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The land degradation neutrality conceptual framework

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What is the land degradation neutrality (LDN) conceptual framework?

The  LDN conceptual framework, focuses on the goal of LDN and the supporting processes required to deliver this goal, including biophysical and socio-economic aspects, and their interactions.

The conceptual framework is applicable to all types of land degradation, so that it can be used by countries according to their individual circumstances. Setting national targets for LDN is voluntary. Countries are invited to do so in accordance with their specific national circumstances and development priorities.

The conceptual framework explains the underlying scientific processes and principles that support achievement of LDN and its intended outcomes. The framework provides a scientifically- sound basis to understand LDN, to inform the development of practical guidance for pursuing LDN and to monitor progress towards the LDN target. The LDN conceptual framework emphasises the goal of LDN which is focused on maintaining or enhancing the land resource base - in other words, the stocks of natural capital associated with land resources, in order to sustain the ecosystem services that flow from them, including food production and other livelihood benefits.

Where the natural capital has been enhanced by human activity, this augmented land resource base should be maintained or improved. The reference to food security raises the need for safeguards to ensure that vulnerable communities are not displaced when marginal lands are targeted for restoration.

The conceptual framework creates a common understanding of the LDN objective and consistency in approaches to achieving LDN. It has been designed to create a bridge between the vision and the practical implementation of LDN through National Action Programmes, by defining LDN in operational terms.

Science-policy brief 'Land in Balance'

One of the main objectives of the UNCCD Science-Policy Interface (SPI) work programme 2016-2017 is the provision of scientific guidance to operationalize land degradation neutrality (LDN). The recently released science-policy brief 'Land in Balance' gives an overview of the scientific conceptual framework for land degradation neutrality (LDN) which is being developed by the SPI. This conceptual framework creates a common understanding of the LDN objective and consistency in approaches to achieving LDN.

The Principles of LDN

The framework presents principles to be followed by all countries that choose to pursue LDN. Principles govern application of the framework and help prevent unintended outcomes during implementation and monitoring of LDN. There is flexibility in the application of many principles but the fundamental structure and approach of the framework are fixed, to ensure consistency and scientific rigour.

  1. Maintain or enhance land-based natural capital.
  2. Protect the rights of land users.
  3. Respect national sovereignty.
  4. For neutrality, the LDN target equals (is the same as) the baseline.
  5. Neutrality is the minimum objective: countries may elect to set a more ambitious target.
  6. Integrate planning and implementation of LDN into existing land use planning processes.
  7. Counterbalance anticipated losses in land-based natural capital with interventions to reverse degradation, to achieve neutrality.
  8. Manage counterbalancing at the same scale as land use planning.
  9. Counterbalance “like for like” (Counterbalance within the same land type).
  10. Balance economic, social and environmental sustainability.
  11. Base land use decisions on multi-variable assessments, considering land potential, land condition, resilience, social, cultural and economic factors.
  12. Apply the response hierarchy in devising interventions for LDN: Avoid > Reduce >Reverse land degradation.
  13. Apply a participatory process: include stakeholders, especially land users, in designing, implementing and monitoring interventions to achieve LDN.
  14. Reinforce responsible governance: protect human rights, including tenure rights; Develop a review mechanism; and ensure accountability and transparency.
  15. Monitor using the three UNCCD land-based global indicators: land cover, land productivity and carbon stocks.
  16. Use the “one-out, all-out” approach to interpret the result of these three global indicators.
  17. Use additional national and sub-national indicators to aid interpretation and to fill gaps for ecosystem services not covered by the three global indicators.
  18. Apply local knowledge and data to validate and interpret monitoring data.
  19. Apply a continuous learning.

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