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Land: Decisions of the GA and CSD

CSD-8 UN GA 19th Special Session |  CSD-3

Commission on Sustainable Development, 8th Session
New York, 24 April - 5 May 2000

Decision by the Commission on Sustainable Development at its eighth session

United Nations General Assembly, 19th Special Session
New York, 23-27 June 1997

Resolution Adopted By The General Assembly for the Programme for the Further Implementation of Agenda 21

Land and sustainable agriculture

62. Land degradation and soil loss threaten the livelihood of millions of people and future food security, with implications for water resources and the conservation of biodiversity. There is an urgent need to define ways to combat or reverse the worldwide accelerating trend of soil degradation, using an ecosystem approach, taking into account the needs of populations living in mountain ecosystems and recognizing the multiple functions of agriculture. The greatest challenge for humanity is to protect and sustainably manage the natural resource base on which food and fibre production depend, while feeding and housing a population that is still growing. The international community has recognized the need for an integrated approach to the protection and sustainable anagement of land and soil resources, as stated in decision III/11 of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity, 34/ including identification of land degradation, which involves all interested parties at the local as well as the national level, including farmers, small-scale food producers, indigenous people(s), non-governmental organizations and, in particular, women, who have a vital role in rural communities. This should include action to ensure secure land tenure and access to land, credit and training, as well as the removal of obstacles that inhibit farmers, especially small-scale farmers and peasants, from investing in and improving their lands and farms.

63. It remains essential to continue efforts for the eradication of poverty through, inter alia, capacity-building to reinforce local food systems, improving food security and providing adequate nutrition for the more than 800 million undernourished people in the world, located mainly in developing countries. Governments should formulate policies that promote sustainable agriculture as well as productivity and profitability. Comprehensive rural policies are required to improve access to land, combat poverty, create employment and reduce rural emigration. In accordance with the commitments agreed to in the Rome Declaration on World Food Security and the World Food Summit Plan of Action, adopted by the World Food Summit, 35/ sustainable food security for both the urban and the rural poor should be a policy priority, and developed countries and the international community should provide assistance to developing countries to this end. To meet these objectives, Governments should attach high priority to implementing the commitments of the Rome Declaration and Plan of Action, especially the call for a minimum target of halving the number of under- nourished people in the world by the year 2015. Governments and international organizations are encouraged to implement the Global Plan of Action for the Conservation and Sustainable Utilization of Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, adopted by the International Technical Conference on Plant Genetic Resources held at Leipzig, Germany from 17 to 23 June 1996. At the sixth session of the Commission on Sustainable Development, in 1998, the issues of sustainable agriculture and land use should be considered in relation to freshwater. The challenge for agricultural research is to increase yields on all farmlands while protecting and conserving the natural resource base. The international community and Governments must continue or increase investments in agricultural research because it can take years or decades to develop new lines of research and put research findings into sustainable practice on the land. Developing countries, particularly those with high population densities, will need international cooperation to gain access to the results of such research and to technology aimed at improving agricultural productivity in limited spaces. More generally, international cooperation continues to be needed to assist developing countries in many other aspects of basic requirements of agriculture. There is a need to support the continuation of the reform process in conformity with the Uruguay Round agreements, particularly article 20 of the Agreement on Agriculture, and to fully implement the World Trade Organization Decision on Measures Concerning the Possible Negative Effects of the Reform Programme on Least-Developed and Net Food-Importing Developing Countries.

Commission on Sustainable Development, 3rd Session
New York, 11-28 April 1995

Report of the Commission on Sustainable Development on the Third Session (11-28 April 1995)

D. Review of sectoral cluster: Land, desertification, forests and biodiversity

1. Overall considerations

158. The Commission on Sustainable Development notes that chapter 10 of Agenda 21, on an integrated approach to the planning and management of land resources, provides an overall framework for the implementation of the entire cluster. While all the chapters are related to land, those on forests and sustainable agriculture are concerned with the sustainable management and use of physical and biological resources, while those on desertification and sustainable mountain development reflect the particular problems of fragile environments; the issue of the conservation of biodiversity and the sustainable use of its components is of a cross-cutting nature, and includes those concerned with freshwater as well as coastal and marine ecosystems. Farmers - men and women - indigenous people, other rural communities and the private sector, as the major stakeholders in the use of land and its related resources, must be the focal points in all the areas of the cluster.

