Land and Soil Actors Pilot Methodology for Global SDG Thematic Reviews

This post was originally posted on IISD SDG Knowledge Hub

9 May 2017: Participants at this year’s Global Soil Week (GSW) will convene a series of “Thematic Review LABs,” using an integrative land and soil perspective, as a contribution to thematic reviews to be undertaken at this year’s High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) in July. Meanwhile, a High-Level Event on Land Degradation, Desertification and Drought held at UN headquarters in New York, US on 1 May 2017, underscored the role of the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) target 15.3 on land degradation neutrality (LDN) in “connect[ing] the dots between many of the SDG’s goals and targets.” Related research and policy discussions convened by the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) and its partners further explored some practical challenges in SDG implementation, especially in drought-stricken Sub-Saharan African countries.

HLPF 2016 adopted a schedule of cyclical global thematic reviews – alongside national voluntary reviews – as the review mechanism for SDG implementation. Towards this end, the SDGs were divided into three subsets to be taken up at the next three HLPF meetings. Through their “preview” of this year’s subset of SDGs – 1, 2, 3, 5,9, 14 and 17 – GSW stakeholders aim to demonstrate a multi-stakeholder approach for conducting thematic reviews as a contribution to the official HLPF process. The thematic review of SDG 15 (Life on Land), which includes target 15.3 on achieving a land degradation neutral world, will be taken up in the second cycle of thematic reviews at HLPF 2018.

The Fourth Global Soil Week (GSW) takes place in Berlin, Germany, from 22-24 May 2017. The event will bring together around 600 representatives from governments, and scientific and civil society organizations to assess some the gaps and synergies in SDG implementation. Global Soil Week partners aim to use the insights gained from this process to fill the knowledge gap on how to undertake such reviews, while also providing a basis for building strategic partnerships to scale up SDG implementation and monitoring. [GSW 2017 Website] [IISD Sources] [SDG Knowledge Hub Monthly Forecast featuring preparations for HLPF 2017] [HLPF 2017 Website]

UNGA President Peter Thomson, stressed that more than half of the world’s agricultural land is affected by soil degradation, and the deterioration of drylands has led to the desertification of 3.6 billion hectares of land.

The High-Level Event on Land Degradation, Desertification and Drought was co-organized by the Permanent Missions of Qatar, Iceland and Namibia, in conjunction with the office of the President of the General Assembly and the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD). Highlighting the centrality of land and soils in achieving many SDG targets, UNGA President Peter Thomson stressed that more than half of the world’s agricultural land is affected by soil degradation, and the deterioration of drylands has led to the desertification of 3.6 billion hectares of land. He noted that this is having devastating impacts on the lives and livelihoods of more than one billion people, and affecting food security, health, and sustainable local economic opportunities.

Noting that the event was well poised to contribute to the HLPF review of SDG 15 in 2018, UNCCD Deputy Executive Secretary Pradeep Monga praised the Group of Friends on Degradation, Desertification and Drought (DLDD) – co-chaired by Ambassadors Einar Gunnarsson (Iceland) and Neville Gertze (Namibia) – for its catalytic role in bringing international attention to the importance of DLDD issues.

The Co-Chairs stressed that as “an SDG accelerator,” LDN is an important instrument that responds effectively to ensuring that no one is left behind. They said the key message of the event is that the HLPF 2018 review of SDG 15 should have “a special focus on target 15.3,” given its central role in accelerating the achievement of the 2030 Agenda.

So far, 108 UNCCD Member States have embarked on national LDN target-setting processes, in a programme facilitated by the UNCCD’s Global Mechanism. The national measures aim to, inter alia, define of national baselines, targets and associated measures to achieve LDN by 2030. [UNCCD Press Release on High-Level Event on DLDD]

Kenya held an inception workshop to set its national LDN baseline targets on 22-23 February 2017. The country has identified environment, agriculture, food security, and halting land degradation as key focal areas in its SDG implementation efforts. The LDN target-setting process aims to forge close synergies with existing national sustainable development priorities, such as the National Climate Change Action Plan and the Green Economy Initiative.

Related initiatives by the UNCCD and its partners include the launch of a seven-part lecture series, titled ‘Research meets Development: Drought resilience in Sub-Saharan Africa,’ which is taking place in Bonn, Germany between April and July 2017. The series will focus on the role that institutional cooperation and continued dialogue between stakeholders can play in anticipating, preventing and mitigating the effects of drought on vulnerable rural populations.

The kick off event, convened by the German Development Institute on 6 April 2017, addressed the topic, ‘Drought resilience in Sub-Saharan Africa and its relevance for food security, conflict and migration.’ The discussions explored the current critical drought situation in the Horn of Africa from a multidisciplinary perspective, highlighting a wide spectrum of policy options, including the “Marshal plan for Africa” put forward under the German G20 Presidency, and the UNCCD’s LDN target-setting process.

The second event, organized by the UNCCD, took place on 24 April 2017 at the University of Bonn, focused on early warning systems to enhance drought resilience. Panel discussions addressed, inter alia: drought trends, projections, temperature rise; UNCCD support to countries to develop and implement national drought policy plans strengthen their drought early warning systems; the importance of earth observation data in monitoring hazards and supporting policy making, as well as capacity gaps in using such systems for resilience and early warning applications in Africa; and the importance of vulnerability and drought risk assessment within a coherent national drought policy framework. [UNCCD Press Release on Kenya LDN Inception Workshop] [UNCCD Press Release on 1st Research Meets Development Lecture] [UNCCD Press Release on 2nd Research Meets Development Lecture] [Research meets Development: Drought resilience in Sub-Saharan Africa Lecture Series]