Food Tank

Future-Focused Policies Target Desertification

This year’s Future Policy Award, a joint initiative between the World Future Council and U.N. Convention on Combating Desertification, is honoring the world’s best policy solutions combating desertification and land degradation.

Photograph courtesy of Chetan Soni, 2009 UNCCD Photo Contest.

The 2017 Future Policy Award (FPA) identifies and honors policies and laws around the world that are effectively combating desertification and land degradation. Each year, the World Future Council50 global leaders from governments, parliaments, civil society, academia, business, and the arts—identifies one topic on which policy progress is particularly urgent. This year, in partnership with the U.N. Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), laws and policies were evaluated that address the topic of desertification.

“Desertification and land degradation are a threat to food security, livelihoods, and the health of hundreds of millions of people. According to U.N. Water, 40 percent of the world’s population (up to 2.8 billion people) are now living in water-scarce regions. Twenty-five percent of all land globally is highly degraded and fifty-two percent of land used for agriculture is moderately or severely affected by soil degradation,” says Ingrid Heindorf, Policy Officer of the Future Policy Award. “The Future Policy Award, which highlights issues on which policy progress is particularly urgent, could help to turn the tide.”

A call for nominations was sent to more than 600 experts from intergovernmental organizations, nonprofit organizations, research institutions, government agencies, and other notable institutions active in addressing desertification. In order to qualify, policies must specifically contribute towards Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) target 15.3, to “combat desertification, restore degraded land and soil, including land affected by desertification, drought, and floods, and strive to achieve a land degradation-neutral world.”

Policies score highly in the FPA by advancing the sustainable use of resources while also addressing equity, the eradication of poverty, community participation, and the peaceful resolution of conflicts, adhering to the Seven Principles for Future-Just Lawmaking.

“The Future Policy Award is the only award which honors policies rather than people on an international level. Whilst hundreds of lobbyists work on parliamentarians to promote the interests of the few, we are focusing on supporting parliamentarians to save the common interest—with policies that are future-oriented, sustainable, and work for the local people,” says Heindorf.

Ethiopia’s Tigray region took home the Gold Award with its unique collective action, voluntary labor, and youth-inclusive approach to land conservation. Through Mass Mobilization Campaigns and a Youth Responsive Land Policy, villagers in Tigray contribute up to 20 days per year of voluntary labor towards restoration and sustainable agriculture practices, and youth are provided access to land in exchange for restoring degraded communal lands. Since 1991, soil and water conservation activities have been undertaken on more than 2 million hectares, significantly decreasing erosion in the region.

Brazil took out the silver prize for its Cisterns Program, which was developed in 2003 and made law in 2013. This program empowers millions of the poor, rural residents to be in control of their own water needs, generate income, and enhance food security by using simple rainwater collection technology. China was also awarded the silver prize for its Law on Prevention and Control of Desertification (2002), the world’s first integrated law dedicated to combating desertification. China intends to rehabilitate 10 million hectares of desertified land in from 2016 to 2020, with the Law fortifying the country’s efforts.

The international jury granted three Bronze Awards to policy initiatives in Australia, Jordan, Niger. Australia’s Indigenous Protected Areas and Rangers Programmes engages more than 2,600 indigenous rangers across the country care for and protect the waters, biodiversity, and cultural values of a designated arid area. To date, 75 Indigenous Protected Areas make up 44.7 percent of Australia’s National Reserve System and have created the world’s largest contiguous area of protected arid land.

Jordan’s Updated Rangeland Strategy is enshrining the Middle East’s most widespread indigenous land tenure systems known as “Hima” into law. “Hima” signifies a natural area that is set aside permanently or seasonally for the public good and may not be privately owned. And Niger’s large-scale, cross-sectoral 3N Initiative called Nigeriens Nourishing Nigeriens, addresses land degradation and food security. The policy focuses on soil fertility by enhancing sustainable agricultural practices.

The FPA also allocates a Future Policy Vision Award to a policy that is highly likely to prove its effectiveness in the years to come. This year’s recipient is the international 4 per 1000 Initiative, which promotes farming techniques that combat climate change through increasing soil organic carbon.

The awards were presented at an award ceremony in September 2017 in cooperation with UNCCD in Ordos, China. Chinese Vice President Mr. Li Yuanchao, representatives from U.N. member states, and members of the media were present to turn the spotlight on the looming environmental challenge and effective responses. More information on the winning policies can be found in the 2017 Future Policy Award brochure.

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