There has never been a more urgent need to restore damaged ecosystems than now and to re-establish our bond with nature. Ecosystems support all life on Earth. The healthier our ecosystems are, the healthier the planet - and its people. Taking this into account, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed 2021–2030 the United Nations Decade on Ecosystem Restoration to call for the protection and revival of ecosystems all around the world, for the benefit of people and nature. It aims to halt the degradation of ecosystems and restore them as well as conserve the ecosystems that are still intact. Only with healthy ecosystems can we enhance people’s livelihoods, counteract climate change, and stop the collapse of biodiversity.
As a partner of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, UNESCO’s ambition is to change the mindset of 100% of humans so that they reconcile with the rest of nature and become all custodians of Earth, our common home and heritage, that we inhabit and share with all other living species.
The UN Decade positions the restoration as a major nature-based solution towards meeting a wide range of global development goals and national priorities, as does UNESCO's strategy for Biodiversity. UNESCO is one of the six core UN collaborating agencies to the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration that is led by UNEP and FAO.
UNESCO's expertise in ecosystem restoration
UNESCO calls for a reconciliation between humans and nature through its programmes that favour transdisciplinary cooperation of scientific, Indigenous Peoples and local communities, education for sustainable development and the protection of cultural and natural heritage.
With its interdisciplinary mandate in the natural and social sciences, culture, education and communication, UNESCO is uniquely able to explore the diverse ways in which nature and culture are mutually reinforcing and interlinked, with multiple evidence-based practices and solutions.
The organization promotes the development of sustainable and innovative solutions not only from scientists, but from the whole of society, with open science as a real game changer.
With its unique designated sites, UNESCO has been a leader in promoting on the in-situ solutions to the global challenges of terrestrial, coastal, and marine biodiversity loss.
UNESCO’s strategy for biodiversity is implemented in its designated sites. Over 10 million km², roughly 6% of the earth’s landmass, is already under one or more UNESCO designation, through its 1,121 World Heritage sites (including 252 natural and mixed sites and 114 cultural landscapes1), its 714 Biosphere Reserves1 and its 161 Global Geoparks1. In these sites, UNESCO works directly on conserving nature, but also brings diverse stakeholders, knowledge holders and decision-makers into dialogue so that together we become change agents for the ecosystem restoration movement. Many of these sites have been implementing restoration activities and are now sharing their experience during.
UNESCO's Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Programme is currently surveying and monitoring the progression of ecosystem restoration in the World Network of Biosphere Reserves for the next 10 years. The first results, which will be updated regularly, are very encouraging!
Synergies and partnerships
UNESCO is proud to coordinate two other UN Decades (the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030) and the International Decade for Indigenous Languages (2022-2032)) that are interconnected and will work in synergy.
UNESCO will particularly work with Member States to facilitate the inclusion of restoration into all levels and settings of education and training from early childhood to tertiary and adult education, through its Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) for 2030 programme, its Associated Schools Network (ASPnet) and its UNESCO Chairs.
Many Indigenous and local communities, who possess reliable, crucial and vast knowledge for the conservation of nature, are living in or around UNESCO-Designated sites, other protected areas and conserved territories and are key partners in achieving ecosystem restoration, as demonstrated by Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim in one of the launching events of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration organized by UNESCO. UNESCO is proud to be involved in two inter-UN processes on Indigenous and local knowledge to enhance their contribution.
UNESCO will host the Human -Nature Panel in support to the United Nations Decade and the global movement to restore degraded landscapes and seascapes by asking the “big questions” about the changes needed to provide answers for transformational changes in which the relationship between human societies and nature are re-established. This Panel will inspire, advise and amplify the narrative for a global ecosystem restoration movement for 2021-2030. It will be convened in 2022 for a first mandate of one year.
Task Force on Best Practices
This task force, led by FAO, aims to identify and inventory best practices on ecosystem restoration and to propose an action plan for scientific research and the dissemination of knowledge over the course of the Decade. The task force is composed of individuals from key partner organizations involved in the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, including UNESCO, with 43 organizations represented.
On 1 June 2021, the Task Force publicly introduced the key products it has developed, including a set of guiding principles for Ecosystem Restoration, and the key findings of a global capacity needs assessment.