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Message from the Global Environment Facility on the occasion of the World Day to Combat Desertification

On the occasion of World Day to Combat Desertification – 2013, Global Environment Facility CEO and Chairperson Naoko Ishii today underscored the GEF’s mandate to address land degradation, with a particular focus on desertification and deforestation. Land degradation touches upon a number of key environmental issues: It is a major threat to biodiversity, ecosystem stability, and society’s ability to function. It also accelerates global warming. The impacts of land degradation extend far beyond local or regional scales. Hence, investing in land stewardship is essential for sustaining the environmental benefits that humanity obtains from ecosystems.
 “The Global Environment Facility seeks to take an increasingly holistic approach to environmental threats, and land degradation and desertification are areas where our support in a single project can touch upon multiple environmental issues – from biodiversity and climate change, to soil erosion and the loss of arable land,” Ms. Ishii said. “The Great Green Wall Initiative in Sub-Saharan Africa and other projects that the GEF supports in all affected regions are critical not only to the environment but to lives and livelihoods in communities. The 2013 World Day to Combat Desertification appropriately recognizes the importance of international efforts to halt desertification.”
This year’s World Day to Combat Desertification focuses particularly on freshwater resources. These are coming under more and more stress due to human activities. Human-induced climate change threatens to further worsen water security at all levels. The GEF’s efforts to combat desertification in  25 countries in the drylands will prevent more than 1 million hectares of production lands from the risk of desertification. Joint action between United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) and the GEF will remain crucial for supporting efforts to prevent, control, and reverse desertification in the context of global environment benefits and sustainable development.
About the GEF
The GEF unites 183 countries in partnership with international institutions, civil society organizations (CSOs), and the private sector to address global environmental issues while supporting national sustainable development initiatives. An independently operating financial organization, the GEF provides grants for projects related to biodiversity, climate change, international waters, land degradation, the ozone layer, and persistent organic pollutants.
Since 1991, the GEF has achieved a strong track record with developing countries and countries with economies in transition, providing $11.5 billion in grants and leveraging $57 billion in co-financing for over 3,215 projects in over 165 countries. Through its Small Grants Programme (SGP), the GEF has also made more than 16.030 small grants directly to civil society and community-based organizations, totaling $653.2 million.
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