A financial mechanism for global environmental institutions, The GEF has a mandate to address land degradation, with a particular interest in desertification and deforestation. The GEF defines land degradation as “any form of deterioration of the natural potential of land that affects ecosystem integrity either in terms of reducing its sustainable ecological productivity or in terms of its native biological richness and maintenance of resilience.”
Land degradation is a major threat to biodiversity, ecosystem stability, and society’s ability to function. Because of the interconnectivity between ecosystems across scales, land degradation triggers destructive processes that can have cascading effects across the entire biosphere. Loss of biomass through vegetation clearance and increased soil erosion produces greenhouse gases that contribute global warming and climate change.
The impacts of land degradation therefore extend far beyond local or regional scales. Hence, investing in land stewardship is essential for sustaining the multitude of global environmental benefits that humanity obtains from ecosystems.
Fulfilling UNCCD Objectives
In 2003, the GEF was designated as a financial mechanism of the UNCCD, ensuring that GEF projects addressing desertification will be aligned with objectives of the Convention. In this way, the GEF works as a complementary financial mechanism to the Global Mechanism, collectively supporting implementation of the Convention.
Establishment of the land degradation focal area coupled with formal designation as a financial mechanism for the UNCDD offered a major boost to the GEF’s investment in sustainable land management projects.
The GEF as a financial mechanism of the UNCCD directly contributes to implementation of the10-year (2008–18) Strategic Plan and Framework approved by the Conference of Parties during its 8th Session. The Strategic Plan aims “to forge a global partnership to reverse and prevent desertification/land degradation and to mitigate the effects of drought in affected areas in order to support poverty reduction and environmental sustainability.”