The world is torn apart by the pandemic; the threat of global warming and climate change looms on the horizon; developing economies are slowing down; unemployment is on the rise; inequalities peak; social cohesion breaks down; and world peace is at stake as the political views of individuals in social space and the geopolitical positions of nations become more polarized. In the midst of this gloom, human systems have always reacted with a certain positivity, revealing incredible resilience. It is in this spirit of resilience that the United Nations (UN) is celebrating World Environment Day this year with the theme of “ecosystem restoration”. On this occasion, the United Nations Decade for the Restoration of Ecosystems is also launched.
While such a theme may lead to the idea that climate change and other related environmental issues have been put on the back burner, the exact opposite is true. Rather, the theme is a reminder to the human community that the fundamental force of life resides in the natural ecosystem; the human system is a component of the larger socio-ecological system, and the forces emanating from the two systems influence each other. As such, the spread of the novel coronavirus is a stark reminder to humanity to rethink, revise and rework its patterns of behavior in terms of interactive dynamics with the natural ecosystem. Unbridled human ambitions and development aspirations have often gone so far as to undermine an essential ecosystem support service – biological control – the result of which is often felt in terms of large-scale crop losses and harvests. epidemics, which sometimes take the form of pandemics. The loss of the ecosystem has also resulted in the loss of provisioning services (like food, fish, water, medicinal plants, etc.) that have clear links to lives and livelihoods at different scales. On the other hand, ecosystem losses lead to changes in the capacities of ecosystems to sequester and store carbon, as well as to alter the capacities of ecosystems to act as a biological shield against cyclones and extreme events, or to minimize the impacts of droughts or floods. From all these perspectives, therefore, ecosystem restoration is an extremely critical message. The action has its implications for human livelihoods and development, human health and nutrition, and climate change adaptation and mitigation.
Ecosystem restoration is a phenomenon already in vogue, as the global north has experienced problems with land use change and changes in flow regimes. In addition to forest clearings, the construction of large-scale dams and structural interventions on rivers have resulted in irreversible destruction of ecosystems at the basin level.
At the same time, it should not be forgotten that ecosystem restoration is already a phenomenon in vogue, given that the Global North has experienced problems of land use change and flow regime. In addition to forest clearings, the construction of large-scale dams and structural interventions on rivers have resulted in irreversible destruction of ecosystems at the basin level. However, recently, the adoption by the EU of the Water Framework Directive in 2000 has led to a wave of dam dismantling in Europe. The last two decades have seen approximately 5,000 structural interventions of this type that fragmented river systems have been removed in France, Sweden, Finland, Spain and the UK. Interestingly, the United States, the country that witnessed large-scale dam construction from the 1920s to the 1960s, also dismantled around 1,200 of these structures in recent decades to try to revive the ecosystem of the basin. However, such phenomena are not so common in emerging economies and the growth nerve of the world, especially China and India. Ecosystem restoration is indeed sporadic and infrequent in these parts, and does not really lead to the addition of forest land on a macro-scale or to the restoration of the natural flow regime.
The importance of development partnerships
Globally, ecosystem restoration must be based primarily on building lasting and lasting partnerships. The dispute over reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, generating green finance or finding viable solutions to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) has been in the headlines for years. With the onset of the pandemic since the end of 2019, we can observe a marked change in human lifestyles and also in the attitudes or positions of nation states. He highlighted the need for an effective response and risk management of an unknown enemy, in this case the COVID-19 virus.
Thus, development partnerships are considered to be synonymous with financial aid or even official development assistance (ODA). Traditionally, the concept of cultivating developmental support for oneself and for others has been the result of a variety of historical processes and theoretical concepts. To put it precisely, the idea of development is the product of a long-term relationship between Europe and the non-European parts of the world whose activities were dominated by old colonial power relations. In the contemporary world, the development partnership is the bridge that connects the prosperous Global North and the less prosperous Global South. Although this divide appears to be blurring, India still has to grapple with the underlying currents of unequal power rivalries, especially the Chinese challenge. Nonetheless, countries are rushing to collaborate and converge to fight the virus by shipping COVID aid in the form of vaccines, medical kits, testing devices, oxygen concentrators, and more. As a result, development partnerships have undergone significant economic and political changes.
Countries are rushing to collaborate and converge to fight the virus by shipping COVID aid in the form of vaccines, medical kits, testing devices, oxygen concentrators, and more. As a result, development partnerships have undergone significant economic and political changes.
Link between development partnerships and ecosystem restoration: the case of India and the European Union (EU)
Considering that the world has now entered the decade of action, efforts to mitigate and adapt to climate change have become extremely imperative. The broader goal of achieving the SDGs can be classified as a natural catalyst for building partnerships, as the recently launched program aptly points out. SDG Index and Scoreboard (2020-21) speak NITI Ayog. SDG 17, focused on the global partnership for the goals, is in the spotlight here. As India, as an emerging partner, attempts to move beyond the traditional donor-recipient relationship, members of the Organization’s Development Assistance Committee (DAC) are expected of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) do more by honoring their pledge to provide 0.7% of gross national income in the form of ODA.
Clearly, the pandemic has delayed progress, causing cascading effects with economic setbacks, political upheaval or widespread health emergencies. Nonetheless, an effective risk response and management system is essential if the world is to be dignified in the years to come. A coalition-based approach could be a good start. Take, for example, India’s key initiatives with the launch of the International Solar Alliance (ISA) in 2015 or the Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (CDRI) in 2019. These two platforms provide an avenue for sharing knowledge and transmission of technical expertise to help other developing countries. in building resilient and robust societies. It also offers a window of opportunity for New Delhi to mobilize funding, necessary investments and rationalization of institutional capacities in developing regions of Africa and South Asia.
In this regard, one can also look at the approach of a traditional donor, say the European Union (EU). The new European Commission headed by Ursula von der Leyen has renamed its development cooperation as international partnerships. Vying to gain more ground on the geopolitical front, von der Leyen wishes to build a “Geopolitical Commission” focused on promoting positive synergies between the Union and other actors. Recently, it partnered with the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) to consider environmental cooperation in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) on a multitude of issues, such as climate change, conservation of biodiversity, the circular economy, etc. international climate negotiations and agreements, the EU can be seen as an appropriate model for translating theory into practice, i.e. understanding the inherent links between partnerships and ecological restoration. By working in the LAC region, the Union is highlighting its geopolitical priorities, including the European Green Deal.
Drawing inspiration from Brussels, New Delhi needs to reflect on its development partnerships in the context of the looming task of ecosystem restoration. This is something India can start with its immediate neighbors in South Asia, especially those with whom rivers and cross-border landscapes are shared.
Drawing inspiration from Brussels, New Delhi needs to reflect on its development partnerships in the context of the looming task of ecosystem restoration. This is something India can start with its immediate neighbors in South Asia, especially those with whom rivers and cross-border landscapes are shared. One example is the transboundary Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna basin shared by Nepal, India, Bangladesh and Bhutan (except China) which also hosts the transboundary Sundarbans landscape shared between Bangladesh and the India. While structural constructions such as dams and diversion canals have caused damage to ecosystems and also made rivers subjects of cross-border water conflicts between nations, the decline in the health of the Sundarbans ecosystem has also been a matter of concern. Restoring ecosystems through a development partnership will lead to an integrated approach in this context, and India, the largest country in the region, must take the lead. In fact, India can powerfully build on such ventures, offering similar approaches paving the way for lasting partnerships to better rebuild in this next decade of action.