UN recognizes initiative to restore wealth from oceans in Vanuatu, St. Lucia and Comoros with special award
- Effort in island states to hold back the ocean honoured as World Restoration Flagship
- Initiative now eligible to receive United Nations support, funding or technical expertise
- News celebrated in Small Island Developing States
Montreal, 13 December 2022 – The United Nations has recognized initiatives to restore sensitive ecosystems in Vanuatu, St. Lucia and Comoros as one of 10 pioneering efforts to revive the natural world.
The UN designated the push, which is helping the island nations safeguard wildlife, brace for climate change and strengthen their economies, 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, governments from around the world will agree to a new set of goals for nature over the next decade, are expected to include a potential global target for ecosystem restoration.
Comoros, St Lucia and Vanuatu, all low-lying island states, face the threat of extinction as a result of rising waters due to climate change. At the same time, the degradation of inland ecosystems – such as deforestation – has severe impacts on the balance of these unique ecosystems.
To counter those challenges, all three countries have launched ambitious efforts to revive both coastal and inland ecosystems. They are cleaning rivers to prevent ocean pollution and restoring coral reefs, which are havens for fish. Along with safeguarding nature, this is also increasing income through fisheries and tourism. In Comoros, for example, the creation of the Moheli Marine Park has more than doubled the live coral cover and led to an increase in sea turtle nests. Tourist numbers have doubled, providing further income to local communities.
As well, the countries are planting mangrove forests, providing a natural buffer to rising sea levels and extreme weather. They are also rejuvenating seagrass beds, which are important stores of carbon. By reviving their land and oceans, Vanuatu, Comoros and St Lucia could sequester an estimated 839,000 tonnes of carbon in the next 20 years.
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: “Comoros, St Lucia and Vanuatu are on the frontlines of the fight against climate change, a crisis which is not of their making. Their impressive work, now being honoured as part of the first group of World Restoration Flagships, to look after critical stretches of ocean, both countering and adapting to climate change, offers important lessons for the entire world.”
Alfred Prospere, Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries, Food Security and Rural Development in St Lucia, said: “Living on the southeast coast of St Lucia, we have seen the decline of our marine ecosystems and how the local economy has been affected by coastal degradation. Through the Small-Island Developing States (SIDS) Flagship under the UN Decade, we see hope for our local communities.”
Vanuatu’s Director General of Climate Change, Esline Garabeiti, said: “With the support of the SIDS Flagship under the UN Decade, we will be able to strengthen the resilience of our local communities and ecosystems, allowing the incorporation of new knowledge into customary knowledge developed over millennia.”
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.”
Countries around the world 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.
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 Small Island Developing State Ecosystem Restoration Flagship
This World Restoration Flagship is coordinated by the Government of Comoros, Government of Saint Lucia, Government of Vanuatu, The Small Island Developing States Coalition for Nature, The United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and The United Nations Environment Programme.
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 Comoros, St Lucia and Vanuatu please reach out to: