The recent IUCN World Conservation Congress showed in practical terms what a Union should be – “the power of a Union of players.” This was my first time at a Congress, and it was well-worth it. The events I attended give me hope that we can achieve our goals to preserve land and soils.
Let me tell you about a few highlights from my point of view.
The first, the launch of the book, Conserving Dryland Biodiversity
, was one of the best takeaways from the Congress because it brought a fresh perspective on how biodiversity conservation connects with dryland ecosystems.
I was pleased to hear new ideas that push the boundaries of our traditional views of drylands. These new conversations are needed, because achieving at least half of the 2020 Aichi biodiversity targets will depend heavily on how much progress is made in sustainable land management.
I was invited to speak at a session on forest restoration, where I emphasized looking beyond the traditional forest horizon to embrace a new view of the forests – one that does not get caught up in the "sexiness" of rainforests, but also values the essential protective functions dry forests for drylands people and ecosystems.
Dryland forests are the backbone of the ecosystems that make up 44% of all cultivated systems and 50% of the world's livestock. Dry forests have tremendous potential for restoration, but receive much less attention than rainforests from conservationists.
I also spoke at the World's Leaders Dialogue panel on"Nature + People & Governance: Can conservation tackle poverty?"
where I emphasized the importance of soil conservation in our efforts to tackle poverty, hunger and food insecurity, especially since the world’s poorest people are also the most vulnerable to climate change .
But, land and soil are missing from many key conversations.
I attended the World Leaders Dialogue session on Nature+Climate
– Using ecosystems as nature-based buffers to reduce the impact of climate-related disasters. The discussion here was surprising. We were talking about mitigating the effects of climate change, but land was outside the agenda of this discussion. And yet, land holds one-third of the mitigation potential and solutions to the adaptation of people. We need to get this message straight. Regardless of our actions, nature will adapt, we (humans) might not.
Soil is becoming increasingly recognized as a strategic global asset, one that is increasingly scarce, and yet there are no global governance and regulation mechanisms for it. This is why the event on a Global Soil Convention was another refreshing moment.
I was pleased to see momentum building for the creation of a mechanism to protect soil. This is the kind of tool we need to conserve the fertile soil we are losing at a rate of 75 billion tons per year. It would greatly advance the outcome of Rio+20, where world leaders committed to strive towards a land degradation neutral world.
I am delighted about working with the vast network of IUCN partners driving this effort. People like Jonathan Davies
who wrote on his blog that “there is a strong global intent to strive towards Zero Net Land Degradation: a phrase that will hopefully be on everybody’s lips by the time this Congress is next convened.”
To gather 10,000 people from 153 countries in one venue and hold over 600 events is no small feat. The innovation with the coffee tables as well as the tweeting and blogging drove home another important message. There are exciting possibilities for social-media to unite us and keep us working together far beyond the conference doors.
Keep in touch with me on Twitter: @LucGnacadja @UNCCD