Making peace with nature is the defining task of the 21st century. It must be the top, top priority for everyone, everywhere.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres, "The State of the Planet" address, New York, December 2020
Preserving nature is the essence of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and is indivisible from the rest of the United Nations’ agenda. Current negative trends in biodiversity loss and ecosystem degradation will undermine progress towards 80% of the assessed targets of the SDGs related to poverty, hunger, health, water, cities, climate, oceans and land. The implications of these drastic changes in nature for human health, well-being, security and economic development are staggering, reaching across the UN system’s pillars - from sustainable development to peace and security and human rights.
The COVID-19 pandemic has further dramatically demonstrated the repercussions of the loss of nature and has halted progress towards sustainable development. It underscored the extraordinary interconnectedness between human, animal and environmental health, and how this underpins global peace and the stability of our socioeconomic systems.
Our economic recovery path must lead to a transformation of society’s relationship with nature. The protection and sustainable use of biodiversity must be integrated in policies that will guide post-pandemic economic and development recovery and building forward plans. Protecting nature and biodiversity will also be critical to preventing future pandemics; 60% of all known diseases and 75% of new infectious diseases are zoonotic in nature, originating from wildlife or raised animals.
At its first regular session of 2020, within the context of the implications of the COVID-19 pandemic, the UN System Chief Executives Board (CEB) focused on how the UN system can support Member States to set in motion systemic changes towards nature-positive shifts across sectors and to develop a shared and strong UN system-wide commitment and narrative on halting, restoring and reversing the current trajectory of nature loss and climate change, and providing a significant ‘lift’ of the nature agenda.
CEB members saw the need for a stronger mobilization around nature across the whole UN system, and a greater understanding of the organization’s footprint on nature and actions that can be taken to regulate that footprint. The Board endorsed a stronger focus on nature across the UN system and tasked its High-Level Committee on Programmes (HLCP) to develop a common approach to integrating biodiversity and nature-based solutions for sustainable development into the UN’s policy and programme planning and delivery.
A time-bound task team under the leadership of UNEP and UNDP was formed, which presented an initial proposal for the common approach and its elements to HLCP at its 40th session in October 2020. HLCP considered a discussion note outlining proposed building blocks of such a common approach, as well as options for collective action at the global, regional and country level. The Committee welcomed the proposal and expressed its support for, and commitment to, engaging further in the work of the task team. The draft common approach was elaborated by the task team through an inclusive and participatory process, which included the participation of 27 UN system entities and was enriched with feedback from and collaboration with other relevant inter-agency processes and mechanisms outside the CEB machinery. HLCP, at its 41st session, considered and approved the common approach, which was subsequently endorsed by the CEB at its first regular session of 2021.
Through the common approach, the UN system expresses a shared recognition of the urgency to act, and a commitment to mainstream biodiversity through better coordinated efforts that will connect and build on strategies and programmes of work of UN system entities. By leveraging the convening power and expertise from across the UN system, the common approach will contribute to supporting the implementation of the post-2020 global biodiversity framework, in alignment with the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement on climate change.
The common approach provides the normative framework, in a result-based structure, to organize collective action and joint delivery to mainstream biodiversity and nature-based solutions, complementing the UN system strategic approach on climate change action. It proposes a set of outcomes that can be achieved by the UN system through increased collaboration, as well as an accountability framework for coherent and collective outputs on biodiversity at the global, regional and country levels. It includes 15 medium-term objectives to be pursued by the UN system in partnership with governments, business and civil society. They set the overall strategic intent, and each contribute to at least one of the three impact areas: (i) human rights, peaceful societies and planetary stability; (ii) a green and inclusive economic recovery; and (iii) strengthened institutions, accountability and justice.
Complementing the CEB-endorsed product, a list of 50+ illustrative examples of practical interventions and resources that the UN system can pursue jointly in support of the common approach will remain a living document to be updated by the UN system as implementation advances.
The common approach also addresses how the UN system can demonstrate its commitment to biodiversity and nature-based solutions through its corporate behaviour, policy and programming, in line with the UN 2020-2030 Sustainability Strategy Phase I “Environmental Sustainability in the area of management”, which includes the mainstreaming and disclosure of performance on biodiversity-related measures for UN system organizations’ facilities and operational portfolios.
A common approach to integrating biodiversity and nature-based solutions for sustainable development into the UN’s policy and programme planning and delivery
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