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The Peace Forest Initiative (PFI) is a flagship programme of UNCCD to demonstrate the linkages between land, peace and security. It is designed to address restoration of ecosystems and land-based resources including land, soil, water and forests in fragile and conflict-affected locations.

PFI brings together stakeholders to catalyze transboundary cooperation on ecosystem restoration with a view to building confidence and peace. It unites communities across national borders to jointly manage their land resources and ecosystems for a peaceful future. The idea was inspired by some early success stories of environmental peacebuilding showcased at the first Global Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) Forum in 2018. Following initial consultations, PFI has been launched in 2019 with the support of Parties to the UNCCD to assist countries affected by fragility or conflict through cooperation with their neighbors to rehabilitate and restore degraded lands, soil, water, forests and other ecosystems.

Objectives and next steps

PFI provides a collaborative and inclusive platform for communities and other stakeholders in cross-border settings to co-design joint activities to conserve, restore and manage their environment and natural resources as a shared asset. Such activities are founded on the principles of increased resilience, peace and sustainable development.  

An essential goal of the PFI is to convene and engage a broad spectrum of stakeholders to identify and formulate potential entry points for the PFI. Through regional consultations with local actors and experts, the entry points are framed into a “PFI package” of initial activities. Such activities are meant to fosters further cross-border confidence through stakeholder coordination, dialogue, trainings and workshops. The ultimate goal is to develop bankable projects with long-term restoration and peace-building objectives to enhance the resilience of local communities against environmental change while securing vital ecosystem services.

The UNCCD Secretariat will provide countries with technical support and seed funding for planning and mobilizing resources for large-scale restoration and peace-building activities based on the PFI principles. The full-scale project implementation will contribute to the agreed LDN or other restoration goals and outcomes.

The Global Mechanism (GM) of UNCCD recently completed an initial mapping of potential PFI sites and preliminarily identified 17 locations involving 44 countries for PFI activities. The GM will continue collaborating with partners and parties to plant the seeds of peace and trust and facilitate the implementation of the PFI in different locations.

Regional activities

The Great Ulster Peace Forest/The Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland)

The first expert consultation was organized on 25th January 2024 in Derry – Londonderry in Northen Ireland. The expert group agreed on an action plan including the development of a ‘blue print’ of the Great Ulster Peace Forest. The Great Ulster Peace Forest will collaborate and partner with ongoing initiatives and activities, bringing authorities, local communities and youth together from both jurisdictions. In addition, it will involve experts in design, conceptualization, promotion and implementation of joint activities that will contribute to building resilient cross-border communities, strengthening solidarity and trust while aiming to boost capital investments and economic growth in the region. It is envisioned to be fully aligned with, and embedded in  the implementation of the Belfast Peace Agreement.

South Caucasus

The first round of PFI consultations in the South Caucasus region was conducted on 13-15 February 2024, when the three countries of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia convened at the Black Sea coast n Georgia to discuss relevant themes around the environment, natural resource degradation, peace and security. The workshop served as a catalyst fostering dialogue and partnerships between the countries, laying the groundwork for enhanced regional cooperation in addressing common challenges in natural resources management, climate resilience and peace-building. Among the key outcomes, the countries agreed to formulate a regional vision for sustainable land management and to showcase the regional cooperation in the upcoming UNCCD COP16. A follow-up workshop in the region is planned for April/May.

Central Asia

In Central Asia, PFI convened the five countries – Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan – for a workshop in Tashkent on 12-15 March 2024. Topics discussed included sand and dust storms, sustainable land and resource management in the transboundary climate-security hotspots of the Ferghana Valley and high mountain regions, as well as transparent management and sharing of environmental and resource-related data. The workshop also offered an opportunity to discuss synergies between the implementation of the closely interlinked Rio Conventions (UNFCCC, UNCCD and CBD) on climate, land and biodiversity. Countries agreed to highlight regional cooperation during the upcoming UNCCD COP16. The PFI team will follow up with the countries for a more detailed conceptual development around the agreed topics with the countries.