October 30, 2015

On SDGs, time for integrated landscape community-of-practice to step up

Sara ScherrEcoAgriculture Partners

Sustainably managed landscapes will be key for SDG implementation. It is time for those steeped in the practice to step up and change the game.

In September 2015, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, with its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) universally applicable to all nations. This agreement marks a momentous opportunity for the world community to improve human well-being and social equity, while also conserving Earth’s natural resources and the vital ecological functions on which we all depend.

All of us in the community-of-practice of integrated landscape management around the world now have an unprecedented opportunity to step forward and work with our national, state and local governments to craft SDG implementation plans that have integrated landscape management as a central tenet.

To realize the potential of ILM to advance the SDGs calls for a shift in national strategies. Country SDG strategies should focus on landscapes as the building blocks for inclusive green growth economic development that ensures no one is left behind. They will need to shift from sector-based to place-based policy, planning and financing.  A “whole of government” approach will be required, coordinated by a high-level inter-agency mechanism. Proactive efforts will be needed to establish the capacity in different levels and agencies of government to design and implement programs and investments supporting ILM.

Empower communities, integrate sectors to achieve development goals

Sustainably managed landscapes will be key for SDG implementation, linking especially Goals on ending poverty (SDG 1) and hunger (SDG 2), managing water resources (SDG 6), ensuring access to reliable and sustainable energy (Goal 7), building sustainable cities (Goal 11), ensuring sustainable production and consumption patterns (Goal 12), combating climate change (Goal 13), ensuring sustainable use of the oceans and marine resources (SDG 14) and protecting and restoring terrestrial ecosystems (SDG 15).

Integrated landscape management (ILM) offers the only way forward to identify and manage synergies and trade-offs and achieve multiple SDGs in any given place (independent of scale: landscape, national, global). Indeed, the landscape approach supports integration across sectors and scales; increases coordination; and ensures harmonization of planning, implementation and monitoring processes at the landscape level. The approach empowers communities through a participatory, collaborative process that engages all stakeholders—including women, youth, mobile communities,  indigenous peoples, and other marginalized and vulnerable peoples—in decision-making and  management of natural resources, agricultural lands, biological diversity, and culturally important resources.

Without outreach and input from practitioners with years of experience implementing this approach, however, policymakers will be adrift in a sea of sector-based proposals to achieve the goals. We should not let that happen. 2015 was a critical year for planning the route ahead. 2016 must be the year integrated landscape management steers the ships of state onto the right course.


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  • Tim Gieseke
    October 30, 2015 at 10:48am

    I agree – a lot of the issues and needs are becoming a bit more clear but the context of the solution is not yet framed. I recent years the term “wicked” has been repeated as the descriptive of the sustainability problem we face. I have repeatedly embraced this concept over the last several years as I plow into research and project work. In 2016, I will help to frame up the wicked solutions we are going to need. My recent “Resolving Wicked Problems” blog is an intro to this frame: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/resolving-wicked-problems-tim-gieseke?trk=pulse_spock-articles

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