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ILRI signs MoU with UNEP to collaborate in sustainable livestock and environmental development

A herd of cattle searching for water in an almost-dry riverbed (photo credit: ILRI/ Sonja Leitner).

The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) that provides a framework for cooperation in common areas of concern, among them sustainable livestock development, One Health, and climate mitigation and resilience.  

UNEP is the world’s leading environmental authority. It sets the global environmental agenda, promotes the coherent implementation of the environmental dimension of sustainable development within the United Nations system and serves as an authoritative advocate for the global environment. ILRI is part of the CGIAR, an international agricultural research partnership. ILRI’s goal is to improve food and nutritional security and to reduce poverty in developing countries through research on efficient, safe and sustainable use of livestock.

Although the MoU serves as an official reference to the agreed areas of collaboration, ILRI and UNEP have worked together for many years. In June 2020, they jointly launched a major report on the COVID-19 pandemic entitled ‘Preventing the next pandemic: Zoonotic diseases and how to break the chain of transmission.’ That report focuses on the risk of future zoonotic outbreaks, specifically on the environmental and zoonotic dimensions of disease outbreaks such as COVID-19 and identifies 10 practical steps that governments can take to prevent future pandemics.

The MoU establishes a strategic agreement to cooperate in a number of areas focused on the environmental dimensions of sustainable development including to:

• Jointly develop scientific knowledge on emerging issues relevant to the livestock sector and technical support on environmentally friendly decision-making and policy.

• Jointly design tools and approaches to reduce the environmental impact of livestock systems and identify ways of integrating One Health interventions in these systems to spur investment and innovations.

• Jointly provide technical guidance to countries and partners to implement climate change activities and develop mitigation and resilience programs.

• Participate in joint outreach, communication and capacity development activities on mutually agreed themes.

• Explore opportunities to provide technical guidance to countries for sustainable livestock management, through climate change mitigation and resilience programs and activities including rangelands restoration. This may include countries within the Great Green Wall Initiative.

• Explore collaboration related to post­-COVID-19 recovery through One Health approaches and develop joint scientific assessments of zoonotic diseases and related emerging issues of environmental concern.

Jimmy Smith, the director general of ILRI, said he was delighted at the prospect of formalizing ILRI’s long-standing relationship with UNEP. ‘This MoU will solidify the relationship between our two organizations and deepen our scientific collaboration with the world’s leading environmental organization’, he said. The MoU was signed on October 26 2020.

ILRI and UNEP jointly organized a session during this year’s Global Landscapes Forum on One Health approaches for healthy landscapes, people, animals and wildlife.

In the area of rangelands, UNEP has been working with ILRI as a partner in the Global Rangelands Initiative of the International Land Coalition for the last four years. In 2016, UNEP and ILRI jointly supported the government of Ethiopia and others in the submission of a resolution on ‘Combating desertification, land degradation and promoting sustainable pastoralism’, which was an important milestone in the anticipated declaration of  an International Year of Rangelands and Pastoralists.

Currently ILRI is supporting UNEP to raise awareness on rangelands during the preparations for launching the UN Decade of Ecosystem Restoration. A key tool for this will be the establishment of a global data platform on rangelands to be established by ILRI, UNEP and other development partners in 2021.

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