UNEP-IEMP in 2020

  • 29 January 2021  |  News

In the year of 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic hit the human species in a most unexpected way. At a very early stage of the pandemic, UNEP-IEMP determined to deal with the crisis with both immediate actions, but also long-term efforts to fulfill its vision of enhancing the role of ecosystem management as a vital approach to working with nature for a world with a green economy.

UNEP-IEMP’s Achievements in 2020   

Highlights of Programme Development in 2020

In this year of challenges and opportunities, UNEP-IEMP has been working proactively at global, regional and national levels to promote climate, ecosystems and livelihoods nexus approaches for 2030 SDGs towards a post-COVID world. Here are a few highlights.

1. Global level policy advocacy: South-South Cooperation on Food Security and Agrobiodiversity

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought crisis on global food systems that already were failing to provide adequate sustenance to 800 million people. At present, three billion people on the planet cannot afford a healthy diet, whereas deterioration of agrobiodiversity continues to threaten long-term food security. In this context, in December, 2020, UNEP-IEMP co-convened the South-South Cooperation Forum on Food Security and Agrobiodiversity in Times of COVID-19 and Climate Change with UNEP sister agencies and other partners. This built good knowledge, capacity and partnership for promoting food systems transformation and will serve for the CBD COP15, UN Food Systems Summit and other major events in 2021, and acceleration of action for 2030 SDGs. 

South-South Cooperation Forum on Food Security and Agrobiodiversity in Times of COVID-19 and Climate Change co-convened by UNEP-IEMP

Meanwhile, UNEP-IEMP has been in close coordination with the Office of CBD COP 15 Executive Committee by preparing a few parallel events and side events to promote nexus approaches, such as Nature-based Solutions and Ecosystem-based Adaptations, and share good experiences and lessons learned. Under the auspices of the Office, UNEP-IEMP organized a sequence of events to release and promote a special report on traditional farming and community seed banks for agrobiodiversity conservation.

Director Zhang hosting the opening session of the release ceremony of the report

2. Regional level implementation of climate, ecosystems and livelihoods nexus approaches in Asia & the Pacific and Africa. 

In Africa, the UNEP-IEMP team has been working in the Sahel region on issues of the globally largest restoration project the Pan-African Great Green Wall, and these work was reported as UNEP story on the South-South Cooperation day, together with our Ecosystem based adaptation work in Seychelles. In the Zambezi region, our work has been continuing through different means to promote big data application in early warning of the agriculture sectors through CropWatch cloud platform

UNEP-IEMP managed restoration project the Pan-African Great Green Wall

In Asia, we have compiled 10 good cases on sustainable livelihoods as affected by environmental change and human activities, and the case from the Rupa Lake watershed in Nepal was highly welcomed by UNEP teams. As a collaborating center of UNEP, UNEP-IEMP continued to play the role of an international platform, promoting cooperation between Chinese and international scientists and professionals in the field of ecosystem and environment. Through the collaborative programme between UNEP and the National Natural Science Foundation of China, UNEP-IEMP supported our partners on applied research on topics including 1) nature-based solutions in Nepal, 2) Southeast Asia rice production risks and adaptation under climate change, 3) Indo-China Peninsula tropical forest biological maintenance mechanism and effect, 4) biomass resource sustainability and adaptation, and 5) Central Asia ecosystem monitoring and data sharing. The implementation of these projects will start in 2021 and will last for five years.

3. National level technical and capacity support for sound policy making 

In Kyrgyz Republic, UNEP-IEMP provided major support to develop and release its National State of Environment Report. This report serves as a strong science base to guide the process of national environmental policy making.

Through The Economics of Ecosystem and Biodiversity: Promoting a Sustainable Agriculture and Food Sector (TEEBAgriFood) project, UNEP-IEMP team has been working with the Chinese government and the research units to develop a policy analysis and case studies on biodiversity conservation for multiple co-benefits in the development planning process. 

UNEP-IEMP hosted TEEBAgriFood China Project team conducted a field investigation in Tengchong City, Yunnan Province

Based on UNEP-IEMP’s cooperation with Dongying Municipal Government of Shandong Province, China, a MOU was signed between Dongying government and UNEP in July 2020. One of the objectives defined in this MoU is to jointly setup a South-South Cooperation capacity building center to support ecological conservation and green development in the Yellow River Delta.


28 journal papers and 3 policy consulting reports to the national government were published or accepted in 2020. In addition, 14 project reports were first published or released this year.

Institutional Development

In 2020, UNEP-IEMP builds a talented and professional international team. Currently, there are about 20 long-term staff in the operation team, research unit and programme office of the center, and 9 graduate students.

In 2020, great progress was made by UNEP-IEMP members:

  • Staff Promotion: Ms. Guoqin Wang was promoted as Senior Engineer, which is a title equivalent to Associate Professor in China’s title system for professional or technical personnel. Dr. Yunli Bai was promoted as Associate Professor.
  • Positions appointed: Dr. Mingxing Sun, one of the core members of UNEP-IEMP, took the position of the Associate editor of Cleaner and Responsible Consumption. 
  • Talent Development: Ph.D. candidate Huaping Long received his doctoral degree. 
  • Awards earned: doctoral student Cao Yueming won the "Cheng Siwei scholarship" and "Merit students"; master student Dorje Palden won the "Cheng Siwei scholarship"; doctoral student Li Chang won the honorary titles of " Merit students", "Excellent student cadres" and "May 4th Excellent League cadres".

Looking Ahead

For the next year, UNEP-IEMP will have two main goals:

  • To enhance the support to policy setting for the delivery of SDGs in developing countries through Climate, Ecosystems and Livelihoods (CEL) nexus approaches, such as ecosystem-based adaptation (EbA) for sustainable livelihoods in a changing climate. 
  • To enhance partnership with the Chinese Academy of Sciences and other key partners around the world to mobilize potential resources to promote South-South Cooperation on CEL. 

In order to achieve the goals, UNEP-IEMP will actively conduct various activities together with our partners, including but not limited to the following list:

  • COP15 parallel events Ecological Civilization Forum and Science for Biodiversity Forum and side event for TEEBAgriFood project
  • Regional event on women’s empowerment and leadership in agrobiodiversity conservation and sustainable use
  • Meeting on crosscutting theme on gender for the 2021 UN Food Systems Summit
  • Case studies on nexus approaches for adaptation and sustainable livelihoods in developing countries
  • Joint applied research projects under the collaboration research programme between National Natural Science Foundation of China and UN Environment Programme 
  • Policy research and demonstration site establishment on sustainable livelihoods through EbA in vulnerable areas in Africa, the Greater Mekong Sub-region, and East/Central Asia

The year of 2021 will be an important year as it is the first year of UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, as well as UNEP-IEMP’s10th birthday. Standing at the intersection of the two decades, UNEP-IEMP is ready to move forward and to continue working with our partners to contribute to the realization of the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.

Related Sustainable Development Goals
Related CEL Areas