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Launch of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration

15 - Life on Land

There has never been a more urgent need to restore damaged ecosystems than now. Ecosystems support all life on Earth. The healthier our ecosystems are, the healthier the planet - and its people. UNESCO believes that reconciling humanity with all life on Earth is both essential and possible. We have solutions that can be up-scaled to meet the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration's aims to prevent, halt and reverse the degradation of ecosystems on every continent and in every ocean. It can help to end poverty, combat climate change and prevent a mass extinction. It will only succeed if everyone plays a part.

UNESCO’s intersectoral strategy for biodiversity is based on 3 pillars: restore the relationship between humans and nature and regenerate ecosystems; conserve the harmony of our ecosystems; and amplify the power of youth. UNESCO’s contribution to the UN decade on Ecosystem Restoration is embedded in safeguarding biological diversity and a diversity of communities’ worldviews, social practices, cultural expressions, languages and knowledge systems respectful of the living. The backbone of this strategy are UNESCO designated sites which provide over 1,000 places for its implementation around the globe.

As a collaborating agency of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, UNESCO is organizing the following events for its official launch:

The two events will present how UNESCO’s call for a reconciliation of 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 could be amplified and owned by the major leaders and actors of transformation. Actions taken in UNESCO designated sites and related networks resulting from these shared values constitute a “culture of living” that includes all our knowledge and cultures that value and transmit diversity, beauty and the richness of life on Earth. The events will discuss how investing in solidary links, human creativity, ethics of living together and transformation abilities to understand and respect other species, can empower present and future generations and secure both individual and collective responsibility to stop the destruction of our common home.


Restoring the Human-Nature bond – the role of Education, Sciences and Culture

High level panel

Watch live on this page on 4 June 2021, 12:00 - 12:45 pm (UTC)

Over and above protecting part of the Earth’s surface, UNESCO wishes to mobilize to reconcile 100% of the world’s population with nature, which we are part of. Given the key role biodiversity plays in the economy, health and our well-being, this means making environmental concerns central to our decisions and actions in all domains.

This high-level panel aims to showcase strategies, policies and field experiences that can be upscaled and that would permit to reconcile all life on earth.

With a general focus on the role of science, education and culture in ecosystem restoration and intergenerational, and international solidarity, the event will be structured as an interactive panel with a moderator of a conversation among three key leaders involved in this reconciliation process. 


  • Jeremy Wilks, Space, science and climate correspondant at Euronews/Africanews

Opening Remarks:


UNESCO’s intersectoral strategy for biodiversity is based on 3 pillars: restore the relationship between humans and nature and regenerate ecosystems; conserve the harmony of our ecosystems; and amplify the power of youth. UNESCO’s contribution to the UN decade on Ecosystem Restoration is embedded in safeguarding biological diversity and a diversity of communities’ worldviews, social practices, cultural expressions, languages and knowledge systems respectful of the living. Backbone of this strategy are UNESCO designated sites which will provide over 1,000 places for its implementation.

The ambition to protect 30 % of our planet is an important goal but would be pointless if we continue to destroy the ecosystems which sustain life everywhere else. As a collaborating agency of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration and its movement, UNESCO’s ambition is to reconcile 100% of humans with the rest of nature, so that all humans become custodians of Earth, our common home and heritage, that we inhabit and share with all other living species. In addition to halting destruction and restoring ecosystems, we need to restore and regenerate our relationship with nature and life by creating new ethical behaviour of care, responsibility, and solidarity.

Due to its transdisciplinary mandate, UNESCO promotes linkages between nature and culture and considers that the intrinsic value and the importance of biodiversity for our identity, heritage and for human well-being could be recognized in a holistic manner in the current proposed targets related to biodiversity. UNESCO is playing a leading role in the Multiple Evidence Base approach to biodiversity and ecosystems assessments, involving scientists, indigenous peoples, local communities and policy makers. UNESCO designated sites (1,121 World Heritage sites, 714 Biosphere Reserves and 169 Global Geoparks) cover 6% of the Earth’s landmass and are key areas where people learn to live in harmony with other living species and experiences are shared for the benefit of all.    


