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“No Sustainable Development Goals unless action is taken to reduce the deficit in natural infrastructure”

Published on:
  • Climate and disaster risks
  • Climate mitigation and adaptation
  • Community resilience
  • Natural infrastructure solutions
  • Sustainable land use

New York – At the High-level Thematic Debate on Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) NGO Wetlands International states that better management and restoration of wetlands is an essential strategy to meet at least seven out of the seventeen Development Goals that were adopted in September 2015. The SDGs, Paris agreement, and Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, which all concluded last year, are potentially triggers for increased investment in improving the status and condition of wetlands, which are the fastest declining ecosystems in the world.

During the High Level Debate In New York, Wetlands International’s Chief Executive Officer Jane Madgwick is a Discussion Leader on ‘Partnerships that enable innovative solutions to achieving the SDGs’.

Since 1900 the world has lost 64% of its wetlands through drainage and conversion and much of those that remain are under growing pressure by economic and infrastructure development that has failed to value their role.

Wetlands International advocates the need to safeguard and restore wetlands to reduce CO2 emissions, protect cities and shores, maintain biodiversity, combat desertification, and provide clean water and food; all issues that are included in the SDGs.

The adopted global agreements acknowledge that sustainable development can only succeed if poverty eradication and environmental sustainability are pursued together. Many of the SDG targets signal the need to safeguard and restore ecosystems and in many cases specifically wetlands as a vital strategy for a sustainable and secure world.

This gives all countries the responsibility to step up policies, investments and practices for wetlands and their services as an integral part of development and climate action.

Jane Madgwick: “The global policy frameworks now recognize that harnessing the services of wetlands as “natural infrastructure” yields multiple dividends in water and food security, disaster risk reduction, climate action and sustainable development. Now it’s all about how to make it happen. There is an urgent need to build up technical and financial capacities and for political commitment from governments, private sector and civil society for implementation.”

To support the debate on SDG implementation priorities, Wetlands International is sharing experiences from its innovative initiatives which can transform whole landscapes into safer and more prosperous environments. In order to bring such innovations to scale, it therefore recommends that integrated action by different sectors needs to be incentivized.

As an example, the NGO recommends that humanitarian and environmental organisations, private sector and government agencies need to collaborate in order to come to effective solutions for disaster risk reduction. Unsustainable land and water use affect wetland services such as reducing peak flood flows and storing excessive rainfall. Hence restoration of ‘natural infrastructure’ also needs to be assessed across landscapes as a solution, not just big infrastructure. This requires different expertise and players.

Wetlands International considers that institutional, policy and financial barriers to integrated approaches are often the main bottleneck to scaling up the impact of these successes.

Jane Madgwick: “NGOs play a crucial role helping to link local information about risks (and about appropriate solutions) to national, regional and global planning and financing, brokering inter-sectoral solutions and thus increasing the impact of efforts to reach the SDGs. This role needs to be much better recognized and supported”.


’Act now on wetlands for Agenda 2030’: this policy brief sets out the link between the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the conservation and restoration of wetlands.

View Wetlands International’s interactive infographic showing the links between the SDGs, wetlands and the innovative approaches Wetlands International works with:

More information:

In New York: Jane Madgwick, Chief Executive Officer, Wetlands International, [email protected]
Wetlands International Headquarters:
Susanna Tol, +31 318 8660932, [email protected]


Some examples of effective partnerships that Wetlands International brings to the table:

  • Collaboration with Dutch-based water engineering firms to join forces in the pre-competitive space to invest in developing and sharing knowledge about Building with Nature solutions to vulnerable coasts and deltas. In collaboration with the Indonesian government, local civil society, the water sector and communities, the organisation manages a large scale Building with Nature flagship project in Java to halt coastal erosion and revitalise sustainable aquaculture. This project recently won the annual award for innovative engineering solutions in the Netherlands.
    Case: Building with nature Indonesia
  • At the global Climate Summit in Paris, the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation signed a five-year agreement with the Netherlands Red Cross, the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre, Wetlands International, Cordaid and CARE. The partnership will strengthen the resilience and livelihoods of vulnerable communities in ten disaster-prone developing countries, by connecting this to government priorities and investments, and supporting economic growth that is inclusive and sustainable. The programme is the Dutch contribution to UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon’s ‘A2R’ initiative for accelerated resilience and climate adaptation.
  • Permian Global, an investment firm, is working with Wetlands International to establish a global portfolio of long-term Ecosystem Restoration Projects through which they will protect and rehabilitate wetlands (especially targeting peatswamp forests) for their ecosystem, livelihood, biodiversity and carbon values, so contributing to several of the SDGs.
  • Wetlands International collaborates with the Mongolian government and international knowledge institutes to implement a rapid assessment study, build capacity of key stakeholders at the national and local levels, and identify national priority actions for sustainable peatlands management in Mongolia. This approach can be replicated in other peat-rich countries. Briefing paper: Accelerating action to save peat for less heat