Image by: Artisan Productions/UNEP


UN awards special status to African-led Great Green Wall initiative

• Ambitious effort to limit Sahara’s spread named World Restoration Flagship Initiative now eligible to receive United Nations support, funding or technical expertise.
• News welcomed in Burkina Faso and Niger

Montreal, 13 December 2022 – The United Nations has recognized an initiative to repair thousands of kilometres of degraded land across Africa as one of 10 pioneering efforts to revive the natural world.

The UN designated the African-led movement, known as the Great Green Wall, 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 Great Green Wall 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. Launched in 2007, the Great Green Wall is an ambitious effort to restore savanna, grasslands and farmlands across an 8,000km belt of Africa known as the Sahel. Climate change is having a crippling impact on the region, making droughts more common, feeding the southward advance of the Sahara Desert and entrenching poverty.

The United Nations specifically recognized work being done on the Great Green Wall in Burkina Faso and Niger. There, efforts to replant native vegetation, control invasive species and fix sand dunes in place have helped to green the Sahel, bolstering food security, creating jobs, and forming a haven for nature. In Niger, for example, the giraffe population expanded to 730 individuals in 2021 from 50 in 1996. Overall, i n Burkina Faso, 835,000 ha of land have been restored with groups aiming to revive 2.6 million ha by 2030. In Niger, 1. 2 million ha of land have been restored with a target of 2.5 million ha by 2030.

The Great Green wall 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.

Inger Andersen, Executive Director of UNEP, said: “We cannot turn a blind eye to the impacts and effects of degraded lands in places like the Sahel where millions face multiple vulnerabilities including climate shocks and conflict. In restoring an environmentally degraded hotspot, the Great Green Wall is helping to bring about peace, jobs, sustainability, and hope. I commend Burkina Faso and Niger for their continued efforts and congratulate them for being included in this inaugural group of World Restoration Flagships. I encourage other African countries to step up action because restoration is a joint effort for the people and planet.”

Doulkom Adama, the National Coordinator of the Great Green Wall Initiative, Burkina Faso, said: “For several decades, Burkina Faso has been facing the phenomenon of desertification, land degradation and drought. Although worrying, the situation is not necessarily fatal. I hope our efforts will provide a roadmap for other similar interventions around the world.”
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.”

The world restoration flagship awards are part of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration. 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 the Great Green Wall for Restoration & Peace:

This World Restoration Flagship is coordinated by Pan-African Great Green Wall Agency, Initiative of the Great Green Wall for the Sahara and the Sahel Burkina Faso, Great Green Wall National Agency of Niger, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, The United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative, The Great Green Wall Accelerator - The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, The Center for International Forestry Research, Global Landscapes Forum and The World Food Programme.

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 Niger and Burkina Faso please reach out to Nelly Bourlion or Giorgio Millesimi

Type of article
Press Release