Sustainable Land Management and Restoration: An SDG Accelerator

 Photo: GC-RED

Land degradation is a barrier to sustainable development. It is a serious problem that is destabilizing communities on a global scale, with 40% of the world’s degraded land occurring in areas with the highest incidence of poverty. Adoption of sustainable land management (SLM) policies and practices helps promote sustainable development in a number of ways, contributing to Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 15: Life on Land as well as other related goals, including SDG 1: No Poverty, SDG 2: Zero Hunger, SDG 6: Clean Water and Sanitation, and SDG 13: Climate Action.  As such, UNDP considers SLM to be an “SDG Accelerator” which provides options to simultaneously meet these goals in a cost effective and ecologically sound manner.

GC-RED seeks to build social and ecological resilience in drylands and other fragile ecosystems. Drawing on decades of experiences and expertise, the Centre supports programme countries in scaling up their SLM and ecosystem restoration efforts, using a three-pronged approach through:  

  • Capacity development, advocacy and policy advice;
  • Adoption and demonstration of evidence-based, locally-appropriate technology and techniques; and
  • Enhanced access to environment and climate finance.  


Land Degradation Neutrality

 Photo: BES-Net

SDG Target 15.3 states: By 2030, combat desertification, restore degraded land and soil, including land affected by desertification, drought and floods, and strive to achieve a land degradation-neutral world.” 

Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) is defined as “a state whereby the amount and quality of land resources, necessary to support ecosystem functions and services and enhance food security remains stable or increases within specified temporal and spatial scales and ecosystems.” It is a positive aspirational goal that aims to maintain and improve the amount of healthy and productive land resources over time and in line with national sustainable development priorities. A LDN approach was developed based on the belief that a reversal of current trends is indeed possible. There is an improved understanding of the kinds of actions that can halt and reverse a great deal of the damage done. New opportunities to manage land in a fundamentally new way are also emerging. In particular, land management options that sequester carbon can provide enormous ecological and economic benefits in the fight against climate change. More >

In partnership with the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), UNDP is helping countries achieve LDN or SDG Target 15.3 by 2030. More specifically, UNDP provided technical and financial support for:

  • Organization of regional capacity building workshops on LDN target setting for the UNCCD Country Parties in Africa, Asia and the Commonwealth of Independent States regions.
  • Voluntary LDN target setting in five pilot countries in Africa and Asia (i.e. Kenya, Mauritius, Lebanon, Kyrgyzstan and China). 

A side event was organized in partnership with the Global Mechanism of the UNCCD and the governments of China, Kenya and Lebanon during the 13th Conference of the Parties to the UNCCD to showcase good practices and lessons learned from the process of establishing LDN targets under different policy, institutional and socio-ecological environments.  More >

UNDP is supporting the implementation of the new UNCCD Reporting Framework for 2018-2030.  The Centre participated in the capacity building workshop organized by the UNCCD in Cairo in May 2018 to: 1) help country parties prepare their first national report as per the agreed reporting manual; and 2) to highlight the contribution of the UNCCD reporting to the national reporting on the SDGs, particularly on SDG Target 15.3 on Land Degradation Neutrality. The new reporting framework represents a major leap forward in the implementation of the Convention. It provides a solid foundation for monitoring progress towards land degradation neutrality and the achievement of SGD15.3 by 2030.


Global Land Outlook

 Photo: UNDP Bangladesh

The Global Land Outlook (GLO) is an ambitious policy initiative led by the UNCCD Secretariat to determine the future course of land policies and land management practices across the globe. The GLO consists of a comprehensive report on the status and trends in the use and management of land resources to better inform relevant policy and planning processes. 

GC-RED, as a key partner of the GLO, provided technical and financial support for the development of the relevant working papers and background documents for the GLO report. These include the working paper on land and climate which was integrated into a brochure titled Land Matters for Climate: Closing the Gap and Approaching the Target and launched at the 21st session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC COP21). It argues that the adoption of more sustainable land management, rehabilitation and restoration, up till now largely untapped, would provide a rapid and low cost reduction in emissions that would not only help close the emissions gap but also provide significant co-benefits to the rural poor and other vulnerable communities.

The first edition of the GLO (GLO1) was launched in Ordos, China, at the UNCCD COP13. During the launch event, UNDP stressed the institution's commitment to continually support the implementation of the GLO recommendations on the ground. More >

Building on its substantive contribution to GLO1, GC-RED, together with ICARDAUNCCD and other partners, jointly published a research article “A Framework for Scaling Sustainable Land Management Options” in the in the international scientific journal, Land Degradation and Development.

