Expert Group provides key messages for July’s High Level Political Forum

Land Restoration Ministry of Forests and Water Affairs Turkey

On 14-15 May 2018, the United Nations Department for Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) convened an Expert Group Meeting on the Sustainable Development Goal 15 (SDG15) titled Life on Land.

The Expert Group Meetings highlighted the key messages below, which together with their deliberations, are part of the input to be shared at the High Level Political Forum to be held in July 2018, where progress in the implementation of SDG 15 will be reviewed. The Expert Group Meeting took place at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, United States.

The land degradation neutrality target was take up during the session on Land and Soils that also dealt with issues of forests and biological diversity. The session focused on the direct links between the Goal and poverty, jobs, migration, carbon, water and food security.

The Expert Group Meeting, inter alia, acknowledged that land degradation should be given global priority particularly since global assessments of land degradation show that degradation is getting worse in some regions and is increasingly linked to food insecurity, vulnerability to climate change, poverty, conflicts and forced migrations.

The Experts also agreed that impacts of land degradation on food security would affect mainly the poor, children and women. The impacts would also leave them more vulnerable to climate change. The impacts are likely to persist over several generations considering that the world’s poor are primarily young and rural.

Further, the Experts agreed that by pursuing land degradation neutrality, the actors will accelerate the attainment of the other SDGs. They concurred that achieving land degradation neutrality is a response to the overall vision of leaving no-one behind, under the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development. Furthermore, they argued that the land degradation neutrality target could also serve as an integrator of many of the Goals because it is directly linked to them.

The meeting observed that the LDN Fund was the first finance mechanism of its kind. The Fund has attracted the private sector, which shows that sustainable land management is profitable and can deliver on multiple fronts.

The meeting also highlighted that up to 120 countries are committed to the LDN Target setting programme, which is an indicator of substantial progress. The programme is being carried out through transformative and large-scale projects that can enable member states to achieve land degradation neutrality.

The Expert Group Meeting also underlined that climate change is increasing the scope and duration of droughts. Therefore, to achieve SDG15, drought must be tackled to ensure countries are prepared and the ecosystems and communities affected by it are resilient.

The session on Land and Soils brought together a wide range of experts; from civil society and UN entities, to academia, among them, Professor Edward Barbier (Department of Economics at Colorado State University, and Senior Scholar at the School of Global Environmental Sustainability),   Dr. Deborah Bossio (Lead Soil Scientist at The Nature Conservancy) and Professor Dan Pennock (Professor Emeritus at the College of Agriculture and Bioresources, Department of Soil Science at the University of Saskatchewan).

Mr. Melchiade Bukuru, Chief of the UNCCD liaison office to the United Nations, moderated the panel.

In his opening remarks, Bukuru said in 2030 the international community will take account of the achievement of all the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) contained in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

But for this to be accomplished in just 12 years, he emphasized that there is an urgent need to identify the targets that can accelerate progress and integrate the achievement of the SDGs.

He recalled that the General Assembly has acknowledged land degradation neutrality (SDG target 15.3) as an accelerator for the achievement of multiple SDGs, particularly ending poverty and hunger, tackling inequality, empowering women and stimulating economic growth.

Bukuru also emphasised that degraded land, if recovered, would contribute to restoring natural resources. This has the potential to improve food security and nutrition in the affected countries, and in the process, also absorb some of the of carbon emissions responsible for climate change.

On the first day, the Expert Group focused on the (slow) progress made towards achieving SDG 15 and its low profile relative to other SDGs. The discussion then turned quickly to the actions needed: integrated landscape approach, working across sectors, stakeholder involvement, progress on tenure/gender, spatial planning, targeted investments, the need for good indicators, etc.

Bukuru intervened regularly to highlight the multiple benefits of the LDN approach, interlinkages with other SDGs, and the unique role of the UNCCD in building capacities at the national level (TSP).

There was particular interest in the LDN fund and when the Convention will demonstrate the success of the LDN approach as an SDG accelerator and integrator.

During the closing session, DESA advised participants to prepare key messages to the HLPF, which relate to the concrete actions that can be taken at Forum’s level.

An issues document based on the notes of the meeting will now be drafted by DESA and circulated to the participants. The document will provide the background for a 3-hour session on SDG 15 that will take place on 13 July at the senior adviser level before consideration by the high level segment.

The HLPF Ministerial outcome document will largely be negotiated before the HLPF convenes. Negotiations will be led by two co-chairs (ambassador-level), one each from the North and South. The messages in the HLPF outcome document will be driven by Member States.

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Click here to download the background note for discussion at the session.

Read UNCCD inputs to HLPF here:…