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Source: Small Island Developing States

23 August 2019: Three technical reports published by the Science-Policy Interface (SPI) of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) – with matching summaries for policy makers – focus on addressing scientific gaps that could deter the design and implementation of policies and programmes to advance land degradation neutrality (LDN), which is one of the targets under SDG 15 on life on land.

The guidance was produced in response to a request by the 13th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 13) to the UNCCD in October 2017, and corresponds to the two core objectives of the SPI Work Programme for 2018-2019. The reports provide the basis for deliberations at the 14th session of the UNCCD’s Committee on Science and Technology (CST 14), which takes place concurrently with UNCCD COP 14 in September 2019.

The first two reports correspond to SPI Objective 1, which calls for refined guidance for the implementation of LDN.

Linked to SPI sub-objective 1.1, which aims to leverage the carbon benefits of sustainable land management (SLM) practices and enhance synergies with the other Rio Conventions, ‘Realising the Carbon Benefits of Sustainable Land Management Practices Guidelines for Estimation of Soil Organic Carbon in the Context of Land Degradation’ focuses on how to measure changes in soil organic carbon (SOC) stocks, one of the three global indicators identified by the UNCCD to monitor LDN interventions. Changes in carbon stocks are considered to be the most difficult to measure and manage at large scales because they are not readily quantified by remote sensing.

The SPI report provides practical guidance on locally-relevant SLM practices and approaches that can help to maintain or enhance SOC stocks to achieve LDN as well as other co-benefits, such as land-based climate change adaption and/or mitigation. The report provides an analytical framework and a set of decision trees to help countries: identify suitable and region-specific SLM practices and approaches to maintain or enhance SOC stocks; and estimate and monitor SOC for land use planning and for monitoring LDN. It further undertakes a comparative review of available tools and models for SOC estimation and addresses “the significant, yet under-estimated, role that gender inequality plays in land degradation.”

The second report addresses SPI sub-objective 1.2 on how to achieve an effective enabling environment and multiple benefits in the context of LDN and is titled, ‘Creating an Enabling Environment for Land Degradation Neutrality and its Potential Contribution to Enhancing Well-being, Livelihoods and the Environment.’ The evidence contained in the report was generated from three main sources: a literature review of contemporary trends in land governance and land markets and the implications for LDN; a global survey of practitioners and experts involved in LDN implementation; and a review of 30 LDN Target Setting Programme country reports to contextualize the results of the survey.

Among other findings, the report highlights: the multidimensional nature of the LDN enabling environment, which requires enhanced vertical and horizontal integration of institutions and governance mechanisms; the growing impact of global value chains on local land management, which provides both challenges and opportunities for LDN implementation; and the need to adapt land governance and secure land tenure to local conditions. The guidance contained in the report addresses four dimensions of the enabling environment: appropriate and inclusive policies and regulations; engaged institutions; access to finance; and an effective science–policy interface.

The third report relates to SPI Objective 2, which seeks to provide technical guidance to Parties to support the adoption and implementation of land-based interventions for drought management and mitigation. Titled, ‘The Land-Drought Nexus: Enhancing the Role of Land-based Interventions in Drought Mitigation and Risk Management,’ the report recognizes there is no universally accepted definition of drought, which is one of the five Strategic Objectives of the UNCCD for the period 2018-2030. Building on an SPI assessment of 14 categories of SLM measures in four land use types (agriculture, grazing, forests and woodlands, and mixed land use) the report proposes the concept of “drought-smart land management” (D-SLM) as a framework for designing and implementing scientifically sound drought management and mitigation programmes.

The D-SLM framework underscores the strong links between the drought-land nexus and human decisions on land use and land use change and assesses the impact of 17 D-SLM practices on soil, water, biophysical/ecosystem attributes and socioeconomic factors that determine ecosystem and human resilience to drought. The SPI also discusses the strength of scientific evidence on the effectiveness of each D-SLM practice highlighted in the report and its capacity to deliver multiple benefits.

Among its conclusions, the report notes “robust evidence and high agreement” that adoption of D-SLM practices alleviates the negative impacts of droughts on the productivity of diverse land use types and enhances soil carbon sequestration. The report also finds evidence, albeit with varying levels of agreement, that most D-SLM practices contribute to higher crop yields and improved pasture management in degraded lands, and help enhance the food security and drought resilience of farming households.

The UNCCD Science-Policy Interface (SPI) was established at UNCCD COP11 in 2013. Its role is to produce policy-relevant peer-reviewed technical reports as well as science-policy briefs based on scientific assessments and syntheses of current research. The SPI is further mandated to communicate the scientific knowledge requirements of the UNCCD with the broader scientific community to encourage scientific collaboration and the leveraging of knowledge relevant to the Convention. [UNCCD Announcement on Publication of SPI Reports] [Publication: Tools for Soil Organic Carbon Estimation and Management. Science-Policy Brief No. 4] [Publication: Shaping an Enabling Environment for Land Degradation Neutrality; Science-Policy Brief No: 5] [Publication: Land Management and Drought Mitigation; Science-Policy Brief No: 6] [UNCCD Secretariat Synthesis of SPI Sub-Objective 1.1 and 1.2 Reports] [UNCCD Secretariat Synthesis of SPI Objective 2 Report] [SPI Website] [UNCCD COP 14 Website] [CST 14 Documents] [IISD Coverage of UNCCD COP 14]

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