UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration (UN-DER)

The UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration 2021–2030 (UN-DER) follows upon the UN Decade for Deserts and the fight against Desertification (Land Degradation Neutrality) 2010–2020 and is a rallying cry to not only halt global degradation, but to actively reverse the negative impacts of that degradation through restoration efforts. The UN-DER is led by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), and the timing corresponds with the deadline for the UN Sustainable Development Goals (2030).

The UN-DER defines ecosystem restoration as “the recovery of ecosystems that have been degraded or destroyed, as well as conserving the ecosystems that are still intact”. This Decade promotes the restoration of all ecosystems, including rangelands, which were a focus of the previous UN Decade for Deserts and the fight against Desertification. The restoration of global ecosystems is promoted for any and all groups: governments, individuals, development agencies, businesses, communities. This is because the causes, types and extents of degradation are highly variable and require the efforts of many groups and peoples in order to reverse the negative impacts of that degradation. The restoration of 350 million hectares of degraded terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems has the potential to generate 9 trillion USD and remove 13–26 gigatons of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, making restoration a high-return effort.

The UN-DER highlights in the “grasslands, shrublands and savannahs” section that “too much grazing and poor management can leave soil exposed to erosion and allow shrubs and alien species to invade at speed, displacing native vegetation”. While statements of this nature draw a negative perception of grazing and pastoralism, there is acknowledgement that restoration and conservation of rangelands requires active engagement by pastoralists and other rangeland managers. The International Support Group for the International Year of Rangelands & Pastoralists (IYRP) is actively pursuing ways of demonstrating that pastoralism can be a sustainable agricultural economy, wherein healthy ecosystems are maintained and species biodiversity is conserved. While overgrazing is an issue in some areas around the world, pastoralists depend on rangeland ecosystems for their livelihood and more often than not actively pursue best management practices.