Global Landscapes Forum seeks to become both a platform and a movement

Gabrielle Lipton
21 December 2017
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“This is not a closing ceremony, but an opening ceremony of new GLF movement,” said Robert Nasi, Director General of the Center for the International Forestry Research (CIFOR), at the close of the Global Landscapes Forum.

Held in Bonn, Germany, the two-day forum marked the seventh installation of the world’s largest science-led platform on sustainable land use. It received more than 989 attendees from 104 countries, with more than 51,000 viewers tuning in to its livestreams online. In total, an estimated 20 million people were reached via the Forum’s various media platforms.

In addition to facilitating dialogues, networking, and collaborations among actors across a host of sectors – policymaking, aid and development, academia, business, and more – this December’s GLF was the start of what Nasi and the Forum’s other partners hope will grow into a global movement to improve landscapes and tackle climate change through a ground-up approach.

Economic Value

Interwoven in discussions throughout the forum was the foundational fact that frameworks and policy developments addressing land use and conservation need to be economically viable in order to receive attention and implementation. While investing in environmental initiatives can save costs in the long run, short-term profits and proven cost-effectiveness are crucial to attracting funding from both governments and the private sector.

Similarly, many speakers expressed that conservation efforts are more quickly adopted when taken first to economic advisors rather than environmental policymakers. Sadhguru, spiritual thought-leader and founder of India’s Isha Foundation, explained that he brought the reforestation plans in his Rally for Rivers campaign first to economic agencies rather than the environmental ministry in order to expedite their implementation; other conservationists echoed this tactic as well.

This highlights the importance of a multi-sectoral approach to landscape change, requiring environmentalists to break out of their “green ghettos” and talk to economists and members of the private sector.

Another issue repeatedly addressed was the need for better mechanisms to harness funds from the private sector. WRI’s new report, “Roots of Prosperity: The Economics and Finance of Restoring Land,” which was presented at a Launchpad at the Forum, is one such example. The report is the first of its kind, linking economics and finance with recommendations for actions that can be taken on the ground.

“El Salvador has no big forests, but it has very serious problems related to climate change and we need to adapt,” said Lina Dolores Pohl Alfaro, Minister of Environment and Natural Resources in El Salvador. “Financing is not geared toward small countries, so we need to incentivize and mobilize the national private sector and banks to restore seriously – not just planting trees, but transforming and renewing the landscape.”

Focus Groups

Since its inception, GLF has championed the inclusion of youth with its Youth and Landscapes initiative, and with each conference, its engagement efforts with young people continues to grow. This year’s Forum was attended by approximately 200 youth (between the ages of 18 and 35) from around the world, using focused discussions to address how they can better integrate into environmental initiatives and achieve recognition as active contributors to landscape change.

The role of youth in fighting climate change was also raised repeatedly by speakers, particularly in the context of Africa, which was a continent in focus throughout the Forum. With one million young people joining the African labor force every month, creating green jobs could be a highway to landscape reform, as well as a tool to help address the increasing migration of youth from rural to urban areas.

“We’ve never had as many young people as we have now,” said Charles Batte, Founder of Tree Adoption Uganda, in a plenary featuring a panel of young African environmentalists. “There’s never been a generation as connective, creative, and proactive as we have today.”

Alongside Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim, Coordinator of Indigenous Women and Peoples Association of Chad and Uwase Hirwa Honorine, Miss Earth Rwanda 2017, he called for politicians to put more confidence in millennials and include them in policymaking and implementation processes.

Concurrent with the increased focus on youth is the urgency with which environmentalists are seeking to improve the conditions of women in rural areas, who remain one of the world’s more marginalized groups of people despite their enormous value to landscape change.

Because women are often the land managers in their households and communities, they are the most in tune with their natural environments and possess knowledge critical to tackling climate change issues. Granting women land rights and including them in decision-making processes is crucial to their livelihoods as well as cultural preservation and landscape conservation.

“The role of women in traditional cultures in maintaining biodiversity cannot be overstated,” said Mauritian President H.E. Ameenah Fakim in her keynote speech yesterday. “UNEP recognizes that for many women, biodiversity is a cornerstone of their work, their belief systems, and their bases of life.”

Optimistic Outlook

While the challenges addressed over the course of the two days were vast and varied, they were often presented with the positive caveat that change is underway. This was celebrated in a number of events on the second day of the Forum.

The progress and successes of AFR100, the Africa-wide effort to restore 100 million hectares by 2030, were presented by African country leaders in a special discussion, following the launch of BMZ’s support of the initiative in five countries.

Later in the day, the fourth annual Wangari Maathai Award was presented to Margarida Ribeiro da Silva, whose work as co-founder of Brazil’s Senhora do Perpétuo Socorro do Rio Arimum Agroextractivist Cooperative has seen her improve the sustainable use of forest resources in extractivist communities, establishing her as an exemplary female leader in global environmentalism.

And, furthering indigenous communities’ inclusion in international environmental discussions and policymaking, GLF closed with the signing of a memorandum of understanding between the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) and the Indigenous Peoples Major Group for Sustainable Development, confirming the involvement of indigenous peoples in the next five years of GLF.

“We are living in the age of movements,” said Scott Goodson, CEO and co-founder of movement and marketing agency Strawberry Frog. “They’re shaping everything that we do.”

It is the hope of GLF that its new phase will help shape landscapes to become more prosperous both environmentally and culturally in years to come.

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