UNCCD at COP23: nature-based solutions and multi-sectoral approaches to address climate hazards

COP 23

Bonn, Germany – UNCCD has been actively participating in the 2017 UN Climate Change Conference to promote the importance of healthy land and related ecosystems for mitigating climate change and securing sustainable future.

On 8 November, the representatives of the UNCCD Science-Policy Interface, World Bank, Cornell University, CCAFS and Global Research Alliance, TEMA Foundation and DryNet, the 4x1000 initiative, FAO and GEF gathered for the side event “Addressing uncertainties in estimating GHG emissions and removals in the AFOLU sector to strengthen land management practices.” The participants discussed the role that land restoration measures such as afforestation, reforestation, forest management, restoration of degraded lands and soil carbon enhancement can play in removing carbon from the atmosphere while significantly contributing to the achievement of sustainable development goals.

The participants stressed the need for NGOs and scientific organizations to work together and translate science and data into messages for policy-makers, enabling legal frameworks that will stimulate low-carbon resilient agricultural systems. Modeling and measuring best practices in sustainable land management, and getting data from farmers into global databases for knowledge-sharing should become a priority, along with sharing best approaches in communication to effectively educate land users and local communities on the benefits of climate-smart agriculture and soil carbon management.

Today, over 500 million families are involved in the agricultural industry, and future policies need to focus on farmers’ livelihoods and rural populations, delivering reliable and stable income to farmers, encouraging them to continue feeding the world and supporting them in doing it in a resilient, low-carbon way.

The world’s best policies that lay foundation for better living conditions of land users are recognized by the World Future Policy Vision Award. An award ceremony during recent UNCCD COP13 celebrated this's years winner, 4x1000 Initiative: Soils for Food Security and Climate.”

Nature-based solutions

On 9 November, the representatives of the UNCCD Global Mechanism, the Great Green Wall Initiative, the French Water Partnership, IUCN, the Seine Normandy Water Agency, the RAMSAR Convention, the French Development Agency and the Global Alliances for Water and Climate met to discuss “Nature-based solutions for water and adaptation to climate change.” The participants agreed that there is a pressing need to bring together public and private partners to promote the importance of water for climate change adaptation.

The round table discussions centered on the urgency in ensuring better coordination and better support for countries in preparing for water shortages, improving cost-effective management and protection of water resources, and developing multisectoral approaches to overcoming water deficit. The UNCCD is supporting countries in developing integrated land and water resources management solutions through its LDN TSP programme and will also implement a drought initiative to support up to 30 countries in enhancing national drought preparedness and planning. Drought affects all aspects of human life, from food production to public health, and there is a growing need to help country Parties, communities, agricultural sector, businesses and individuals threatened by drought. While most countries already have some instruments in place to respond to drought, approaches are not always comprehensive and coordinated. National drought plans need to identify vulnerabilities and risks related to drought, as well as outline existing instruments and potential gaps along with necessary interventions in case of drought forecast.

As illustrated by the successes of the Great Green Wall Initiative, local communities are the most effective entry point for environmental restoration projects. Nature-based solutions use local ancestral approaches to saving water, making best possible use of available resources, allowing water basins to recharge and avoiding land erosion.

The participants agreed that the Global Water Summit in France in April and other upcoming events will make 2018 a strategic year to include nature-based solutions into national policies, acknowledge the role of ecosystems in securing water supply and take into consideration all water-related challenges, including floods, droughts and biodiversity conservation. 

3S presentation

The goal of the "Sustainability. Stability. Security" (3S) Initiative presentation on 10 November, organized by Burkina Faso and supported by UNCCD, was to inform the African delegates and promote their countries' adhesion. The Initiative works to address the root causes of instability in Africa, particularly migration and conflicts related to natural resource degradation, and to create by 2025 at least two million jobs for vulnerable groups through restoration of degraded land. The meeting brought together representatives of Senegal, Mali, Chad, Benin, Togo, Ghana, Zimbabwe, IOM, UNCCD, Francophonie, IRD and civil society organizations. 

During the presentation, speakers illustrated the vision and the next steps to the implementation of the Initiative. The discussion that followed addressed a number of topics, such as the potential challenges in job creation for migrants, the need to promote synergies with other conventions and initiatives that are already being implemented on the continent, as well as the contribution of entrepreneurs from the diaspora. The discussion that followed allowed to explain the origins of the Initiative, clarify some aspects related to the process of adhesion and highlight the need for more countries to join the Initiative to accelerate its implementation and reach its goals.  

DIE event

The “Drought adaptation and resilience: connecting the dots” event co-organized by UNCCD, FAO, UN Climate Resilience Initiative A2R, UN-SPIDER and the German Development Institute (DIE) took place on 14 November to provide a better understanding of preparedness to drought – the world’s costliest climate hazard. 

The presenters and panelists discussed perspectives and challenges of integrated drought management, agreeing that reacting after disaster strikes is the most expensive and often ineffectual way to help, and that in the future, drought should become a risk to be prevented, not an emergency to be faced. Countries need to develop and implement national drought policies that are proactive, multi-sectoral, flexible and fit into long-term development planning. The future-facing disaster risk management also needs to address drought from a broader perspective that includes market mechanisms, social protection, sustainable soil and land management, gender dimensions and local indigenous knowledge. 

It is expected that in the coming years, droughts will become more frequent, intense and prolonged, in part due to climate change. To help countries build drought resilience, the UNCCD COP 13 gave the secretariat an explicit mandate to work on drought preparedness. A new initiative has been launched by UNCCD to engage with up to 30 countries and facilitate the process of enhancing national drought preparedness and planning. While most countries already have some drought response mechanisms in place, these approaches are not always pro-active, comprehensive or coherent. National drought plans should clearly outline risk mitigation and response measures that are launched as soon as the possibility of drought is signaled by meteorological services. 


On 15 November the representatives of UNCCD, WWF, ICRAF and TMG ThinkTank gathered to discuss the “Impact of degraded land restoration on habitat protection, food systems and climate change.” The panelists highlighted the potential of agricultural land for carbon storage, noting that taking carbon from the atmosphere in a natural way needs to become as prominent on the global agenda as reducing emissions and promoting alternative energy. 

The presenters drew attention to the historic decision made at COP23 that invites countries to submit data on soil health, incorporating land into the framework of the Climate Change Convention and confirming the soil’s potential for climate change mitigation and adaptation. To realize this potential, the restoration of degraded lands needs to take a holistic and inclusive approach, taking into consideration the entire ecosystem as well as the local context.

Discussing future priorities, the panelists agreed that the main effort should be invested into the decision-making process, to ensure that all aspects of soil health are considered before any land decisions are made. Another priority is to create concerted and collaborative financial mechanisms such as the LDN Fund to support land rehabilitation, protect ecosystems and empower sustainable business. Just this week, the three Rio conventions (UNCCD, UNFCCC and CBD) have called for the establishment of a new Facility to help finance large-scale, transformative projects and promote an integrated approach to the interlinked challenges of climate change, biodiversity and desertification.