Bonn and New York, 16 November 2011 - The Executive Secretary of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), Luc Gnacadja, has named Leila Lopes, Miss Universe 2011, as the Drylands Ambassador of the Convention.
Drylands Ambassadors are appointed to take a lead in raising international awareness of land degradation, its causes and possible solutions. The other recent appointees are Dr Dennis Garrity, outgoing Director General of the World Agroforestry Centre, South African gospel singer Deborah Fraser, and Spanish football star Carlos Marchena.
"Miss Lopes comes from the African region where desertification, meaning the degradation of the land in the dryland areas, is the foremost environmental challenge. Part of her home country of Angola is threatened by desertification," said Mr Gnacadja during the announcement.
Recent studies show that up to 2 billion hectares of degraded land and forest globally have the potential for restoration. "Land degradation entrenches affected populations into poverty, food insecurity and hunger and corrodes the three pillars of sustainable development. Achieving the change needed will take strong advocacy and outreach, but for long-term sustainability to be achieved three things are essential," Mr Gnacadja said.
"We must commit to making the world land degradation neutral through preventive actions and by restoring an equivalent amount of the land we degrade every year. We must cultivate a culture of innovation and knowledge sharing required for an effective land stewardship, and we must contribute to the mainstreaming of sustainable land management techniques. The influence and aura that the Drylands Ambassadors possess can help us to achieve this essential endeavor for our common future, and we are delighted that Miss Lopes has agreed to be a part of this cause."
Accepting the appointment, Miss Lopes said: "I am humbled and honored to be called upon to serve as a Drylands Ambassador for the Convention. This is an opportunity for me to be another voice for attending to land degradation and desertification throughout the world in order to create awareness on this important policy issue. By sharing knowledge and working together, we can help secure the health and productivity of all the drylands."
Miss Lopes was crowned Miss Universe 2011 in São Paulo, Brazil, on September 12, 2011 after beating 88 competitors. Prior to being crowned, Miss Lopes held the title of Miss Angola Universe and was active with various social causes in her country. She worked with poor children and the elderly, as well as helped educate the Angolan community about HIV/AIDS. These are all concerns that resonate with a majority of the 1.5 billion poor people around the world who live off degrading land.
In addition to speaking on behalf of these populations, the appointment of Miss Lopes as the Drylands Ambassador to advance the cause of the world becoming land degradation neutral enables her to fight for future generations, ensuring that we are good stewards of the land they have entrusted to us.
For more information about Drylands ambassadors, or interviews with the UNCCD Executive Secretary contact:
Ms Wagaki Mwangi, tel: +49-228-815 2820, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
For interviews with the Miss Universe, contact:
Ms Brenda C. Mendoza, tel: + 1-212-373 4983, email: email@example.com