“A world where – for the health and wellbeing of all life on earth and that of future generations – we have restored the relationship between humans and nature, by increasing the area of healthy ecosystems, and by putting a stop to their loss and degradation.” – Vision and theory of change for the U.N. Decade on Ecosystem Restoration (2021–2030)
On 1 March 2019, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution for 2021 to 2030 to be the U.N. Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, focusing ten years on massively increasing efforts to prevent, halt and reverse the degradation of ecosystems worldwide. (For the full background on the Decade, read here.)
But how will this happen? With the 2020s being deemed as the imperative “Climate Decade,” how will restoration-focused Decade turn from a pipedream into an actual planet-transforming success?
The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), which are the organizational leads of this Decade, have, along with partners, developed a draft strategy for the Decade’s implementation built upon a series of consultations with governments, practitioners, civil society, youth, and private sector. The strategy, centered on three pathways to be carried out in tandem, is currently being circulated publicly for people to offer commentary and feedback until 30 April 2020. Should you wish to take part in the consultation, or should you just be curious about what such a strategy entails, here is a short digest of what it says.
Pathway I: Building a global movement
The Decade will develop a global movement of individuals and organizations through the following means.
- Facilitating collaboration through a digital hub that provides webinars, rapid dissemination of information through social media and web apps, exemplary local initiatives, technical support to volunteers, a dedicated section for youth, and support for coordinating and expanding local activities. The dedicated youth section will have youth-specific learning materials, showcase youth champions leading successful initiatives, and help attract support through funding and Decade partners.
- Developing an ethical imperative for ecosystem restoration that frames it as a fundamental principle (e.g. democratic governance and human rights), through the engagement of artists, philosophers, thought leaders and faith-based organizations.
- Engaging individuals, from school children to the elderly, to take part in the Decade through everything from voting to seeding to painting murals. Youth will help drive this through social media, running campaigns, online training courses and implementing local restoration initiatives. Already, hundreds of youth have partaken in 25 consultations on the Decade which took place in 19 countries.
- Working with educators to include ecosystem restoration in school and university curricula, connecting students to the global movement with the #generationrestoration hashtag.
- Showcasing flagship initiatives through studies and promotions of ecosystem protection and restoration initiatives, compiled into a database.
- Laying post-2030 foundations to maintain specific initiatives beyond 2030 and continue nurturing the relationship between humans and ecosystems.
Pathway II: Generating political support
- Engaging heads of state and ministers from across government departments as well as business to champion ecosystem restoration through national accounting systems and other specific systems, such as for tenure and fisheries.
- Convening cross-sectoral dialogues through existing platforms such as the Restoration Initiative, AFR100, the Global Landscapes Forum and others.
- Unlocking finance to attract the USD 1 trillion or more needed to restore global ecosystems at scale, through changes in subsidy and taxation regimes, improved regulations, public-private partnerships and increased private sector engagement.
Pathway III: Building technical capacity
- Deploying science and technology in ecosystem restoration through the Decade’s stakeholders providing scientific guidance, undertaking research, deploying technology, and taking Indigenous knowledge and traditional practices into account. Organizations, networks and individual experts will further provide technical support, and lessons learned will be synthesized and disseminated through existing networks and databases.
Along with implementing on-the-ground ecosystem restoration initiatives and establishing a small team focused solely on the Decade, the two lead agencies UNEP and FAO are mandated to:
- Empower others to plan, implement and monitor ecosystem restoration
- Coordinate and promote the Decade
- Share knowledge, tools and lessons learned
- Report on the success of the Decade to the United Nations General Assembly as well as donors
- Inform the Environment Management Group (EMG) of the Decade’s progress and plans
- Establish an informal coordination mechanism with the secretariats of the three Rio Conventions
- Report regularly on the Decade’s progress to Member States
- Report to the United Nations Secretary-General on the Decade’s contribution to the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development at the 81st session of the United Nations General Assembly (2026)
- Produce an annual update report to the High Level Political Forum of the United Nations
The Decade will be further designed, overseen and carried out by a Strategy Group, Advisory Boards for technical guidance and Working groups on specific themes.
Funding will be overseen by a special task force, and a Multi-Partner Trust Fund will be established within the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to provide funding to the Decade’s core team. All Member States and other interested partners are invited to contribute to the Trust Fund. The Fund can accept contributions from non-state actors as well, in line with United Nations Rules, but it will not accept contributions from the fossil fuel industry. The Decade will work closely with existing public funds such as the Land Degradation Neutrality Fund and coalitions such as Climate Action 100+.
Monitoring progress utilize existing reporting systems (e.g. the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the United Nations Strategic Plan for Forests 2017–2030) as well as the new post-2020 biodiversity framework, collating data from these systems that relate back to ecosystem restoration. A joint evaluation of the Decade’s progress will be undertaken in 2025 and 2028 by the UNEP and FAO Evaluation Offices.
If you are a young person, learn how to take restoration action now by joining the Youth in Landscapes Initiative. To provide feedback on the draft strategy, please visit the Decade on Ecosystem Restoration website until 30 April 2020.