Last week, I had the opportunity to attend the first High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) convened by the United Nations since member states agreed to the Sustainable Development Goals in September 2015.
Because I had never attended a UN event before, successfully navigating the HLPF initially seemed like a daunting endeavor — a whirlwind of speeches, panels and private discussions, country representatives and private sector or civil society groups vying for airtime on the floor, and its own language of buzzwords, acronyms and procedures. Negotiating this highest level of statecraft, politics, relationships, and advocacy, however, is an important challenge for both me personally and more broadly, for EcoAgriculture Partners and other organizations interested in achieving a sustainable future for people, food and nature through integrated landscape management.
Opportunities for Landscape Partnerships in the United Nations Context
With the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) late last year, the United Nations set out an ambitious and essential sustainable development agenda, which is distinct in two ways that make it highly aligned with landscape partnerships and perspectives.
EcoAgriculture Partners is working to build alignment between landscape approaches and UN processes supporting SDG implementation.
First, there is widespread recognition among countries and stakeholders that the 17 components of Agenda 2030 are inseparable. Only integrated approaches to sustainable development, including landscape management, will be able to effectively harness the potential synergies and minimize inherent tradeoffs among this comprehensive suite of SDGs.
Second, there is emerging agreement that the SDGs, somewhat unlike the previous iteration of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), are for everyone. All sectors, countries, and stakeholders need to be engaged for successful implementation. Even the most prosperous country that is on average meeting or exceeding its citizens’ basic needs may be doing so in an unsustainable or non-inclusive manner. Along with their peers in poorer countries, some rich countries such as Germany have already demonstrated leadership in reviewing their national sustainability trajectories and soliciting advice for SDG implementation from a diverse range of stakeholders. Integrated landscape management, which requires engagement by stakeholders from across sectors and is applicable in all countries, will be an important approach for advancing the 2030 Agenda.
In this context, it is critical for EcoAgriculture Partners and its collaborators to communicate the value of landscape partnerships to international leaders and align UN- and country-level processes with integrated landscape management opportunities.
Advancing Landscape Pathways for SDG Implementation
Given the importance of integrated landscape management for SDG implementation, EcoAgriculture Partners has been advancing strategies for incorporating this approach into United Nations dialogue and processes, with a focus on communication, partnerships, alignment, and expertise.
First, a key role for EcoAgriculture Partners is communicating the value of landscape partnerships to UN leaders, including country representatives and the broader civil society and private sector leaders invested in SDG implementation globally. Informing these stakeholders about the strong potential of this pathway toward sustainable development is an important mechanism for building recognition of landscape partnerships as a key approach to achieving the SDGs in an inclusive manner.
Second, UN meetings like the HLPF are an opportunity for EcoAgriculture Partners to build partnerships with public, private, and civic leaders working to advance the SDGs. Identifying areas of common ground and harnessing potential synergies among activities was an essential part of our work at the forum.
Third, EcoAgriculture Partners is working to build alignment between landscape approaches and UN processes supporting SDG implementation. International agenda setting, national policymaking, implementation activities, and monitoring and evaluation processes often need to be shaped to fully support landscape partnership pathways to implementation. From overarching frameworks and dialogue framings to donor country priorities and technical reporting standards, UN and country-level efforts can become more supportive of integrated landscape management than ever before.
Finally, at HLPF, EcoAgriculture Partners had the opportunity to share its combined decades of expertise on integrated landscape management approaches, while learning from the newest research and practitioner experience of others in attendance. This mutual learning, cross-pollination, and ideation for future initiatives will be key to further landscape partnerships that support Agenda 2030.
Moving forward, EcoAgriculture Partners will continue to engage in UN processes to support efforts to implement the SDGs so that no one is left behind. These early days of advancing Agenda 2030 are the moments to draw on the strengths of integrated landscape management and link this approach with international processes.
Catherine Rothacker is a Master of Environmental Management candidate at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, where she is focusing on the intersection of corporate sustainability, conservation biology, food production, forest governance, and sustainable development. She works for the Yale Center for Business and the Environment, and is currently completing an internship with EcoAgriculture Partners in Washington, DC.