UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration

Forest from above

The new UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration started officially on 5 June as part of World Environment Day 2021. This new decade builds on the United Nations Decade on Biodiversity from 2011 to 2020.

During its session on 1 March 2019, the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted a historic resolution declaring the period 2021 to 2030 as the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration. This Decade has already won the support of more than 70 nations, as well as a large number of important international organisations (including UNEP, FAO and IUCN) and global initiatives. Yet each and every one of us can also play a part in making a difference for this initiative and are therefore called on to participate. 

The UN Decade aims to ramp up a broad-based public appreciation for healthy ecosystems within societies around the world and thereby breathe new life into measures designed to restore ecosystems that have been degraded or destroyed. The objective of the initiative is to contribute to furthering the goals of three UN Conventions on climate change (UNFCCC), biodiversity (CBD) and desertification (UNCCD), as well as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The Decade builds on the valuable experience gained from the Bonn Challenge, which aims to restore 350 million hectares of forest by 2030.

Intact ecosystems – for climate change mitigation and biodiversity! 

The UN Decade goes a step further than the restoration of forest ecosystems by also targeting the restoration of other terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. These include grassland and savannah ecosystems, fresh water, coastal and marine ecosystems, peatlands, alpine and agricultural landscapes, and urban regions. 

All of these diverse ecosystems provide habitats for specifically adapted animal and plant species, while also naturally offering our human communities a wide range of essential ecosystem services, including fertile soil, food, the sequestration of carbon, production of oxygen and clean drinking water. However, our human lifestyles and patterns of consumption have caused untold damage to these unique habitats and their life-giving functions – and some are now headed for the point of no return. Yet it is not too late to halt this process, and reverse it by means of a change in our awareness and basic values.

This restoration of degraded ecosystems will strengthen key ecosystem services such as the storage of carbon in biomass or the regulation of water stocks. Positive effects will also be felt on the resilience of populations dependent on these ecosystems to the effects of climate change. As such, this integrated approach works to complement global objectives such as the conservation of biodiversity, sustainable water supplies, protection against climate risks, and ensuring food security. 

In 2019, a large-volume joint project headed by GIZ as part of a consortium including AUDA-NEPAD, the WWF, FAO, IUCN, the WRI and the World Bank Group, started to work on large-scale restoration of forest landscapes in Africa as part of the regional AFR100 initiative. Over the medium term, the project will help to improve the livelihoods of rural populations in the four partner countries of Cameroon, Kenya, Malawi and Rwanda, with enhanced ecosystem services and sustainable land use as well as a wider choice of alternative income sources that also offer better prospects. Thanks to cooperation with international initiatives such as the Bonn Challenge, the project will help to transform the restoration of forest landscapes into a truly continent-wide movement.

Another relevant IKI project with global focus is the establishment of the Restoration Seed Capital Facility, which is being set up by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), the Frankfurt School of Finance and Management, and the governments of Germany and the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. This project aims to increase the proportion of private investment in the restoration of forest landscapes, so as to make the best use of their immense potential for adaptation to the impact of climate change and its containment, the conservation of biological diversity and the protection of sustainable livelihoods.

Since 2017, the ideals of the UN Decade have also been supported as part of the IKI project ‘Forest Landscape Restoration in Central America and the Dominican Republic and implementation of the Green Development Fund for Central America (REDD+ Landscape II)’. BMU and the European Union are financing this major project. The Green Development Fund integrated into the project is funding the restoration of forest ecosystems in several Central American countries as a regional mechanism for the implementation of UN Decade targets.

Completed in 2020, a project in Kalimantan implemented by Fairventures Worldwide gGmbH successfully provided support for the rehabilitation of degraded landscapes with native tree species. Cultivation of the nitrogen-fixing leguminous Paraserianthes falcataria has also established a profitable type of land use. Cooperation with woodworking firms on the island of Java also resulted in the development of innovative products from lightwood, with the publication of these product proposals. This has not only strengthened the resilience of degraded ecosystems but has also improved the economic situation of rural populations.

Outlook: IKI projects in the UN Decade 2021–2030

In the years to come, IKI will continue to pursue ambitious new projects within its various IKI funding areas with the aim of implementing the new UN Decade. Examples of activities currently at the preparation stage include two new global projects to support the restoration of ecosystems with CIFOR and GIZ, as well as a joint project with the WWF with the aim of protecting and restoring grassland and savannah ecosystems in Latin America.

Examples of IKI projects that will get underway in 2021


Selected IKI projects to support the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration (as of May 2021)

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