DARWIN CALL TO ACTION:
THE UN DECADE ADVISORY BOARD'S MEETING KICKSTARTS ITS SECOND TERM FOR 2023-2025
The UN Decade Advisory Board convened in Darwin from 24 to 26 September 2023, to kickstart its second term (2023 - 2025). This crucial gathering took place in conjunction with the 10th World Conference on Ecological Restoration.
The primary objective of this Advisory Board Workshop was to refine and strengthen collective efforts aimed at realizing the ambitious goals outlined by the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration and its numerous collaborators.
The event gathered an important representation from the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, including 18 Advisory Board members, 5 core group members (Secretariat, Strategy Group and Task Forces), and 14 Global Partners.
DIVERSE EXPERTISE FOR A SHARED GOAL
As per the UN Decade Strategy, the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration Advisory Board plays a pivotal role as the main external body at the core of the governance structure. Its main mission is to provide valuable perspectives and schools of thought, offering solutions to the challenges and barriers facing the successful implementation of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration. Comprising experts from various sectors, including the restoration sector, science, the private sector, local communities, indigenous peoples, faith engagement, youth, women's rights, and mayors, the Advisory Board represents a diverse and knowledgeable group of individuals. The Board offers expertise and guidance, as well as driving key activities to achieve the Decade's goals.
The Advisory Board Workshop served as an invaluable platform for its members to come together, share their expertise, and engage in collaboration. By bringing together their wealth of knowledge, diverse perspectives, and invaluable experiences, the Advisory Board played a crucial role in shaping the future trajectory of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration. Their profound insights and thoughtful recommendations are integral to aligning it with the UN Decade Action Plan and receiving support from the UN Decade Task Forces.
The workshop was attended by not only Advisory Board members but also representatives from the UN Decade Secretariat, various UN entities, and global partners. These global partners included organizations such as the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, international non-governmental organizations, and other valued partners. This diverse representation underlines the inclusive and collaborative nature of the UN Decade's efforts.
This working session was nestled into an exciting conference programme with plenty of UN Decade events, from the launch of the UN Decade Bamboo Trust Fund over the launch of the initial version of the Standards of Ecosystem Restoration to a fireside chat of the Advisory board with conference participants. The conference counted over 15 UN Decade-related events!
EXPLORING THE LOCAL LANDSCAPE
Before the 10th World Conference on Ecological Restoration commenced, the Advisory Board, alongside the board and staff of the Society for Ecological Restoration, embarked on a joint field trip. This trip included visits to three different sites in Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia: Charles Darwin National Park, Knuckey Lagoon, and Casuarina Coastal Reserve. The objective was to observe the invasive gamba grass in native habitats and explore various restoration approaches to address these invasive species.
The field trip yielded valuable insights, promoting knowledge sharing among participants regarding the challenges faced by the Department of Environment, Parks, and Water Security (DEPWS) of the Northern Territory, Government of Australia. Additionally, participants engaged with local indigenous peoples, learning from their knowledge and expertise. The discussions with indigenous communities provided a fascinating opportunity for Advisory Board members to gain insights into traditional knowledge and expertise, enriching their understanding of the restoration landscape.
Addressing the Impact of Exotic Grasses
One of the key outcomes of the field trip was the recognition of the ongoing agenda to address the impact of exotic grasses on biodiversity, particularly in geographic conditions similar to Darwin. To tackle this challenge, it is imperative to expand research efforts to understand exotic grass ecology and its impacts fully. Prioritizing budgets and involving a range of local stakeholders in vegetation and fire management efforts is also crucial to enhancing restoration success.
SETTING THE STAGE FOR THE SECOND TERM
The Advisory Board members engaged in collaborative brainstorming sessions during the workshop to generate thoughtful strategies and actions for their new term from 2023 to 2025. They identified key focus areas, initiatives, and priorities, setting forth specific objectives and targeted outcomes for the second term of the Advisory Board. This collective effort culminated in the careful development of an action plan, which emphasizes the following:
Enhancing communications: effective communication is essential in conveying the importance of ecosystem restoration to a wider audience and garnering support.
Amplifying the ambassadorial role: the Advisory Board aims to serve as ambassadors for ecosystem restoration, spreading awareness and driving action.
