From commitments to action for nature: UNESCO at the UN Environment Assembly

During the resumed fifth session of the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA-5.2) in Nairobi, Kenya, Ms Shamila Nair-Bedouelle, Assistant Director-General for Natural Sciences of UNESCO, reaffirmed the Organization’s headline commitment at a side event on the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration: from commitments to action for nature on 28 February 2022.
Beat Plastic pullution installation at UNEA5

The Decade provides key opportunity for UNESCO to convene its Member States, partners and all stakeholders under its mandate in education, in natural, social and human sciences, and in culture to:

  • change people’s mindset for living together in peace on Earth, and
  • move towards harmony between humans and nature.

Under the Education for Sustainable Development framework coordinated by UNESCO, governments, schools, educators, young people, indigenous people, urban and rural communities encourage ecosystem restoration into formal, non-formal and informal education and lifelong learning.

Ecosystem restoration continues to be one of the priority actions of UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Programme through its Action Plan. MAB is now celebrating its 50th anniversary, and counts with over 275 million of inhabitants living in its World Network of Biosphere Reserves. This immense human power will help to upscale implementation of the Decade.

In the Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve, Mexico, conservation projects, primarily reforestation, provide employment to people from local communities. The improvement of community stewardship of the environment has led to a marked decline in destructive land practices and resulted in some 13,000 hectares of regenerated woodland almost 3,5% of the biosphere reserve’s total area.

And this is just one site, one reserve. But there are 1154 World Heritage sites, 727 Biosphere Reserves and 169 Global Geoparks! Together, these UNESCO designated sites cover 6% of the Earth’s landmass and are key areas where people learn to live in harmony with other living species, where nature and culture are mutually reinforcing and interlinked, with multiple evidence-based practices, solutions and experiences which are shared for the benefit of all. Many of these sites have been implementing restoration activities for many decades and their experience should and can be shared.

Side event on the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration: from commitments to action for nature, UNEA-5, Nairobi
Side event on the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration: from commitments to action for nature, UNEA-5, Nairobi
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Shamila Nair-Bedouelle participating in the panel  side event on the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration: from commitments to action for nature at UNEA-5
Shamila Nair-Bedouelle participates in the side event on the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration: from commitments to action for nature, UNEA-5 , Nairobi
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UNESCO will be acting both on land and in the ocean.

Working through the International Geoscience and Geopark Programme, more than 10,000 scientists around the world will conduct research and capacity development projects related to land ecosystem restoration.

The UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development, coordinated by the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO, will be of critical importance for the restoration of marine ecosystems. We know at present less than 20% of marine species. The composition and functioning of marine ecosystems, also under the impact of multiple stressors, is a core challenge of the Ocean Decade. The Ocean Science decade is therefore a prerequisite for informed action in the ocean, both in Exclusive Economic Zones and in the high seas.

An unprecedented momentum in ocean science research on ecosystems has already been created by the Ocean Decade. On top of that, the second call for Decade actions has resulted in submission of 20 proposals for Decade programmes focusing on protection and restoration of marine ecosystems and biodiversity.

Finally, the UN Decade of Ecosystem Restoration requires to convene diverse interests, unite different cultures, and emphasize shared human values to transform mindsets. Under UNEP Executive Director’s invitation, in close collaboration with FAO and UNEP, UNESCO will lead the Decade Panel “Our Humanature Pathways”. This powerful think-tank will be composed by global thought leaders, opinion-makers, environmental activists, indigenous people, scientific experts, etc. Special efforts will be made to ensure the representation of youth perspectives. The Panel’s work in 2022-2024 will focus on the pathway for humanity towards re-establishing a healthy and harmonic relation with nature. The Panel will be challenged to identify steps required for a transformational change towards the restoration of not only the ecosystems, but also restoring the relationship between humans and nature. We hope that the Panel would inspire, advise and amplify the narrative for a global ecosystem restoration movement for this decade and beyond. The Panel will be officially launched during the Stockholm +50 Conference.

Once again, UNESCO acknowledges the excellent collaboration with UNEP and FAO, and reiterate UNESCO commitment to the UN decade of Ecosystem restoration.