December 18, 2015

Partnership debuts campaign encouraging UN member states to scale up integrated landscape management to achieve the SDGs

Louis Wertz, EcoAgriculture Partners

Now is the time for governments to adopt new approaches to development and sustainable growth.

To overcome climate change and achieve the sustainable development goals will require a new development paradigm. Fortunately, such an alternative model already exists, called ‘integrated landscape management’, and it has the support of everyone from forward-thinking corporations to developing and developed country governments to the United Nations Environment Program.

A new white paper and dynamic suite of supporting materials from the Landscapes for People, Food and Nature Initiative argue that to achieve the sustainable development goals by 2030, states will need to adopt this approach throughout their land use and development plans, and across the whole of government.

“Implementing integrated landscape management as a part of sustainable development strategies will be critical to securing the future we want.”
– UNEP Director General Achim Steiner

How quickly states, financial institutions, and companies can help scale it up will be the test of their commitment to the new climate and sustainable development agreements. Integrated landscape management uses collaborative, place-based natural resources planning to shape development projects, in contrast to the sector-based (e.g. water, health, agriculture) solutions that have failed to deliver over the past decades.

The paper is titled “Landscape Partnerships for Sustainable Development: Achieving the SDGs through Integrated Landscape Management.” You can read the key arguments, download the paper, watch a video, explore an interactive map on integrated landscape initiatives around the world, and see how integrated landscape management can help achieve multiple SDGs with single well-designed interventions on a fun infographic at

Welcomed as new sustainable growth model

Collaborative planning and action at landscape scale in particular is essential to support improved coordination, the identification of synergies, and the management of trade-offs.

In Integrated Landscape Management stakeholders share evidence, information and best practices. Planning, implementation and monitoring processes are harmonized. Strategies and plans are coordinated between national, sub-national, and local governments, making the best use of scarce financial resources by reducing redundancies and risk, and increasing returns by capturing the added value of synergies.

UNEP Director General Achim Steiner hailed the publication, saying, “Now is the time, as we set out to achieve a new universal and integrated set of development goals, for governments to adopt new approaches to development and sustainable growth. Implementing integrated landscape management as a part of sustainable development strategies will be critical to securing the future we want.”

Approach is already at work around the world

The white paper musters evidence from the collective experiences of some of the world’s leading organizations now using or promoting integrated landscape management in development projects, including CATIE, UNEP, GIZ, CIFOR and World Resources Institute along with data from studies surveying more than 350 integrated landscape initiatives (explore the map below). The paper also draws on lessons learned from decades of failed sector-based projects in critical ecosystems, impoverished and degraded areas, and climate change affected regions.

Mamadou Diakhite, Team Leader, Sustainable Land and Water Management, NEPAD Agency, says, “We’ve been working to implement this approach through our programs across Africa, because we’ve seen the value of landscape-level planning to coordinate development interventions and outcomes. If this paper helps one African government include the approach in its sustainable development plans, then it will have been worthwhile. I think it can do much more than that.”

ILM calls for specific shifts to enable sustainable development

The experts behind the campaign argue that the International community, donors, investors, and national governments should prioritize support for integrated place-based – rather than sector-based – development finance. Recent analysis points to these key conditions for scaling up integrated landscape management.

Laws and regulations need to be coherent and consistent across the landscape. Policies should be both vertically and horizontally coherent: that is, they should be synchronized between levels of government and across jurisdictions.

Rights and control over resources and decision making must lie with the stakeholders in order for them to invest in platforms for negotiation and and long-term strategies and plans.

Coordinated finance is needed to support planning and monitoring as well as on-the-ground activities. Multi-stakeholder decision-making platforms need resources to convene and facilitate, support knowledge-sharing, and create and maintain partnerships, in addition to funds for programs or projects. These resources are not waste. They create valuable social goods and are explicitly called for by SDGs 16 and 17.

The Landscapes for People, Food and Nature Initiative also released a paper at the Global Landscapes Forum focusing on finance and investment coordination for integrated landscape management.’

Based on broad and deep experience

The paper was co-authored by a team drawn from partners of the Landscapes for People, Food and Nature Initiative, led by Melissa Thaxton of EcoAgriculture Partners and including Peter Hazlewood (World Resources Institute), Leida Mercado (Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Center – CATIE), Constance Neely (World Agroforestry Centre), Sara J. Scherr (EcoAgriculture Partners), Louis Wertz (EcoAgriculture Partners), Sylvia Wood (Bioversity), and Edoardo Zandri (United Nations Environment Programme).

Thaxton, partnership coordinator for the Landscapes for People, Food and Nature Initiative secretariat at EcoAgriculture Partners, was enthusiastic about the collaboration, saying, “It was really powerful to work on this white paper with so many dedicated experts in development, resource management, and conservation. We really dug into the issues here and found so much common ground that the paper’s recommendations can really help governments achieve the SDGs, with support from the international community.”

Watch the Video

Find Out More

Key messages, case studies, an interactive infographic, and more, are available at

Louis Wertz is Head of Communications at EcoAgriculture Partners, and leads the communications working group of the Landscapes for People, Food and Nature Initiative.

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