Caux Dialogue on Land and Security 2014: Chair’s Summary

Full Chair Summary

Dialogue participants agreed that there is a clear and strong linkage between land and security. In particular, that climate change and land degradation not only destabilize nature but taken together can amplify tension and cause crises. Water shortages, in particular, are a trigger for instability. Global society increasingly needs to keep the human security agenda alive and map and prepare for things we may not be able to predict, including “perfect storms”.

Participants discussed how climate change is aggravating stress on land use while degrading land aggravates climate change, and both are driven by population growth and rising standards of living. In the last 40 years, seasonal temperatures in the vulnerable Sahel region have risen by an average of 1.5-2.0 degrees Celsius. In the Mediterranean region, the Sahel, southern Africa and parts of southern Asia, precipitation has either declined or become highly erratic. Worldwide, the area affected by drought has increased with more intense and longer droughts observed. By 2025, at least 2.4 billion people may be living in areas subject to periods of intense water scarcity. Yemen will be the first country in the world to run out of water. Population growth means the share of productive land available per person will continue to decrease. 46 countries experienced social unrest of some sort as a result of the 2011 drought and food crisis.

Analysis of risk resulted in the recognition of a series of hotspots where the combination of climate change and land degradation is a driver of instability and insecurity.

Experience from across the Middle East and Sahel, in the Horn of Africa and Darfur, among others, indicates we are reaching a tipping point. A large share of the conflicts, over the last 60 years, were associated with access to land and other natural resources. As competition for natural resources, especially land and water, intensifies – the threats are expected to increase. There is a growing risk of violent conflict – including civil war, inter-ethnic clashes and violent protest. Hotspots discussed included: Central Asia and south Asia, Israel-Palestine, Sub-Saharan Africa – Sahel, Nigeria.

Forced Migration as result of environmental stressors was identified as a key issue.

Each year, large numbers of people are forced to migrate from areas that have become inhospitable due to desertification, land degradation and drought (DLDD). Whenever you have land degradation problems, people are going to start moving. The trends noted for these phenomena are impressive. In Africa an estimated 10 million people have migrated or been displaced over the last two decades mainly because of environmental degradation and desertification. It is expected that, by 2020, 60 million people could move from the desertified areas of sub-Saharan Africa towards North Africa and Europe. The figures are also not less alarming in Latin America, where land degradation affecting Mexico’s dryland regions leads 700,000 people to permanently migrate from these areas annually. The inter-linkages between DLDD and migration, the security and human right implications as well as the vicious cycle of resource depletion has not been so far appropriately addressed by the international development and environmental agenda. While there are actions that require regional or global engagement and cooperation, steps need also to be taken at country level particularly related to land governance and tenure, since migration spurred by land degradation and environmental change is often a domestic phenomenon.

Human mobility can be one solution to adaptation and part of the toolbox of issues dealing with land degradation. When land can no longer sustain a population that traditionally lives there, migration and mobility can be part of the solution. There are many different ways in which migration and mobility can contribute to resilience, and migration does not always mean that everyone moves. There are plenty of examples where in response to worsening local conditions, households engage in the migration of some family members as part of an “income diversification” or “insurance strategy” to protect them. It was noted also that remittances can then become a source of income that not only helps households to cope with the consequences of land degradation but also, with the right incentives, may allow them to invest in the right land restoration and adaptation to climate change measures. It was recognized, in this respect that there is particular opportunity to secure engagement of diaspora communities. Another example that was discussed concerned how outward labour migration can be one way for a country to reduce its reliance on agriculture and hence the pressure on its arable land, which may already be under strain due to climate change and an increased population.

Land is central for vital elements of human security, primarily for food security, water security and multiple biodiversity values and ecosystem services.

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates, world food production, in terms of calories, will need to rise by at least 70 % from current levels by 2050.   The IPCC further predicts that climate change will reduce median crop yields by 2 per cent per decade for the rest of the century. This will happen at a time of rapidly growing changing food consumption patterns and a global population approaching 9 billion people. This decline in production could, in turn, push up malnutrition in children by about 20%. Multifunctional agriculture and the combination of good governance and practices with land users are the centre are a good response. On the other hand, terrestrial biomes host a large share of Planet Earth’s biodiversity which underpins critical ecosystem services without which humanity’s security and survival would be highly compromised. Combatting land degradation and desertification helps mitigate biodiversity loss as well, at all levels: preserving genetic resources, species diversity and ecosystems health.

