Land use change is the primary driver for emerging infectious diseases, and the rate of land conversion is accelerating. Moreover, the foundation for building back better in the face of climate change and the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic will be centered upon future land-use decisions. The good news is that governments around the world have already initiated policies at UNCCD COP 14 to strengthen all dimensions of an effective enabling environment that could lead to more integrated land use planning and help us all be more careful about what we do where, by navigating the inevitable trade-offs in land use decisions. This approach can result in more strategic land investment that strengthen the links between urban and rural areas, building local and regional resilience to replace what has been lost at the global level.
Building on the UN Secretary-General’s report “Shared Responsibility, Global Solidarity,” the UNCCD secretariat has been recalibrating its 2020-2021 work programme to reflect the realities of the COVID-19 crisis, address the current needs and priorities of UNCCD Parties and continue to deliver on decisions taken at UNCCD COP14.
The ongoing pandemic has evolved into a complex emergency with significant humanitarian, socio-economic and security dimensions. The lives of billions around the globe are in turmoil, with the poor, vulnerable and marginalized communities suffering the most. The delivery of the Sustainable Development Goals – the UN blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all – is now at risk.
The UNCCD secretariat put together a report “Supporting the Global Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic: Land-based Solutions for Healthy People and a Healthy Planet” to explain how the convention can support its Parties as they develop their response and recovery plans. This report, which is anchored in science, provides the context and cases that demonstrate how land can move from being part of the problem to being central to the solution. Actions based on the clear understanding of rights, rewards and responsibilities of land management can help address the COVID-19 fallout by tackling one of the primary environmental drivers of emerging infectious disease outbreaks. At the same time, strengthening the resilience of our food and water systems, can help reduce the effects of the pandemic on global poverty and food insecurity.
Today, the UNCCD motto “healthy land = healthy people” is truer today than ever. We need to marshal our efforts and resources to secure rural livelihoods and create green jobs, support community resilience and maintain the sustainable delivery of ecosystem services from the land. The secretariat proposes this brief as a launching point of a new social contract for nature that meets our planet’s current challenges.