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Natural Resource Management

The key elements of this theme are the utilization of natural resources at a sustainable level with a focus on minimizing depletion and the reduction in input of pollutants to these resources. The focal points are conservation of biodiversity, combating desertification and conservation of mountain ecosystems.
As duly recognized in Agenda 21, the urgent need for today is to utilize our natural resources in a sustainable manner with a focus on minimizing their depletion and pollution. Aiming at this broad objective, the activities undertaken by UNU under this theme are particularly focused on conservation of biological diversity, mitigate the effects of desertification and sustainable management of mountain resources and ecosystems. PLEC and 'Land Degradation in Marginal Lands' are the two prominent initiatives under this programmatic theme.

The welfare of human societies and the quality of life is directly linked to sustainable use of the natural resources. This has been duly recognized in Agenda 21, where it is stated that:

"Special attention should be paid to the demand for natural resources generated by unsustainable consumption and to the efficient use of those resources consistent with the goal of minimizing depletion and reducing pollution."

The key elements are the utilization of natural resources at a sustainable level with a focus on minimizing depletion and the reduction in input of pollutants to these resources. These broad themes have been crystallized into two UN conventions dealing directly with conservation of natural resources: the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD). The CBD was inspired by the world community's growing commitment to sustainable development and represented a dramatic step forward in the conservation of biological diversity. Similarly, the objective of UNCCD is mitigate the effects of desertification and, particularly in Africa. This can be achieved in the affected areas through long-term integrated strategies that focus simultaneously on improved productivity of land and the rehabilitation, conservation and sustainable management of land and water resources.

Additionally, it was realized in Agenda 21 (Chapter 13) that mountains are an also important source of water, energy and biological diversity; these natural resources are often threatened by accelerated soil erosion, landslides and rapid loss of habitat and genetic diversity. Hence, the proper management of mountain resources and socio-economic development of the people deserve immediate action.

Projects and Initiatives:
  • People, Land Management and Environmental Change (PLEC):
    Initiated in 1993, its overarching goal is to develop sustainable and participatory approaches to biodiversity conservation within agricultural regions located in priority ecosystems such as forests, mountains, semi-arid, freshwater and wetlands. Working in close collaboration with farmers and local communities, PLEC approach is to integrate locally developed knowledge with scientific assessments so that crop and management diversities are maintained.

  • Integrating Land Management in Dry Areas:
    The objective of this project is to assist the developing countries in dry areas to manage their land resources, while achieving sustainable utilization of water and biodiversity resources contained therein. Integrated management of natural resources and developing multidisciplinary approaches is the key to achieving these objectives. The project functions as a network of researchers and institutions working together through project activities and research programmes.

  • Role of Forests in Sustainable Development:
    The United Nations University launched the new project on the role of forests in sustainable development, focussing on research networking and building human capacity - particularly in developing and transitionary countries. The project aims to develop a sustainable forest management and partnership research program, and to disseminate results from the Word Forests, Society and Environment Program (WFSE).

  • Training and Research Capacities for Forestry Policy Development in Countries with Economies in Transition:
    This project, initiated by the United Nations University (UNU), European Forest Institute (EFI) and University of Joensuu - SILVA Network, will examine the state-of-the-art and challenges for forest research and higher education in the countries with economies in transition, and analyze the possibilities of research and education to contribute to forest policy development processes in those countries.

  • Global Mountains Partnership Programme:
    UNU in partnership with the Centre for Development and Environment (CDE) at the University of Berne, Switzerland, has developed a comprehensive programme on sustainable mountain development. It aims to contribute to improved understanding of the status of different mountain systems in relation to global change, the pressures these mountains are exposed to, including their consequences on human, natural, economic resources, and the responses created by different social groups and mountain societies.

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