The specific role of healthy soils as an instrument for building local resilience to climate shocks and by guaranteeing food and water security was recognized. Degrading soils are a destabilizing factor in already fragile situations. Year of Soils in 2015 is an opportunity to raise the profile. An investment in land rehabilitation and sustainable intensification of agricultural production makes business sense. This is more than a CSR effort but can be mainstreamed along value chains.

It was agreed, that the negative land degradation cycle can be stopped and reversed.

The knowledge and other inputs are available. Just need to do it. A paradigm shift in the way land is managed could:

  • Help sequester up to 1-3 billion tonnes of carbon per year – equivalent to 11 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide. Between 10-30% of total emission.  It could be implemented more quickly than other mitigation solutions buying valuable climate time.
  • Offer a low tech, low cost climate change adaptation strategy that can be flexibly implemented in all countries.
  • Minimize future disasters by building resilience. Reducing the impacts of drought, flood and other climate related shocks.
  • Stem forced migration flows.
  • Enhance biodiversity values.
  • Avoid conflict situations over land and water resources in climate change and degradation “hot-spots”.
  • Enhance up to 2 billion hectares of degraded land, including 480 million hectares of abandoned agricultural land that can be returned to production.
  • Improve nutrition and food security for the rural poor.
  • Sustainably intensify agricultural production.
  • Expand rural employment and accelerate rural economic development.

A range of simple techniques that can restore soils and thus enable sustainable agricultural production even in severely water stressed regions without the need for extensive artificial irrigation were discussed and presented. The conference heard of inspiring examples where land was restored to its full potential: WOCAT’s database on best practices was noted as the primary recommended database of the UNCCD. Participants were encouraged to upload their experience into the database. Sustainable land use practices exist everywhere in the world. We need to share knowledge and practice more widely. Interesting techniques discussed included: sand dams as a replacement for rural road bridges; rehabilitation of Wadi systems; agroforestry;

From both, a climate mitigation and adaptation perspective land needs to figure more prominently in the climate negotiations. Degraded land lacks, what the atmosphere has in dangerous excess: carbon. For future climate agreements, mitigation targets alone will be an insufficient response. A successful, comprehensive approach to climate change will need to include adaptation measures that allow vulnerable populations to increase their resilience and reduce insecurity. Resilience is the long-term capacity to deal with change and continue to develop. Practical solutions for developing countries, in particular Small Island Developing States and the least developed African countries, already feeling the dramatic effects of climate change are urgently required. The most relevant and appropriate measures are likely to be linked to management of the land as this a low cost, low tech, high employment solution. Mitigation and adaptation powered by land would be a win-win situation for climate negotiators.

Participants agreed on the urgent need to scale up land rehabilitation and even restoration globally. The meeting welcomed the discussions about role of land and soil in New York at the Open Working Group on the post 2015 sustainable development goals. There was agreement that achieving land degradation neutrality as proposed in the first draft of the SDG document would make a tremendous contribution to food, energy and water security and reduce tension and security concerns in important hotspots.

In 2015, targets aimed at reducing land degradation, scaling up sustainable land management practices, rehabilitating degraded land and restoring natural ecosystems must be embedded within the upcoming Sustainable Development Goal framework of targets and indicators. Land degradation neutrality involves progressively reducing the population adversely affected by land degradation and its impacts – typically the poorest of the poor. And progressively increasing the area under sustainable land management.   Land-related targets would directly support the achievement of a number of the envisaged SDGs, such as poverty eradication, food security, access to water and sustainable natural resource management. Preventing or avoiding future land degradation is a top priority. Preventing future land degradation is closely aligned with land use planning. This should include an assessment of the ecosystem services provided and long-term planning for food production, urban expansion and industrial activities to ensure the optimal use of land resources for the benefit of current and future generations. Minimizing or mitigating current land degradation. Recognizing that prevention or avoidance is not always feasible; policies and practices that minimize land degradation should be adopted to reduce the drivers and impacts of current land degradation processes. This is largely done by adopting one of the techniques of integrated, sustainable land management. Rehabilitating or restoring land already degraded. Degraded and abandoned land can either be rehabilitated to support sustainable food production or, where appropriate, restored to its natural or semi-natural state. Well-functioning natural ecosystems (e.g. forests, grasslands, wetlands) can provide communities with a diverse range of income-generating opportunities and other vital ecosystem services that support sustainable food production systems. Farmers often depend on these ecosystems for pollination, pest control, water and the conservation of wild relative crop species while pastoralists rely on grasslands and woodlands as a fundamental production input.

