How to reduce resource conflicts: A unique global initiative has been launched to promote “Peace Forests” via land restoration

On January 28, 2020 a unique global initiative to promote peace through land restoration was signed in Bonn, Germany by the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) and the Korea Forest Service (KFS).

Conflicts over natural resources are among key peace and security challenges of the 21st century. With the right approach, cooperation in the management of natural resources can offer countries recovering from violent conflict an opportunity to achieve stability and trust while re-building livelihoods and economies. To meet this need, the new Peace Forest Initiative (PFI) will promote cooperation between countries to rehabilitate degraded land and forest in fragile and post-conflict locations while promoting peace and confidence.

Ibrahim Thiaw, Executive Secretary of the UNCCD and Chong-Ho Park, Minister of KFS, Republic of Korea, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to establish the framework for the new initiative.

Bridging the goals of peace-building and land restoration, KFS and UNCCD have joined forces to realize the common sustainable development targets, including Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN). LDN is a universal goal to tackle land degradation in the context of the sustainable development at global, regional and national levels.

It is also an accelerator for the achievement of multiple Sustainable Development Goals. Restoration, rehabilitation and sustainable management of forests play a vital role in the achievement of LDN and create a number economic gains, such as increased production of non-timber products, food security and health, reduced soil erosion, disaster risk reduction, improved watershed management and carbon sequestration.

The Peace Forest Initiative, welcomed by the last Conference of the Parties to the UNCCD, is an innovative way to link peace and security with Land Degradation Neutrality. The Initiative will help address some of the most challenging situations of transboundary management of shared natural resources while promoting peace and cooperation. UNCCD is excited to join forces with The Republic of Korea and other key partners to launch this promising new endeavor,” said Thiaw.

We have now embarked on our journey. The PFI is an effective tool to promote cooperation on the restoration of degraded land and forest in conflict-affected areas. Republic of Korea is committed to making this endeavour a great success. Together with UNCCD and other partners, we will continue to work together for peace and prosperity,” added Park.

Launched on 10 September 2019 during the 14th Conference of the Parties to the UNCCD in New Delhi, India, the PFI will function as a practical platform to facilitate collaboration on sustainable land and forest management in diverse environments.

In addition to the needs assessment, the platform will provide guidance on sharing resource wealth and management; ensuring transparency of resource contracts, payments and the potential social and environmental impacts of the activities; management of land tenure and other resource rights; engaging stakeholders and civil society in decision-making and maintaining positive transboundary dynamics that draw on national and local capacity for resolving disputes and grievances.

The UNCCD Secretariat welcomes the expression of interest from countries willing to work together to make the Peace Forest Initiative a reality and contribute to LDN implementation through partnership building for peace and security.

About the Peace Forest Initiative and Land Degradation Neutrality

Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) is a unique approach that balances the expected loss of productive land with the recovery of degraded areas. Today, over 120 countries with various economic and geographical conditions are successfully integrating voluntary LDN targets into their planning systems.

UNCCD is the custodian agency for LDN. The UNCCD Parties have recognized LDN as a strong vehicle for driving the implementation of the Convention and adopted it as a key goal.

The growing demand for natural resources—in particular to productive land and water—combined with environmental degradation and climate change, serves to intensify competition between countries and communities over resource access, ownership and use. Natural resources are set to become key drivers in a growing number of disputes, with significant consequences for international, regional and national peace and security.

However, integrating management of environmental resources with peace-building activities can provide the pathway to lasting security and sustainable poverty reduction. Understanding risks and opportunities associated with access to natural resources can help decision makers manage natural resources in ways that create jobs, sustain livelihoods and contribute to economic growth without creating new grievances or significant environmental degradation.

In post-conflict situations, assigning priority to the management of natural resources and the environment can be challenging. In many cases, the drive for rapid reconstruction comes at the expense of transparency, equitable sharing of resource wealth and the sustainable management of natural resources.

When countries emerging from conflict postpone decisions on natural resource management until stability is restored, the impact on long-term sustainability can be disastrous, undermining the fragile foundations of peace. Wise management of shared natural resources in cross-border situations can create platforms for dialogue, confidence building, and cooperation between divided groups to avoid new grievances and environmental degradation.

The PFI aims to forge a broad partnership engaging diverse stakeholders, including governments, civil society organizations, local communities, donors, technical experts and international organizations. The UNCCD secretariat will collaborate with partners including UN agencies, institutions and think tanks to deliver the objectives of the new initiative.

Photo by Johannes Plenio from Pixabay.

Learn more about the PFI concept here (PDF).

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