Nature is staging a comeback: UN recognizes seven World Restoration Flagships

Initiatives in Africa, Latin America, the Mediterranean and Southeast Asia cited as best practices for reversing ecosystems degradation.

l’Organisation des Nations Unies récompense sept fleurons mondiaux de la restauration

The Living Indus initiative aims to restore 25 million hectares of river basin by 2030, encompassing 30 per cent of Pakistan’s surface area.


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Rome/Nairobi – The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) have named seven initiatives from Africa, Latin America, the Mediterranean, and Southeast Asia as UN World Restoration Flagships. These initiatives include ecosystems at the tipping point of outright degradation resulting from wildfires, drought, deforestation, and pollution. They are now eligible for technical and financial UN support.

The World Restoration Flagship awards are part of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration – led by UNEP and FAO – which aims to prevent, halt, and reverse the degradation of ecosystems on every continent and in every ocean. The awards track notable initiatives that support global commitments to restore one billion hectares – an area larger than China.

The winning initiatives are announced ahead of the 6th session of the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA-6), the world’s highest-level decision-making body for matters related to the environment, taking place from February 26 – March 1 at UNEP headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya. Together, the seven new flagships are expected to restore nearly 40 million hectares − an area almost 600 times the size of Nairobi − and create around 500,000 jobs.

FAO Director-General QU Dongyu said: ”FAO is pleased to recognize these seven worthy champions, proving that we can offer the leading examples to reverse ecosystem degradation at scale, while also addressing the impacts of the climate crisis and biodiversity loss. Restoring terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems is a crucial step in the transformation of global agrifood systems to be more efficient, inclusive, resilient and sustainable. Ecosystem restoration is long term solution in the fight to eradicate poverty, hunger and malnutrition, as we face population growth and increased need for foods and ecosystem goods and services.”

The World Restoration Flagships are chosen as the best examples of ongoing, large-scale and long-term ecosystem restoration by the Task Forces for Science and Best Practices of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration and approved by its Executive Board. Selection follows a thorough review process with over 60 indicators and criteria, embodying the 10 Restoration Principles of the UN Decade.

“For too long, economic development came at the expense of the environment. Yet today we see global efforts to usher in a comeback for nature,” Inger Andersen, Executive Director of UNEP, said. “These initiatives show how we can make peace with nature, put local communities at the heart of restoration efforts and still create new jobs. As we continue to face a triple planetary crisis of climate change, nature and biodiversity loss, and pollution and waste, now is the time we must double down and accelerate restoration initiatives.”

In 2022, the inaugural ten World Restoration Flagships were recognized as part of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, to be followed with similar efforts every two years until 2030. This year’s World Restoration Flagships are part of an accelerated investment in nature by governments and private donors, notably reflected in USD 1.4 billion provided last year by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) Council. 

Jason Momoa, actor and UNEP Advocate for Life Below Water: “Conserving nature is crucial, but it’s not cutting it anymore. We’ve lost too much of our planet, and it’s time to step up and rebuild what we messed up, fix what we broke, and restore what we trashed. These restoration initiatives are like the exciting answers to the big questions our connection to the natural world raises – just like the best movies do.”

Each of the seven World Restoration Flagships is being announced in video messages shared on UN social media channels by a UN or UNEP Goodwill Ambassador or Advocate, including actors Dia Mirza, Jason Momoa, and Edward Norton, chef Leyla Fathallah, and super-model and best-selling author Gisele Bündchen.

From Fires to Forests – Resilience in the Mediterranean

The Mediterranean basin is the world’s second largest biodiversity hotspot, but 16 per cent of its forest species are threatened with extinction, in part due to climate-driven longer drought periods, extreme heat waves and wildfires. In the past decade, the region has experienced the worst fire seasons on record.

The Restoring Mediterranean Forests Initiative involving Lebanon, Morocco, Tunisia and Türkiye consists of a novel approach to protecting and restoring these natural habitats and vulnerable ecosystems and has led to around two million hectares of forests restored across the region since 2017, with over eight million hectares planned for restoration by 2030.

The initiative is supported by FAO’s Committee on Mediterranean Forestry Questions – Silva Mediterranea, the governments of Lebanon, Morocco, Tunisia, and Türkiye, and The Association for Forests, Development and Conservation Lebanon (AFDC).

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