159. Respect for national sovereignty, as well as the need for a comprehensive approach to implementing the recommendations and commitments contained in Agenda 21, the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, and the Non-legally Binding Authoritative Statement of Principles for a Global Consensus on the Management, Conservation and Sustainable Development of All Types of Forests, are fundamental for achieving sustainable development.

160. National efforts in developing countries to mobilize financial resources for the full and effective implementation of Agenda 21, including its land- related chapters under review, have to be supported by the international community. It is imperative that all financial recommendations and commitments of Agenda 21 be implemented, in particular those contained in paragraphs 13 and 14 of chapter 33 of Agenda 21. The need for partnership for sustainable development among all countries and better cooperation and coordination among national institutions, international organizations, including international financial institutions, the private sector and non-governmental organizations, including farmers' and rural people's organizations, was underscored.

161. The sharing of scientific knowledge and the transfer of environmentally sound technology, including on concessional and preferential terms as mutually agreed, in accordance with the provisions of chapter 34, are crucial instruments for achieving the objectives of Agenda 21.

162. The Commission on Sustainable Development recommends that high priority be given to the facilitation of practical action for the transfer, sharing, adaptation and development of technology for sustainable resource management in all sectors, at the national and international levels, including under the auspices of the United Nations system, in particular UNEP, UNIDO and UNESCO, and of international conventions, as appropriate. Such action should include support for a wide range of initiatives, including (a) capacity- and institution-building; (b) exchange of information, making use, inter alia, of inventories on eco-technologies in those sectors; and (c) education and training - through the establishment of mechanisms such as environmental technology centres.

163. The Commission on Sustainable Development urges States to sign, ratify, accede to and implement the Convention on Biological Diversity, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification in those Countries Experiencing Serious Drought and/or Desertification, particularly in Africa, making these Conventions the principal instruments for advancing international cooperation and practical action in their respective fields. The Commission stresses the need for the formulation of coordinated approaches towards the implementation of these instruments at the national and international levels, with a view to making efficient use of resources. The Commission further agrees to look into the relationship between work under these Conventions and ongoing work on sustainable development in other related processes in the follow-up to the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development.

164. In accordance with General Assembly resolution 49/111 on the report of the Commission on Sustainable Development on its second session, the Commission encourages Governments to continue to share their experiences in the implementation of Agenda 21, taking into account recent efforts and initiatives to promote sustainable development at the national, subregional, regional and interregional levels. It welcomes the readiness of some countries to accomplish specific sustainable development goals by means of closer regional cooperation to facilitate the implementation of Agenda 21, and recognizes the importance of regional approaches for the effective implementation of the Conference agreements to support global and national efforts. The Commission calls upon the regional commissions to increase their efforts in support of recent national, subregional, regional and interregional initiatives for promoting sustainable development. It also recognizes the need to strengthen its ties with regional institutions and in particular with the regional commissions. The Commission will continue to review and monitor these regional initiatives aimed at making the transition to sustainable development more effective in all countries and which support appropriate global and national efforts.

2. Integrated approach to the planning and management of land resources

165. The Commission notes with great concern that an estimated one sixth of the total arable land surface of the globe has been damaged by human-induced soil degradation. A global partnership is required to protect and restore the health of the Earth's terrestrial ecosystems.

166. The Commission notes with concern the convergence of poverty, hunger and the degradation of terrestrial resources in environmentally more fragile marginal lands, where the large majority of poor smallholder farmers are increasingly located. The Commission calls upon Governments, bilateral donors, multilateral financial institutions, technical specialized agencies, and non-governmental organizations to give a high priority to rural development in such lower-potential areas, particularly by enhancing the productivity of farmers on a sustainable basis.

167. The Commission stresses that an integrated approach to the planning and management of land and water resources is central to the implementation of Agenda 21 recommendations concerning land, desertification, mountains, forests and biodiversity. Land needs to be considered as a finite resource relative to many and varied needs; its allocation must aim to satisfy these needs in the most equitable and sustainable way.

168. An integrated and multidisciplinary approach to the planning, development and management of land resources is a process that methodically identifies human and environmental needs; identifies the potential and options for change and improvement; identifies and evaluates all relevant physical, social, economic and policy factors; and develops a series of actions necessary to permit and facilitate change. The process needs to address an array of cross-sectoral issues, such as the creation of productive employment; the eradication of poverty; responses to pressures on the land caused by poverty; unsustainable consumption and production; population growth; and changing demographic patterns. The clarification and security of land rights, possibly involving land-tenure and ownership reforms, are central to the solution of such problems. A holistic approach to the management of land resources requires the integration of land and water-resource issues as they relate to land use. The mismanagement of land and water often leads to land degradation in the form of erosion, flooding, waterlogging and salinity, and the depletion of groundwater resources. The demands of rural and urban communities for land and its associated water resources will often conflict with each other if they are not properly managed.

