Shan Shui
Braunosarus Studios/UNEP


UN recognizes vast Chinese restoration effort with special award

  • Shan-Shui initiative, which aims to restore landscapes across the country, honoured as World Restoration Flagship
  • Initiative now eligible to receive United Nations support, funding, or technical expertise,
  • News celebrated in China

Montreal, 13 December 2022 The United Nations has recognized an initiative to restore 10 million hectares of ecosystems across China as one of 10 pioneering efforts to revive the natural world.

The UN designated the push, which along with safeguarding nature will benefit 200 million people, as one of its inaugural World Restoration Flagships. These initiatives, which are eligible to receive UN support, funding or technical expertise, showcase how environmental advocates are mending damaged ecosystems across the planet. Human activity has significantly altered three-quarters of the Earth’s land and two-thirds of its marine environment, pushing 1 million species towards extinction.

The announcement came as leaders gathered in Montreal, Canada for the UN Biodiversity Conference, where governments from around the world will agree to a new set of goals for nature over the next decade. Talks are expected to include a potential global target for ecosystem restoration.

The Shan-Shui initiative – which translates to “mountains and rivers” – is an ambitious country-wide effort to restore 10 million ha of natural spaces, including forests, grasslands and waterways. Between 2021 and 2030, China is aiming to complete 50 projects stretching across 700 counties, focusing on the large-scale protection and restoration of entire ecosystems. By 2030, that is expected to create more than 3.2 million jobs in a range of industries, from tourism to wine-making. An estimated 70 million households, or 200 million people, are expected to benefit from the work.

Chinese President Xi Jinping, speaking at the Leaders Summit on Climate last year, said: “Mountains, rivers, forests as well as farmlands, lakes, grasslands and deserts all make indivisible parts of the ecosystem. Protecting the ecosystem requires more than a simplistic, palliative approach. We need to follow the innate laws of the ecosystem and properly balance all elements and aspects of nature. This is a way that may take us where we want to be, an ecosystem in sound circulation and overall balance.”

The effort and other flagship initiatives were selected under the banner of the United Nations Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, a global movement coordinated by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). It is designed to prevent and reverse the degradation of natural spaces across the planet.

UNEP Executive Director Inger Andersen said: “Investing in nature gives people not only an opportunity to see nature's amazing power but to reap other benefits like improved livelihoods and health and to mitigate from the effects of the triple planetary crisis of climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution. The World Restoration Flagship Shan-Shui initiative demonstrates the tremendous economic benefits that can come when humanity lives in harmony with nature.”

Qu Dongyu, Director General of the FAO, said: FAO, together with UNEP, as co-lead of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, is pleased to award the 10 most ambitious, visionary and promising ecosystem restoration initiatives as 2022 World Restoration Flagships. Inspired by these flagships, we can learn to restore our ecosystems for better production, better nutrition, a better environment and a better life for all, leaving no one behind.” 

Globally, countries have already promised to restore 1 billion hectares – an area larger than China – as part of their commitments to the Paris climate agreement, the Aichi targets for biodiversity, the Land Degradation Neutrality targets and the Bonn Challenge. However, little is known about the progress or quality of this restoration.  Progress of all 10 World Restoration Flagships will be transparently monitored through the Framework for Ecosystem Restoration Monitoring, the UN Decade’s platform for keeping track of global restoration efforts.


About the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration 

The United Nations General Assembly has declared the years 2021 through 2030 the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration. Led by the UN Environment Programme and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN, together with the support of partners, it is designed to prevent, halt, and reverse the loss and degradation of ecosystems worldwide. It aims at reviving billions of hectares, covering terrestrial as well as aquatic ecosystems. A global call to action, the UN Decade draws together political support, scientific research, and financial muscle to massively scale up restoration. 

About this initiative

This World Restoration Flagship is coordinated by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Ministry of Finance, People’s Republic of China with substantial support from related departments and local government.

About the UN Environment Programme (UNEP)

UNEP is the leading global voice on the environment. It provides leadership and encourages partnership in caring for the environment by inspiring, informing and enabling nations and peoples to improve their quality of life without compromising that of future generations.


For more information, please contact:

Moses Osani, Media Officer, UN Environment Programme

For media interviews with officials from China, please reach out to

Dr Chen Yan from the Shan-Shui Initiative


Type of article
Press Release