Commonwealth unites for land restoration

President William Ruto speaks during COP28. [File, Standard]

Kenya has been selected to spearhead climate-resilient agriculture for food security initiatives across the 56 Commonwealth countries.

This leadership role falls under the new “Living Lands Charter Implementation Framework” launched by the Commonwealth Secretariat at a high-level event organised alongside COP28 in Dubai.

The framework facilitates coordinated efforts to tackle land, biodiversity and climate challenges impacting billions of people living in the Commonwealth’s combined territories.

Alongside Kenya’s focus on food security, Guyana will lead on sustainable green cover and biodiversity conservation. Malta will head up programs conserving soil and water resources.

Within each thematic area, the Commonwealth will provide extensive support to help countries fulfill their commitments. This assistance includes mobilizing resources, conducting analysis to inform policymaking, strengthening institutional governance, building capacity, and generating knowledge for member states.

The launch comes after extensive consultations with Commonwealth countries since the adoption of the Living Lands Charter last year. It offered Commonwealth leaders, ministers, and development partners an opportunity to learn about the framework, share country experiences and foster collaboration on land issues.

Speakers at the event, including Prime Minister Robert Abela of Malta; Ibrahim Thiaw, Executive Secretary of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification, and David Cooper, acting Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity, expressed their support for the framework.

“Our Commonwealth encompasses a quarter of the world’s land area and is home to a third of the world’s mega-biodiverse countries. More than 400 endemic species are found in our small island states,” said Patricia Scotland, Commonwealth Secretary-General.

She said the impact of climate change is increasingly severe across Commonwealth countries. “Food insecurity is increasing. Soil is depleting. The sheer scale of these challenges compels us to lead with bold action.”

Ms Scotland said that with this implementation framework, the Commonwealth is taking a major step forward. “It will leverage the combined strength of the Commonwealth through thematic action working groups – learning from each other and spurring one another on towards systems change and a better future for all.”

The framework takes a comprehensive approach to implementing the Living Lands Charter across five thematic action areas: climate-resilient agriculture for food security, soil and water conservation, and sustainable green cover and biodiversity.

Others are carbon-neutral and climate-resilient livestock rearing and animal husbandry, and indigenous and local people for climate-resilient development. Mr Abela said the world is facing a triple planetary crisis. Given this, addressing climate change, protecting biodiversity, and enabling the ecological restoration of land has become an urgent priority globally.

“As Commonwealth members, we renew our commitment to work together towards this aim through the call to action on Living Lands Charter. We hope that our experience inspires Commonwealth countries facing similar tough challenges,” he said.

Mr Thiaw said land degradation is impacting 3.2 billion people, most of them in the diverse Commonwealth countries.

“The biggest threat to security in the world today is environmental destruction. We must be clear that Living Lands is not only about a sector or a line ministry, but also about entire nations and livelihoods,” he said.

Mr Cooper described the Living Lands Charter as an important instrument that will help galvanise action across the 56 countries of the Commonwealth and strengthen coordinated action across the three Rio Conventions.