According to the IPCC, the next ten years represent our last chance to counter the irreversible effects of anthropogenic, or man-made, climate change, and to substantially transform our dysfunctional relationship with the planet.
In the world’s calendar, June 5th marks the commemoration of the World Environment Day. The articles, speeches, events, and images linked to this date emphasise the preciousness, yet, fragility, of our planet. They thrive on one's awareness of the actions that are being taken to preserve the environment, and on the many decisions being made to deplete it. According to the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the next ten years represent our last chance to counter the irreversible effects of anthropogenic, or man-made, climate change, and to substantially transform our dysfunctional relationship with the planet.
In light of the latest recommendations by the scientific community, the meaning and significance of this commemoration has changed and has now acquired an added value. Indeed, this year, World Environment Day additionally symbolises the emergence of a collective desire to coexist in harmony with our surrounding environment, and to reverse the damage that was caused to it. On June 5th, 2021, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) launched the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration – a global mission to inspire a positive change towards the environment. The objective of the UN Decade is to heal our damaged planet and its delicate ecosystems and biodiversity by building a close, yet sustainable, relationship with it.
The ILC adhered to the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration and became its partner.
As a first step to express its commitment, on June 2nd, the ILC hosted the webinar “Securing Land Rights to Restore Ecosystems”. The event was focused on one underlying principle: the crucial role that indigenous peoples and local communities play in preserving and restoring the environment.
Narrating the challenges of living in ecosystems threatened by climate change, three ILC members referred to the significance of this concept throughout the event. From Sabía, Carlos Magno talked about the dryland of Brasil and the consequences of its degradation. From RDF, Kuluipa Akmatova spoke about the mountain areas of Kyrgyzstan, which are characterised by significant biodiversity loss and exploitative approaches to its ecosystems. From Reconcile, Irene Mukalo highlighted the obstacles faced by the rangelands in Kenya, which were subject to soil erosion, climate change, flooding, and prolonged droughts.
The intervention of Jagdeesh Rao Puppala, from FES India, signified the urge to initiate the UN Decade. According to him, there is a lack of trust in the ability of indigenous peoples and local communities to sustainably and productively manage land. Moreover, there seems to be a widespread dichotomy opposing discourses around nature and people. This results in their identification as mutually exclusive and separate entities, rather than deeply intertwined wholes. In doing so, this approach ignores the fundamental impact that one has on the other, and vice versa.
Reversing these rationales is essential in the road to ecosystem restoration, as sustainable and equitable approaches to land are the means to achieve it. Securing land rights to individuals is the only way to concretely incentivise them to invest in it. Several studies additionally suggest that communities tend to be more conscious of the environment and its protection, when their land rights are secured. Land rights additionally mean increased food security, jobs, and the empowerment of indigenous peoples and women.
Jagdeesh’s experience of working with grassroots organisations in India, additionally raised a series of crucial questions which will need to be addressed throughout the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration. Some of these are,
- How do we ensure synergies in collaborating with governments, NGOs, and local communities in restoring ecosystems?
- What kind of knowledge is necessary to secure this cooperation?
- How do we ensure that Indigenous peoples and local communities’ expertise are celebrated within this process, rather than ignored?
Centering structural change on the role and knowledge of indigenous peoples and local communities is crucial - as Jadeesh suggested - “to reposition the tragedy of commons as the promise of commons”. It is with this objective in mind that ILC will work towards the realisation ecosystem restoration in the next decade.