November 2, 2022

Solving Global Sustainability Challenges Requires Policy Support for Landscape Partnerships

Brianna Van Matre

There’s a major problem in the pursuit for a more sustainable world. Those advocating for more sustainable agriculture, development or land use are addressing global challenges one by one, despite their strong interconnections. Through this incomplete view, policy solutions focus on individual sectors, such as watershed protection, reforestation and renewable energy reforms. 

Dr. Sara Scherr, EcoAgriculture Partners President and CEO, laid out this critical challenge in  presenting recent research findings at Cornell University’s Perspectives in Global Development: Fall 2022 Seminar Series. A better approach, she argued, is to work to solve these challenges holistically, such as through landscape solutions that support biodiversity, agriculture, livelihoods and health simultaneously.

She said that landscape partnerships are the most powerful tool we have at hand to do that. These multi-stakeholder, cross-sectoral coalitions are developing the locally-grounded integrated strategies that institutions, governments and policies must support.

“I hope our work will spark reflection and conversation among landscape partners, local and national government actors and policy experts. Together, they can develop targeted policy tools to accelerate and strengthen the work of local landscape collaboratives and help grassroots initiatives meet governmental support,” Scherr said. 

Multi-stakeholder landscape partnerships faced opposition for many decades from some government agencies who preferred to work in top-down or sectorally-focused ways. EcoAgriculture Partners is showing how landscape partnerships can actually advance policy goals, landscape-scale biodiversity, conservation and sustainable development. Scherr and her collaborators investigated the most current research on government policies’ ability to support large-scale nature-based solutions, resulting in the white paper Public Policy Support for Landscape and Seascape Partnerships: Meeting Sustainable Development Goals Through Collaborative Territorial Action. The authors found that landscape partnerships require four types of strong institutional support to meet their potential for achieving local and national objectives as well as the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals: 

  • Supportive government policies
  • Technical services and local capacity development
  •  Financial and business services
  • Connections for knowledge exchange and learning

“National public policies to support locally led landscape partnerships is hardly discussed at all,” Scherr said. “We even found that experts who have worked on policy innovation in the last few decades had trouble imagining that there might be comprehensive policy solutions.” So Scherr’s research team reviewed and synthesized findings from numerous case studies, consultations with experts and landscape partnerships, and literature. 

Dr. Sara Scherr presenting virtually at Cornell University.

They found seven essential ingredients to design and implement subnational government support successfully:

  1. Commitment to participatory landscape governance
  2. Public-policy frameworks that explicitly strengthen landscape partnerships for integrated territorial development
  3. Long-term support services responding to locally defined needs
  4. Strategic coordination among service providers
  5. Proactive engagement of businesses in landscape partnerships
  6. Long-term financing for landscape-enabling and asset investments
  7. Constructive engagement with landscape partnership networks

“If national governments want to realize their multi-dimensional policy goals around land and resource management and the resulting benefits for people, biodiversity and climate, they should champion and support landscape partnerships,” Scherr said. “Governments should provide them crucially needed policy, technical, finance and network support.”

This publication was made possible by a collaboration including EcoAgriculture Partners, Cornell University, the GALLOP Initiative and Columbia University. Download the full publication here and watch Scherr’s presentation at Cornell here

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