50 years of ecosystem restoration in UNESCO designated sites and networks

Restoration in Action

Watch live on this page on 5 June 2021, 11:00 - 11:45 am (UTC)


  • Jeremy Wilks, Space, science and climate correspondant at Euronews/Africanews

Opening Remarks:

  • Shamila Nair-Bedouelle, Assistant Director-General for the Natural Sciences, UNESCO
  • Dr Adeshola Adepoju, Director general of the Forestry Institute of Nigeria (FRIN), Chair of the MAB International Coordinating Council


For over half a century, UNESCO has been a leader in promoting on-the-ground-solutions to the global challenges of terrestrial, coastal, and marine biodiversity loss while also engaging with human culture, education and values which underpin our decision-making. 

This event will illustrate the relevance of this holistic and intersectoral approach for the UN Decade for ecosystem restoration by providing information on UNESCO’s accumulated experience and its current and future contribution to ecosystem restoration effort worldwide through concrete examples from UNESCO international designated sites and related networks.



H.E. Jai Bir Rai

High-level panel
Minister for Education, Bhutan

The Honorable Minister for Education is from Phuentsholing under Chhukha Dzongkhag. His Excellency earned his Master's Degree in Business Administration with a major in Accounting and Finance from the Maastricht School of Management, Netherlands. His Excellency held the post of Chief Leadership Officer and Principal Trainer for the AMG group of Business before joining Politics. He has also served the Royal Government of Bhutan in the Public Service for over 10 years from 2002 to 2012 as the Head of Finance in the Ministry of Health (2002 – 2005), Head of Finance at the Royal University of Bhutan (2006 – 2009) and as Chief Finance Officer in the Ministry of Agriculture and Forest (2010 – 2012).

He also worked as a Social Science Researcher and Consultant for the Royal Government of Bhutan and other Corporate Entities. Apart from that he was also the National and Regional consultant and trainer in the field of Project Management, Leadership Development, Strategic Management, Financial Management, Fiscal Planning and Forecasting.

The Education Minister has great reverence for writers and is an avid reader. Some of his other passions include helping communities/societies, volunteering for social causes, collection of books, magazines, articles, artefacts and paintings, gardening, meditation, landscape painting and photography.


H.E. Guᵭmundur Ingi Guᵭbrandsson

High-level panel
Minister of Environment and Natural Resources, Iceland

Guðmundur Ingi Guðbrandsson took office as Minister for the Environment and Natural Resources on November 30 2017 for the Left-Green Party. Guðmundur Ingi was born on March 28 1977.

He holds a BSc degree in Biology from the Universitry of Iceland and a masters degree in Environmental Management from Yale University.

He was the CEO at Landvernd – Icelandic Environment Association from 2011 – 2017. He also worked for the University of Iceland carrying out research in ecology and environmental sciences, and for the Soil Conservation Service of Iceland in the fields of global studies and research. Since 2006, Guðmundur Ingi has been a guest lecturer at the University of Iceland, the Agricultural University of Iceland and the University Centre of the Westfjords. He has also worked as a park ranger almost every summer for the last few years.
Guðmundur Ingi was one of the founders of the Icelandic Society for Environmental Scientists. He was the society´s first president, in 2007-2010. Currently, Guðmundur Ingi serves as the Chair of the Fulbright Alumni Association in Iceland.


Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim

High-level panel
Representative of the Indigenous Peoples of Lake Chad, SDG Advocate of the UNSG

Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim is an environmental activist, member of Chad’s pastoralist Mbororo community, Founder and president of the Association for Indigenous Women and Peoples of Chad (AFPAT) to introduce income revenue activities for women and 3D participatory mapping to build sustainable ecosystems management and reduction of nature-based resource conflicts.

She is also a UN Sustainable Development Goal Advocate, a member of the Indigenous Peoples of Africa Coordinating Committee (IPACC) and served as co-chair of the International Indigenous Peoples Forum on Climate Change during the historic UN Climate Change Conference (COP21) in Paris. She also serves as a Conservation International Senior Fellow, Vice Chair, of the Global Forest Coalition and member of the Earthshot Prize Council, Her many awards include, the Pritzker Emerging Environmental Genius Award; the 2020 Refugee International’s Holbrooke Award; and the Danielle Mitterrand Prize. Hindou’s TED talk has surpassed more than 1 million views.