The scoping meeting for GLO2 was organized by the UNCCD, and hosted by UNDP, in New York in May 2018. 27 experts participated in this meeting presenting diverse perspectives, expertise and experiences from around the world. They agreed that GLO2 should have a strong “solutions orientation” and target the “technical advisors to decision-makers” in the private, public and NGO/CSO sectors - i.e. those with the power to affect change. Additional preparatory activities are planned in 2018 including the development of the theory of change, the elaboration of the terms of reference for the expert advisory group and contributing authors, as well as mobilizing financial resources to pursue this ambitious initiative. 

Economics of Land Degradation

 Photo: UNDP Bangladesh

The Economics of Land Degradation (LDN) Initiative is a global assessment on the economic benefits and costs of land and land-based ecosystems. The Initiative highlights the value of sustainable land management and provides a global approach for analyzing the economics of land degradation. It aims to make the economics of land degradation an integral part of policy strategies and decision-making by increasing the political and public awareness of the costs and benefits of land and land-based ecosystems. 

Since 2014, UNDP, through GC-RED (and previous Drylands Development Centre or DDC), has been a partner of the ELD Initiative. UNDP has provided support to the Options and Pathways to Action work group of the ELD Initiative to help engage stakeholders at the country level in close collaboration with the UNDP Country Offices to contribute to ensuring the policy relevance of ELD Initiative outputs. In this context, GC-RED facilitated consultations with a broad array of relevant stakeholders in four selected countries in Africa (i.e. Kenya, Somalia, Sudan and Tanzania) introducing the ELD Initiative and generating concrete feedback and guidance on the possible application of the ELD Initiative approach on the ground.

Findings from these consultations contributed to the final ELD Initiative reports which were launched in 2015: i) The value of land, prosperous lands and positive rewards through sustainable land management; ii) a report for policy and decision makers, Reaping economic and environmental benefits from sustainable land management; and iii) The economics of land degradation in Africa: benefits of action outweigh the costs.

The consultations in Kenya, Sudan and Tanzania were funded by the Government of the Republic of Korea, channeled through the UNCCD Secretariat; while consultations held in Somalia were funded by the Government of Germany/GIZ. Project activities were implemented under the framework of UNDP’s Integrated Drylands Development Programme and carried out by GC-RED in close collaboration with the UNDP Country Offices in the selected countries and the Options and Pathways to Action working group of the ELD Initiative headed by the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI). More >

The current phase of the ELD Initiative support to Somalia (Dec 2017- Nov 2019) is undertaken as part of Component 1 of the EU-funded “Reversing land degradation in Africa through scaling-up evergreen agriculture” project commissioned to the GIZ-ELD Initiative. It builds on the previous ELD Initiative support which successfully brought together a wide range of relevant stakeholders to form a targeted consultation process aimed at developing a holistic view of the biophysical state and trend of land and their socio-economic implications.


Land and its resources remain the key development priority for Somalia, as featured in its National Development Plan (NDP) and as reflected in the recent formulation of the National Action Programme to Combat Desertification (NAP). Concerted efforts are therefore needed to translate the plan into action and implement integrated sustainable land management actions. This requires effective advocacy campaigns, based on thorough analysis, targeting different stakeholders from policy makers to local land users. Although the first round of the ELD Initiative in Somalia contributed significantly to the improved understanding of the impact of land degradation on livelihoods and the economy, quantitative analysis to convince and inform policy and decision-making processes is still lacking in the country, where institutions have not yet fully recovered from the effects of civil war and recurrent natural calamities.

The current phase of the ELD Initiative therefore supports Somalia in implementing some of the key recommendations outlined in the ELD country report, NAP and the National Capacity Self-Assessment (NCSA) with regards to addressing the impacts of desertification, land degradation and drought (DLDD) and promoting SLM. A close link to the LDN Target Setting Programme led by the UNCCD in support of countries achieving SDG 15.3 has also been established.

GC-RED in close collaboration with the UNDP Somalia Country Office will strengthen Somalia’s ability to assess the costs of land degradation and economic benefits of investments in SLM/evergreen agriculture.

Targeting key institutions from the national research and policy sector, concrete activities will focus on the development of an economic assessment of selected land degradation phenomena and land use options. Training on-the-job will provided for both policy-makers and researchers, in particular for young professionals as potential future leaders and decision-makers, including tutoring by international experts, development of economic monitoring and decision-making tools and exposure to the international research community through learning events.

The macroeconomic benefits of sustainable land use methods will be widely communicated to stakeholders and decision-makers of relevant sectors, targeting different levels of governance and different stakeholders, and using stakeholder-specific communication materials resulting in a multi-sectoral policy aiming at related policy innovations and action.

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