Wadi Rum desert, Jordan


Nature-based Solutions for reducing risks in Arab States, policy context and potential uptake

Nature-based Solutions (NbS) are solutions to societal challenges that are inspired and supported by nature. NBS include “actions to protect, sustainably manage, and restore natural or modified ecosystems, that address societal challenges effectively and adaptively, simultaneously providing human well-being and biodiversity benefits" (IUCN).

The NBS approach is well known and applied in the Arab States region, which is exposed to a range of hydro-meteorological hazards such as desertification, sandstorms, extreme heat and flash floods.

UNESCO invited representatives of the Arab States to participate in a high-level online workshop over the course of two half days aiming to explore the policy context and the potential to enhance regional uptake of Nature-based Solutions (NBS) for Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) in rural landscapes.

The workshop was organized together with OPERANDUM, a large-scale demonstrator project funded by the European Union that aims to reduce hydro-meteorological risks in rural territories through co-designed, co-developed, co-deployed, tested and demonstrated innovative NBS. The project provides science-based evidence for the usability of NBS and best practices for their design based on participatory processes.

The overall purpose of the workshop was to bring together experts in Disaster Risk Reduction and environmental management to exchange views, experiences, and lessons regarding NBS for Disaster Risk Reduction across the Arab Region, and to identify needs and priorities for promoting NBS uptake. In this context, possible barriers and facilitators for wider implementation of solutions were examined.

25 representatives from 7 Arab countries participated in the meeting, including government officials, senior scientists and academics, decision-makers, private sector, and consultants. In addition, several OPERANDUM partners joined the workshop, including coordinators of case studies located in the Mediterranean Region: The Open-Air Laboratories from northern Italy located in the Po Delta Biosphere Reserve and from central Greece, in the Spercheios river basin.

During the workshop, participants presented national and regional experiences, focusing on the ongoing efforts, gaps and challenges related to NBS for disaster risk management. OPERANDUM partners shared experiences, challenges, and solutions as part of the NBS co-creation process at the Open-Air Labs and engaged in discussions with regional experts on the potential of upscaling concepts and solutions.

Regional experts stressed the need for increased investments in the science of NBS and for open access to information to improve knowledge and awareness of the general concept including innovative approaches, as well as for cross-disciplinary collaboration and multi-stakeholder engagement. Despite a long history of applying nature-based approaches in the region, coordinated uptake of NBS requires systematic mapping of relevant data, existing examples, and traditional practices. At the government level, NBS should be promoted through coherent policy and regulatory frameworks. Finally, regional representatives expressed the need for capacity building activities on NBS design, implementation, and monitoring.

UNESCO is committed to continuing the collaboration by organizing a technical workshop for practitioners on the local application of NBS. In addition, outcomes of the discussions are supporting the development of a shared roadmap for the increased and sustainable uptake of NBS for DRR in the Arab Region. The roadmap will provide practical guidance for the implementation of NBS through a series of recommendations based on the identified technical, institutional and policy needs in the region.