Shamila Nair-Bedouelle

High-level panel and Restoration in action panel
Assistant Director-General for the Natural Sciences, UNESCO

Shamila Nair-Bedouelle took up her duties as Assistant Director-General for the Natural Sciences at UNESCO on 1 April 2019. She came to UNESCO from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), where she had served as Director of the OzonAction programme since 2012. Responsible for implementing the Multilateral Fund for the Montreal Protocol, she had coordinated a unique network of 147 national Ozone Action offices, providing developing countries with scientific and technical advice as to which alternative technologies to choose to the chemical substances depleting the Ozone Layer. A strong advocate for enhancing womens’ role in science and engineering, she launched UNEP’s first training programme for women technicians.
Shamila Nair-Bedouelle holds a PhD in Life Sciences from the University of Capetown in South Africa. She pursued her research career at the Institut Pasteur in Paris from January 1992 onwards then within the pharmaceutical industry at the MIT University Park in Boston, USA, from January 1994 until January 1996, when she integrated the French National Institue for Medical Research (Institut national de la santé et de la recherche médicale, INSERM). She has published in numerous scientific journals and is the co-inventor of several patents.


Adeshola Adepoju

Restoration in action panel
Director general of the Forestry Institute of Nigeria (FRIN), Chair of the MAB International Coordinating Council

Dr Adeshola Olatunde Adepoju is the Director General of FRIN. He graduated with a PhD in Agricultural and Environment Economics in 2002 and then pursued a career in academia and management. He was a member of the Presidential Committee on the National Allanblackia project and served as liaison Officer of FRIN on budgeting, Inter-Ministerial Relations and Interface with the National Assembly. When he was appointed, he was Provost of the Federal College of Forestry, an educational institution under the aegis of FRIN. In 2020, he was elected Chair of the MAB Programme's International Coordinating Council.





Phoebe Benedict Samwel

Restoration in action panel
Jane Goodall Institute, Gombe Masito Ugalla Biosphere Reserve, Tanzania

Working for 20 with International Organizations in Tanzania, Ms Phoebe Benedict Samwel has achieved considerable experience on working with community members in natural resource management and governance, community empowerment, livelihood promotion, and promoting community health.
As part of her experience, for instance, she has been implementing, for over a decade, trainings and savings and loans schemes (Village Savings and Loans (VSL)/Microcredit) in order to support communities with the selection, planning and managing of income generating activities and business that are environmentally-friendly. 
For the last six years, she has been working with the Jane Goodall Institute and is currently heading the community development department in the JGI’s project named “Landscape Conservation in Western Tanzania”, the most active project within Gombe Masito Ugalla Biosphere Reserve.


Ove Hoegh-Guldberg

Restoration in action panel
Chief Scientist, Great Barrier Reef Foundation

Ove is an internationally acclaimed marine scientist and leading authority on coral reef science and conservation who has spent more than 20 years pioneering ground-breaking solutions to help marine ecosystems adapt and thrive.
Ove is a key contributor to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a member of the Australian Academy of Science and recipient of the Climate Change Prize from HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco in 2014. He has also been recognised as one of the world’s top 20 most influential climate scientists according to the 2021 Reuters list.




Nguyen Hoang Tri

Restoration in action panel
President of Vietnam MAB National Committee

Mr. Nguyen Hoang Tri holds a Bachelor’s degree, an M.Sc in ecology, as well as a Ph.D. in ecology from Vietnam National University (Hanoi). He specialises in Mangrove ecology and human ecology. He has been the President of the Vietnam MAB National Committee (MAB Vietnam), since 2018 and was involved in the nomination of the Can Gio Mangrove Biosphere Reserve in 2000 as well as 9 other in the country.




Jeremy Wilks

High-level panel and Restoration in action panel
Space, science and climate correspondant at Euronews/Africanews

Jeremy Wilks is a senior science correspondent at Euronews. He covers climate change, environmental issues, healthcare, and space exploration for Europe's biggest news channel. He has moderated live events at major conferences such as Web Summit, CES, Mobile World Congress, VivaTech and ITU World Congress.

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Photos: top photo © James Spalding Hellmers / Itaipu Biosphere Reserve, Paraguay; all other images courtesy of the speakers and moderator.