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National use of indicator 15.3.1

Copyright ESA, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO

Producing this indicator nationally

National capacities to process, interpret and validate geospatial data still need to be enhanced in many countries. In response to a decision of the UNCCD’s governing body in September 2017, a new Group on Earth Observations (GEO) Initiative on Land Degradation Neutrality is being created to assist countries and regions to build national capacities for monitoring and reporting on land degradation. The space-based information and in situ measurements provided to countries from this Initiative will serve multiple purposes, from the climate and biodiversity agendas to disaster risk reduction and environmental decision-making in general.

Tools to support country level analysis

Trends.Earth is a platform from Conservation International for monitoring land change using earth observations in an innovative desktop and cloud-based system. The three sub-indicators for monitoring achievement of SDG target 15.3 (namely, land cover, land productivity and soil organic carbon), as well as the calculation of SDG indicator 15.3.1  are supported by Trends.Earth. The tool also supports countries in analyzing data to prepare for their reporting committments to the UNCCD. Trends.Earth allows users to plot time series of key indicators of land change (including degradation and improvement), to produce maps and other graphics that can support monitoring and reporting, and to track the impact of sustainable land management or other projects. Trends.Earth was produced as part of the project “Enabling the use of global data sources to assess and monitor land degradation at multiple scales”, funded by the Global Environment Facility.

Use of the global method and data at national level

The indicator is derived primarily, and to the largest extent possible, from comparable and standardized national official data sources. To a certain extent, national data on the three sub-indicators is and can be collected through existing sources, including participatory inventories on land management systems as well as remote sensing data collected at the national level. However, due to the nature of the indicator, Earth observation and geospatial information from regional and global data sources can play an important role in its derivation, subject to validation by national authorities.

For countries where no data or information is available, the UNCCD and its partners provides, via the UNCCD reporting process, default national estimates from global data sources that would then be validated by national authorities. The ultimate determination of the extent of degraded land made by national authorities should be contextualized with other indicators, data and ground-based information.

Data reported by the countries themselves will follow a standardized format for UNCCD national reporting that will include the indicator and sub-indicators as well as their data sources and explanatory notes. Once received, national reports will undergo a review process by the UNCCD and its partners to ensure data integrity, correctness and completeness, the correct use of definitions and methodology as well as internal consistency.

Differences between global and national figures may arise due to differences in spatial resolution of datasets, classification approaches (i.e. definition of land cover classes) and/or contextualization with other indicators, data and information.

In order to assist countries with monitoring and reporting, a Good Practice Guidance for SDG Indicator 15.3.1 has been developed by the UNCCD and its partners.

Examples of national use

In 2014-2015, 14 countries participated in the UNCCD’s Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) pilot project to set LDN targets, including the use of the methodology and data options for reporting on the three sub-indicators. All of the countries established baselines based on these sub-indicators, either by using national data and/or global default data provided by the UNCCD and its partners. This pilot project demonstrated the importance of upfront technical assistance and country-tailored advisory services for overcoming data analysis challenges and barriers.

Launched in 2016, the LDN Target Setting Programme is now supporting 115 participating countries and their national LDN working groups, which are comprised of representatives from key stakeholders across sectors (including ministries, civil society, research, private sector and development partners), in reviewing and validating LDN baselines and targets. As of February 2018, over 60 of the 115 countries participating in the LDN-TSP have established and validated a baseline for the indicator. A number of regional and national workshops and meetings have been conducted since 2016 and more are planned for 2018. Results are expected to become publicly available towards the beginning of 2019.

Contact persons for supporting national use: Sara Minelli (sminelli [at], Sasha Alexander (salexander [at]

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