Participants agreed that land management, rehabilitation and restoration needs to happen systematically in all countries and in all types of terrestrial ecosystems. While the focus of the Conference was on drylands because drylands have a large number of security related hotspots and suffer high levels of human insecurity as a result of degradation, participants learnt about the enormous potential of wetland restoration which are, not least because of their very substantial carbon sequestration potential, of global significance. The conference felt there were opportunities for UNCCD and Ramsar to join forces. It was noted that vulnerable ecosystems exist everywhere and even resilient societies need to prepare and can be impacted by degradation and climate change.

To enable large scale land rehabilitation and restoration, diverse stakeholders need to co-operate – both on the local as well as on the international level. Rehabilitation works best when small scale, site specific and appropriate examples are replicated in a mosaic pattern across the landscape. There is a tremendous need for the involvement of business in land restoration and also large business opportunities far beyond corporate social responsibility. The meeting appreciated the importance of the private sector and the launching of the Soil Leadership Academy later in 2014.

The challenges of rehabilitating and restoring land are social and societal rather than technical with trust- building and good resource governance being the core need for successful action. Delivery, in particular, would mean developing governance systems and economic incentives that promote sustainable practices and the rehabilitation of degraded land and ecosystems. Weak or unprotected resource and land rights could be strengthened. Giving women the same access as men to agricultural resources in developing countries, for example, would raise farm production by 20-30% and increase total agricultural production by up to 4% in some countries.

The remainder of 2014 and the year 2015 will be vital for driving the land management agenda. Participants agreed that in the series of high-level political UNSG summit in September 2014, OSCE – Swiss Presidency in Prague in September, NATO, UNCCD-COP, UNISDR , IUCN’s World Parks Congress in Sydney in November 2014, CBD-COP 12 in October 2014 in the Rep. of Korea, UNFCCC COP21 in Paris and others – the central and vital role of land needs to be emphasized.

By reducing the climate-induced pressure on natural resources by better managing the land, a resilient future – where the threat of conflict is reduced – can be envisaged. If successfully implemented a virtuous circle can be created, ultimately reducing pressure on aid, development and peacekeeping resources.

Next steps could include:

  • Adoption of land degradation neutrality as an integral part of SDG goal process.
  • Political commitment at national level as a driver of implementation
  • Land becoming an integral part of the climate negotiations with the perspective of making GCF funding available for land rehabilitation programmes for mitigation and adaptation; PPPs around climate change mitigation/adaptation and land restoration should be encouraged.
  • Strengthening the linkages between biodiversity, climate change and combatting land degradation agendas. In this regard, Aichi Targets 14 and 15 of the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020 constitute a strong framework for enhanced cooperation between the three Rio Conventions (UNFCCC, CBD and UNCCD) in promoting the implementation of nature-based solutions approaches such as the restoration of degraded ecosystems which would result in multiple benefits from a climate change resilience perspective as well as for biodiversity conservation and for combatting land degradation and desertification, all of which would contribute to improving livelihoods.
  • Sustainable land management and drought mitigation/management policy should feature as pointers and in the political declaration of the Hyogo Framework – to be negotiated in Sendai, Japan.

A follow up meeting to be held in Bonn, Germany, in 2015 to take advantage of the important political timelines was proposed. Further work streams include the publication of a book on different aspects of land use and land restoration, a summer school for practitioners as well as a business roundtable in 2015.

Martin Frick