainable and resilient societies
  • ;
  • What are the emerging issues that need to considered, and how can governance and institutions better adapt to future change and pressures
  • What are the policy recommendations, and is further guidance needed, on ways to accelerate progress in establishing sustainable and resilient societies.

    EXPECTED OUTCOMES

    The United Nations High Level Political Platform (HLPF) meets every year in July to discuss a set of goals and their interlinkages representing the three dimensions of sustainable development. The theme of the 2018 HLPF is “Transformation towards sustainable and resilient societies” with an in-depth review of SDG 6, 7, 11, 12, and 15. A synthesis of the high level recommendations and insights gained from this WSDS 2018 Ministerial Plenary will be included in the UNCCD’s contribution to the 2018 HLPF.

    REFERENCES

    The Global Land Outlook, 1st edition (www.unccd.int/glo)