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Restoring life to land: Sustainable land management for ecosystem restoration 

As the UNCCD COP 15 draws near and The UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration (UNDER) gathers momentum, UNCCD and WOCAT are partnering up on a video series that highlight the central role of sustainable land management (SLM) in restoring and maintaining the health of ecosystems.  SLM has a central role in each of the eight UNDER ecosystems – farmlands, grasslands, forests, mountains, freshwaters, urban areas, peatlands, oceans and coasts – by combating land degradation, improving production and securing livelihoods while simultaneously generating multiple environmental co-benefits.  While people have directly contributed to ecosystem degradation, they can also be the primary agents of change toward a sustainable land management restoration when armed with knowledge to adopt and upscale SLM.  The new video series presents successful practices for each ecosystem, demonstrating how SLM can deliver powerful solutions to ecosystem degradation.  

Restoring life to land: Sustainable land management for ecosystem restoration 
The weather alone cannot explain droughts and floods

Communities all over the world have suffered some of the most brutal effects of drought and flooding this year. Flash floods in western Europe, eastern and central Asia and southern African. And catastrophic drought in Australia, southern Africa, southern Asia, much of Latin America, western North America and Siberia are cases in point. The impacts extend well beyond the individual events. For example, the rise in food insecurity in the southern African region and unprecedented wildfires in North America, Europe and Central Asia.   What is going on? This is much more than bad weather in some cases, and is increasingly so. The UNCCD organized an event at COP26, the Climate Change Conference taking place in Glasgow, United Kingdom, to focus attention on the land-water-climate nexus. The science and policy responses discussed make it clear that human decisions exacerbated by climate change are significantly – and arguably, catastrophically – amplifying the impact of drought and floods.  The discussion encouraged more strategic land use decisions. Decisions that ensure what we do where, and in particular, what we plant where, mitigatesthe impacts of both extremes, be it too much or too little rainfall. It also shed light on how important it is to have healthy soils. Soils that are replete with organic matter will obtain “more crop per drop”, and reduce the risks associated with drought and flooding.  Extreme events, including both droughts and floods are on the rise. With more land projected to be get drier and more and more people living in drylandsin the future, the discussions centered on the shift more than 60 countries are making from “reactive” response to droughts and floods to “proactive” planning and risk management designed to build resilience. Participants from Malawi, Pakistan, Honduras, Grenada and Burkina Faso provided concrete examples of policy alignment and cross-sectorial approaches to implementation. Here is a quick overview of the highlights. Read more:  Land and drought

The weather alone cannot explain droughts and floods
Asia-Pacific regional dialogue on rangeland restoration

The UNCCD, IUCN, WWF and ICRAF held a regional dialogue on 2 November 2021 for Asia-Pacific UNCCD country Parties on “Advancing global actions for native grassland and rangeland restoration.” This is the second in a regional dialogue series that began with the first one in July for Northern Mediterranean and Central and Eastern Europe. The main objective of the dialogue was to raise awareness on rangeland restoration, identify the challenges and opportunities in implementation and explore how national commitments to rangeland restoration can be strengthened through the UNCCD process. During the meeting, the participants shared the national status of rangelands and grasslands, current initiatives, policies and best practices as well as the challenges and opportunities their countries are facing. Among others, capacity building on data collection,  knowledge sharing, monitoring systems, policy coordination and collaboration, land tenure and governance were highlighted in the discussion. This meeting built on the results from the multi-actor dialogue on rangeland restoration held in December 2020, organized by IUCN, WWF and UNCCD and the information provided the first Global Rangelands Atlas launched in May 2021. According to the Global Rangelands Atlas, rangelands that cover 54 per cent of global terrestrial surface, are home to billions of people and hold many economic, ecological, social and cultural values, and a wealth of biodiversity. However, they have been neglected, receiving much less attention, investment, and advocacy than other ecosystems. The conversation to recognize the importance of rangeland restoration will continue through upcoming regional dialogues and other activities to support the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, the UNCCD COP15 in May 2022 and the International Year on Rangelands and Pastoralism in 2026.

Asia-Pacific regional dialogue on rangeland restoration
Ramsar Convention on Wetlands turns 50

This year marks the fiftieth anniversary of the Ramsar Convention, the intergovernmental treaty which unites 171 countries to protect and use wisely the wetlands and the resources they provide. The Ramsar Convention is the oldest of the modern global intergovernmental environmental agreements. In the fifty years since it was founded, a lot more became known about the importance of wetlands for water security, disaster risk reduction, mitigating climate change, supporting biodiversity and providing livelihoods.  Across the world, wetlands are of great importance to humanity. All agricultural production depends on water which is transported and provided to humankind through wetlands. More than half of the world relies on wetland-grown produce for their staple diet, for example from rice paddies. Wetlands also provide more than a billion livelihoods across the world in an array of activities that also deliver food, water supplies, transport, and leisure. Wetlands loss contributes to poverty and food insecurity. During the months of August and September 2021, the anniversary website is featuring stories and messages on why wetlands are important and what can be done to ensure they are better protected and used. On October 7, the Ramsar secretariat will host an intergenerational dialogue between leaders past and future to create connections across generations to elevate the urgency to protect, conserve and restore wetlands. This anniversary-themed video presents the many benefits of wetlands and gives the overview of the convention's work.  

Ramsar Convention on Wetlands turns 50
World Water Day 2021

Statement by UNCCD Executive Secretary Ibrahim Thiaw: All of our planet’s inhabitants – humanity, and all wildlife species – require water to survive. We learn very young that life cannot exist without water. Yet over 2 billion people still lack access to safe water today. This year’s World Water Day celebrates the theme ‘Valuing water.’ This fundamental need has enormous and complex value for our societies, households, food, culture, health, education, economics and the sustainability of our environment. Global water use has increased sixfold over the past 100 years, driven by intensive agriculture and population growth. The demand for water just in food production may reach 13 trillion cubic metres annually by 2050 – 3.5 times greater than the total human use today. The importance of water for land is obvious: humanity’s relentless production and consumption relies heavily on water use and is a prime cause of desertification and land degradation. In a warming world beset by weather extremes, droughts will become more common, more intense, and more prolonged in many places – including places already at the margins of habitability. Drought and desertification are not just problems for the global South. We already see impacts, and land degradation, in highly productive and populated parts of the developed world – including California, Spain and Australia. Land degradation and desertification reduce evapotranspiration, disrupting regional rainfall patterns. In contrast, healthy land promotes consistent seasonal and annual rainfall and aids flood mitigation, soil health and aquifer recharge, helping to bring back landscapes from the brink. The UNCCD’s Drought Initiative is working globally to support our Parties to develop drought preparedness systems, spearheading regional efforts to reduce drought vulnerability and risk. Our Drought toolbox provides resources to support actions that aim to boost the resilience of people and ecosystems. Land restoration is a vital ally to World Water Day. As we celebrate today, let’s remember that we must value water and land equally as part of the same challenge – to build a better, more equal, healthier planet post COVID-19.

World Water Day 2021
Recurring droughts are clear and present dangers

Is climate change the force behind the mass migrations into Europe? Is the rising radicalization and extremist behavior emerging in places like Pakistan and the Sahel region in sub-Saharan Africa linked to drought or climate change in any way? These are legitimate questions. And, although we lack sufficient evidence now that is supported by robust data to make very firm claims, history offers some lessons, which suggest that we should prepare for the worst now, and hope that the future reality will prove us wrong

Recurring droughts are clear and present dangers