As world leaders planned finance strategies for executing the Sustainable Development Goals, we highlighted the many advantages of Integrated Landscape Initiatives.
From July 13-16th world leaders and national delegations from more than 150 countries convened in Africa’s diplomatic capital to hammer out the logistics of paying for the post 2015 development agenda. The Financing for Development Conference (FfD3) was the third international event of its kind, providing unique opportunities for high-level decision makers to discuss humanity’s most pressing challenges, coordinate plans for global efforts to address these issues, and cooperatively determine the means for putting those plans in effect. This year, the discussion focused on delivering a formal agreement on how to pay for the sustainable development agenda that will presumably be approved at the upcoming United Nations General Assembly in September.
17 proposed Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) containing 169 targets, negotiated intergovernmentally over a three-plus year process, are expected to be approved by the General Assembly in New York. This list will provide the framework for sustainable development efforts for the next 15+ years. The FfD3 talks focused on governments and private sector responsibilities to supply the needed capital to meet the SDGs.
Global resources for development are currently horribly misallocated. For instance, despite a stock of $218 trillion in annual available global financial assets, there remains an unmet need of $2.5 trillion in credit for small and medium enterprises in the developing world. The Intergovernmental Committee of Experts on Sustainable Development Financing reports that the share of investment subject to environmental, social and governance considerations remains shockingly small, at just 7% ($611 trillion) of investments within the $12,143 trillion global capital market in 2010.
The Addis Ababa Action Agenda (AAAA), agreed at the conference, provides a political framework, and some promising new partnerships and initiatives, to help close these gaps. But missing from the AAAA are concrete commitments for action. So what really matters now are the commitments that countries make over the remainder of 2015 to increase and improve financing for sustainable development. Opportunities for those commitments abound, with critical meetings on open government, the SDGs, trade, and climate change upcoming. But what should those commitments look like, and where should governments be focusing (at least some of) their financing attention? The Landscapes for People, Food and Nature Initiative is working with a coalition of organizations to demonstrate the case for commitments to fund Integrated Landscape Initiatives (ILIs), and a side event at FfD3 continued that conversation with national leaders.
In aiming higher to achieve the SDGs, can we finance programs that don’t fall short?
The comprehensive nature of the SDGs means there are many entry points and interrelations between the goals. Therefore, synergistic investments are increasingly possible. Investing in schooling for girls, for example, has knock-on effects for health, population pressure, and economic growth, among others. Aligning finance with the best opportunities to achieve multiple goals is just common sense. But how to do this practically, when the private sector so often reports a lack of access to investable projects? How can governments get projects “investment-ready” and how can they ensure those projects are poised to help them achieve multiple SDGs?
Over the past three years, Seth Shames, the Director of Policy and Markets at EcoAgriculture Partners, has been leading research studying how multiple-objective land use projects are financed. Shames points to the increasing prominence of financial mechanisms that invest in what we broadly term “integrated landscapes.” With co-authors Gabrielle Kissinger and Margot Hill-Clarvis, Shames identified 250 financial mechanisms already supporting integrated landscape management and 29 integrated landscape initiatives that are creatively accessing financing to achieve their goals. The results of this study, and continuing work supported by UNEP and the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs, demonstrate that a clear pathway to finding sustainable, investable projects is through partnering with ILIs. Governments and development organizations must do more to support, or enable, these initiatives. National commitments to increased sustainable development finance in 2015 should prioritize those types of enabling investments.
The case of Ethiopia’s investment in ILIs
Mr. Sertse Sebuh, Unit Coordinator of Ethiopia’s Climate Resilient Green Economy (CRGE) Program, spoke passionately about the important change in approach to land management Ethiopia has made over the past decade. He emphasized the importance of integrated landscape initiatives in Ethiopia and described national programs on sustainable land management and climate change based on the approach. As he noted, in the 1970s and 80s, Ethiopia approached land management at a massive scale, with management units of 30-40 thousand hectares. Sebuh says, “Large scale efforts remained mostly unsatisfactory due to a lack of effective community participation, limited sense of responsibility over assets created and an unmanageable planning unit.” Land degradation was rampant, with nearly 27 million hectares, or nearly 50%, of the highland area of the country degraded by the mid 1980s.
In response, the country turned to what is referred to in Ethiopia as ”watershed development”. These much smaller management units also followed a new set of guidelines for interaction with the local community, returning decision-making about land management to the local level. The approach has, in general, enhanced “sizable opportunities for synergy between multiple objectives in the landscapes/watersheds; that is social, economic and environmental,” Sebuh says.
According to Sebuh, these investments in local management through participatory processes, essentially creating thousands of integrated landscape initiatives across the country, has supported the design and coordination of public-private partnerships.
International Organizations are moving to support ILIs
Sebuh was followed by Gustavo Fonseca of the Global Environment Facility, Cyriaque Sendashonga from IUCN, and Ivo Mulder of UNEP who all provided illustrative examples of their organizations’ programs focusing on supporting integrated landscape initiatives. Comments during the discussion portion of the event reinforced the need to identify public programs that support integrated landscape initiatives by strengthening partnerships and leveraging private investment through ILI-developed and approved projects.
It is too bad that those sentiments did not make it explicitly into the AAAA. Yet the opportunity is still out there. Limited public funds will need to be used strategically to solve complex and interrelated development and environment challenges. As discussions of how best to target those funds continue through the rest of the year, governments should be doing more than just talking about how to enable integrated landscape initiatives, they should be committing to action to do so.