169. The Commission notes that soil and water degradation due to contamination by agricultural, urban and industrial effluents is of increasing importance in both developed and developing countries; the Commission invites Governments, international organizations and groups to increase their efforts in this field.

170. A people-oriented approach that is adapted to suit local circumstances is central to the sustainable development of land resources. All stakeholders, especially women, farmers, indigenous peoples, landless labourers and other major groups, should participate in the planning and management of land resources, in identifying problems and in proposing solutions and should also participate in the consensus- building process. For that process, the intermediate level is important: Governments should encourage the participation of all stakeholders at that level. The empowerment of people and communities, the creation of social equity and an enabling environment, and the strengthening of capacities and the building of awareness at all levels are all important elements in this multi-stakeholder approach. Security of tenure and the existence of equitable and efficient legal and fiscal systems are important management tools for ensuring increased productivity and securing conservation efforts.

171. The Commission notes with appreciation the outcome of the international workshop on Agenda 21, chapter 10, entitled "Integrated approach to the planning and management of land resources", which was organized by the Government of the Netherlands and FAO and hosted by the Government of the Netherlands (Wageningen, 20-22 February 1995). The Commission invites the Government of the Netherlands and FAO to disseminate the report and recommendations of the workshop (E/CN.17/1995/33, annex) as widely as possible.

172. The Commission stresses the importance of the collecting, processing and disseminating of timely and reliable information, as well as the importance of utilizing modern land-assessment and evaluation technologies, together with technologies for resource characterization, all of which are essential for the planning and management of land resources. The development and use of appropriate indicators, including performance indicators, on the basis of sound scientific knowledge that is tailored to meet local requirements and circumstances, are essential for formulating and implementing policies and monitoring results. There is a need to ensure that technical information is fully linked with social and economic aspects at the local, regional and national levels. The Commission also takes note with appreciation of the report of the Panel on Science and Technology for Integrated Land Management of the Commission on Science and Technology for Development; the report adds an important dimension in furthering the implementation of chapter 10 of Agenda 21.

173. The Commission notes with concern the uneven pace of progress achieved in implementing the objectives and recommendations contained in chapter 10 of Agenda 21, especially with regard to existing institutional structures, which are largely sector- oriented, thus leading to an overlapping of governmental responsibilities; the Commission also notes the need for community-driven approaches.

174. The Commission urges Governments to take all necessary steps to achieve the objectives set out in chapter 10 within the agreed time-frame. At the international level, priority should be given to the development of a holistic and integrated framework for establishing social and economic conditions that will facilitate sustainable production and the conservation of biodiversity. Technical and infrastructural support, which can be applied in any country with appropriate modifications to take account of local needs and conditions, will be desirable in many cases.

175. The Commission urges Governments, in keeping with their respective needs and priorities, to develop national and/or local land-use planning systems that contain a statement of objectives and a detailed timetable for implementation spread over a period of years. Such systems should aim to remove constraints and provide incentives, thus enhancing the involvement and empowerment of peoples; should develop information and management systems; and should modify institutions, establishing suitable linkages among them. The Commission also urges Governments to exchange views on their programmes for integrated land management, involving all sectors of the community and all stakeholder groups, developed and implemented at the appropriate level.

176. The Commission requests the Secretary-General to strengthen coordination and cooperation among the organizations and bodies of the United Nations system by developing and implementing joint approaches and collaborative programmes. FAO, in partnership with UNEP, UNDP, other international bodies and Governments, and with the appropriate contributions of non-governmental organizations, should develop tools and recommend actions for integrated land management. Such action should involve the Commission in its capacity as a forum for the exchange of knowledge and experience in an open and transparent manner, with the full and effective participation of developing countries in a way that reflects their specific conditions and needs.

177. The Commission urges Governments, with the cooperation and support of the organizations and bodies of the United Nations system, as appropriate, to pay particular attention to:

(a) Establishing stable land-use systems in areas where important ecosystems or ecoregions are being endangered by human activities;

(b) Applying integrated planning and development approaches in regions that are becoming open to intensified settlement and agricultural production;

(c) Bringing about integrated approaches to capacity-building.

178. The Commission reaffirms the commitments contained in chapters 33 and 34 of Agenda 21 for the effective implementation of chapter 10 of Agenda 21.



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16 July 2007