Improving coordination: effective coordination with the UN Decade Secretariat and Task Forces is crucial for the successful implementation of the Decade's goals.
Fostering collaboration: the Advisory Board seeks to collaborate with other UN entities and engage in multilateral processes and partnerships at various levels, from local to global, to promote ecosystem restoration.
Supporting cross-cutting themes: these themes include youth involvement, indigenous communities, and local empowerment, all of which are integral to the Decade's objectives.
In-depth exploration of key topics
Throughout the Advisory Board Workshop, a wide array of topics was thoroughly explored, covering everything from the overarching strategy of the UN Decade to the formidable challenges that hinder large-scale restoration efforts. Additionally, discussions extended to the critical consideration of the availability, and at times, scarcity of resources, which will play a pivotal role in realizing the ambitious objectives of the next two years.
A confluence of Global Partners
On the third day of the workshop, the Advisory Board had the honor of being joined by the majority of UN Decade global partners. This convergence of diverse perspectives and expertise significantly enriched the dialogues and propelled the collective efforts towards a more holistic and collaborative approach to achieving our restoration goals. Global Partners included: the Society for Ecological Restoration (SER), World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Australian Restoration Alliance, United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), Conservation International (CI), The Nature Conservancy (TNC), and the World Resources Institute (WRI).
The participation of these organizations underscores the collaborative nature of the UN Decade's endeavors. Together, they explored innovative strategies and identified areas of synergy that will undoubtedly be instrumental in driving restoration goals forward.
THE "DARWIN CALL TO ACTION"
On September 30, 2023, the UN Decade Advisory Board, represented by Gopal D. Patel (UN Decade Advisory Board Co-Chair) and Bethanie Walder, Executive Director of the Society for Ecological Restoration, signed the "Darwin Call to Action". This historic document embodies the collective commitment to advancing restoration efforts through the following key principles:
Empowering Indigenous Peoples, Local Communities, and Underrepresented Groups: The Advisory Board stands resolute in recognizing and safeguarding the rights of Indigenous Peoples, local communities, and underrepresented individuals to their land, territories, knowledge, and resources. Their invaluable leadership and pivotal roles in catalyzing change in all restoration phases are acknowledged and championed.
Fostering a Culture of Ecological Restoration: The focus is on igniting a widespread embrace of ecological restoration across all levels of society. This priority encompasses not only mitigating risks and rebuilding in the aftermath of climate-related disasters but also fortifying community resilience, rejuvenating health and well-being, and revitalizing crucial ecosystem services.
Advocating for Policy and Funding Alignment: The Advisory Board calls upon governments to proactively realign policies and allocate funding to support inclusive, participatory ecological restoration. This concerted effort is essential for sustainable and equitable restoration practices.
Galvanizing Responsible Business Practices: The global business community is urged to go beyond minimizing negative impacts by contributing more than they extract throughout their entire value chains. This means investing in the restoration of degraded ecosystems, thereby fostering long-term business sustainability and fortifying the ecological foundation upon which all business endeavors rely.
This “Darwin Call to Action” underscores the urgency of scaling up effective, standards-based restoration efforts worldwide to re-establish a healthy connection between people and nature. With this, the advisory board and the UN Decade at large have new important reference points going forward.
This 2023 World Restoration Conference and our historic call to action represent a watershed moment in our collective pursuit of a more sustainable and harmonious relationship with our planet. It signifies a resounding commitment to restore and protect the natural world for current and future generations. We thank the Society for Ecological Restoration (SER) for their kind support and collaboration for the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration 2021-2030.
About the Society for Ecological Restoration
The Society for Ecological Restoration (SER) advances the science, practice and policy of ecological restoration to sustain biodiversity, improve resilience in a changing climate, and re-establish an ecologically healthy relationship between nature and culture. An international non-profit organization with over 5,000 members in more than 110 countries, we actively promote participatory, knowledge-based approaches to restoration. Learn more about our work at www.ser.org.
About the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration
The UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration 2021-2030, led by the United Nations Environment Programme, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and its partners, covers terrestrial as well as coastal and marine ecosystems. As a global call to action, it will draw together political support, scientific research and financial muscle to massively scale up restoration. Find out how you can contribute to the UN Decade. Follow #GenerationRestoration.