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Diverse Knowledge and the Solutions #ForNature How are national ecosystem assessments finding solutions for nature and people?

In 2021, we celebrate International Day for Biological Diversity with the slogan, "We’re part of the solution.” This year’s slogan is an opportunity to celebrate people around the world who are an integral part of the many solutions for nature, whether through their work, knowledge or ways of life.

People depend on healthy ecosystems and their services to society, from nutrition and pollination to purifying water and regulating climate; healthy ecosystems provide countless benefits that underpin our wellbeing and livelihoods.

A better understanding of our dependencies and impacts on nature can improve policies and decisions across sectors. Many countries around the world are strengthening this understanding through national ecosystem assessments (NEAs), shedding light on diverse solutions for nature and reflecting its full value in decision-making.

Knowledge for solutions, solutions for nature

NEAs deliver critical knowledge on biodiversity and ecosystem services that can be used by decision-makers to address questions and solutions for nature and society. A diverse group of knowledge holders come together to examine existing information and data on nature and its contributions to people. This is then captured and communicated in a way that is relevant and useful across sectors, to inform policies and decisions that benefit people and nature.

Practitioners from 11 countries across 5 continents are being part of the solution through their own NEAs. Interdisciplinary assessment teams are engaging with many stakeholders and their diverse knowledge systems to reflect the trends in nature and its value to society. This includes indigenous peoples and local communities (IPLCs), researchers, practitioners, civil society, the private sector and policymakers, all collaborating to strengthen knowledge and policy on biodiversity and ecosystem services. Four countries, namely Cameroon, Colombia, Ethiopia and Viet Nam, will complete their NEAs by the end of this year and will start using their findings to advise decision-making and leverage solutions for nature and people.

Diverse knowledge systems from diverse ecosystems

Much of our current knowledge and data comes from the work of scientists, experts and practitioners who have dedicated their lives to the conservation and sustainable use of nature. However, valuable knowledge of nature and its benefits can also be found in the knowledge systems, languages and cultures of IPLCs which are often deeply rooted in the natural world. More IPLCs are engaging in conversations on biodiversity and ecosystem services contributing their experience, expertise and valuable solutions for sustaining various aspects of nature and society.

In turn, assessment teams around the world are striving to include IPLCs among other stakeholders in the NEA process. The NEA team in Colombia centred their National Trialogue around the country’s biocultural diversity and dedicated a chapter in their assessment to indigenous and local knowledge. The NEA team in Grenada embraced the power of digital storytelling and encouraged stakeholders to creatively share their solutions for the challenges facing nature. NEA country teams are now being supported by UNESCO’s experts to improve how scientific researchers, indigenous peoples and local communities can share knowledge in fair and effective ways.

The challenges facing nature are diverse, as are the solutions to these challenges. NEAs around the world are helping countries identify and leverage diverse solutions, supporting greater consideration of nature’s contributions to people in decision-making. As the international community revises its goals for nature and climate, NEAs can also support countries implement their environmental commitments, working towards the 2050 Vision of “Living in harmony with nature”.

UNEP-WCMC’s National Ecosystem Assessment Initiative is part of BES-Net and works in collaboration with UNDP and UNESCO. This work is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety’s International Climate Initiative (IKI).

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