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UN system-wide strategy for water and sanitation: Statement by Ibrahim Thiaw

On behalf of the UNCCD, I welcome the UN System-wide Strategy for Water and Sanitation to further align our efforts to provide quality water for all. At UNCCD, we are particularly focusing on ensuring the availability of water through one of the planet’s most important natural assets: our land. Land is a natural ally in our drive to secure quality water supplies. Yet up to 40% of our planet’s land is already degraded, affecting nearly half of the world’s population. Meanwhile, global freshwater demand is on track to outstrip supply by 40% by 2030, putting societies, economies, and ecosystems on the line. In this context, we cannot afford to continue taking our land and its crucial role in the provision of clean water, food and energy for granted.   Healthy lands are better at filtrating water, allowing aquifers to recharge, retaining soil moisture, and even supporting cloud formation!   Additionally, healthy lands reduce water runoff, erosion and the risk of floods, which can trigger serious sanitation and public health problems and, tragically, loss of life.   We tend to think of drought as the absence of rain. But often, it is also the result of poor land management, meaning we are only as resilient to climate change--and its impacts on water quality and availability--as our land is. Addressing water and land management as part of drought resilience policies is therefore critical. The new UN System-wide strategy is an opportunity to recognize this vital connection between water and land and to put in place the right policies, incentives and investments to secure these precious resources for present and future generations. 

UN system-wide strategy for water and sanitation: Statement by Ibrahim Thiaw
The Riyadh COP: the clock of hope. Presentation by Ibrahim Thiaw

My task today is: Share some facts about Land degradation and drought and how the loss of this natural capital is affecting everything we do. Propose some solutions and options that we can consider in our development plans Share views about the UNCCD COP16, a unique opportunity for the world to turn the tide and tackle the scourge of land loss and drought.   Land degradation and its consequences: As we celebrate the 30th anniversary of the UNCCD, the only universally binding treaty on land management and drought mitigation, we are breaking new world records: Never have so many people been affected by land degradation and the effects of drought never has fertile land been so degraded (in the time it takes to breathe in and out, the equivalent of 4 football pitches is sliding inexorably towards loss). This loss is mainly due to our extractions: food, cotton, mining and overgrazing Never before has one person in four, as is now the case across the world, been severely affected by drought. More than just a lack of rainwater, drought is synonymous with food and energy insecurity, the disintegration of thousands of family units and a drastic drop in economic growth Finally, never before has the combination of drought and the loss of productive land led to so much forced migration. Millions of young women and men have had no choice but to venture onto increasingly dangerous roads, or to get caught up in illegal trafficking, or even to fall easy prey to violent groups.  More than 40% of the world's land is now degraded, at a time when there has never been a greater need to produce food, cotton for an explosive fashion industry, and minerals - including rare metals - for an energy transition driven by the response to climate change. In fact, to respond to the needs of the 10 billion people, including 3 billion people in the middle class, experts estimate that two-thirds of the cities in developing countries have not yet been built and that 50% more food needs to be produced by 2050.  Food: let's take a look at our menu for tonight. Not just to check our allergies and dietary restrictions. The equation is simple: up to 99 per cent of our calories come from land. Land feeds us; it quenches our thirst; it clothes us and provides us with some of the oxygen we breathe. Therefore, our wellbeing is largely dependent on the health of our land. Contrary to certain beliefs, we did not inherit this land from our ancestors. In truth, we are borrowing it from our children. Seen from this angle, any excessive exploitation could be considered a serious abuse of future generations. This begs the question of whether or not we are robing food from the table of the yet-unborn.   So what can we do about it? Land restauration and drought resilience: The good news is that we can have a descent life on earth without sawing off the branch on which we are sitting. In other words, we can make human well-being compatible with achieving planetary equilibrium. Technically, it can be done. What we need is the collective resolve to reset our relationship with nature.  Firstly, as citizens of the earth, if we halve food waste, we will have the most positive impact on land, water and energy.  Furthermore, by giving farmers and pastoralists access to clean energy (ON or OFF-GRID), we will considerably reduce post-harvest losses. Reducing food loss and food waste increases our income while at the same time reducing loss of land and water. Food wastage is first and foremost land and water loss. It's also good for the climate, the economy and human well-being.  By reducing the cost of money (i.e. interest rates) in poor countries and facilitating the development of value chains, we can create a local economy and generate income for all. In doing so, we will have a positive impact on the land, as farmers will be better able to reinvest in their natural capital to ensure the sustainability of production, rather than continuing to raze the soil to the ground to extract the last productive sap.  The other good news is that we have a billion and a half hectares of land that we will be able to restore to a productive state and circuit by 2030, thanks to the many techniques and technologies for restoring land.  I'm talking about farmland, rangelands, conservation areas, quarries and mining sites, public and private spaces, large and small agricultural areas, and even urban and peri-urban spaces.  Land restoration is socially viable, creating millions of green jobs. Restoration is economically profitable: each dollar invested could generate up to 30 dollars in economic income.  We are witnessing the birth of a new land restoration industry throughout the world. This opens the way for PPPs and other win-win agreements with communities and other landowners.  As for drought, enormous scientific and analytical progress has been made. They all converge to the same conclusion: we need to change our approach, and move towards a proactive one rather than continue to get bogged down in reactive responses, which are ten times more expensive and just as ineffective. In other words, every dollar invested in drought resilience can generate up to 10 dollars in economic development. Droughts (often followed by floods) are amongst the most disruptive of all natural hazards. Droughts are silent killers: they kill animals or even people. Droughts disrupt energy generation, from hydro-power to nuclear power Droughts disrupt our social fabric, amplifying forced migration and even provoking surges of suicides… Less known to the general public is how droughts are affecting supply chains, as is the case in the Panama Canal this year. Some leaders and decision makers often ask me whether we can do something against drought. It is true that we can little to stop them from happening. But we can do much better in terms of preparadeness and response. Five areas need to be considered simultaneously:   Risk assessment, early warning and national planning Water supply, agricultural practices and nature-based solutions; Economic resilience and business response; Drought finance and insurance Emergency and humanitarian response The overall objective is to progressively build more resilient societies and economies, and progressively reduce humanitarian aid. Riyadh, December 2024: the moonshot moment.  Although Riyadh is the sixteenth meeting of the Contracting Parties to the UNCCD, it is more than just a traditional UN conference. The conference will mark a turning point in our perception of land and soils, a natural capital that we have always taken for granted, infinite and inexhaustible. In the words of UN SG Antonio Gutteres: « we depend on land for our survival, yet we treat it like dirt ». Realising that Riyadh is a rendez-vous with history, the Leaders' Summit to be held on 2 and 3 December should reaffirm the absolute necessity of managing our common heritage, that which the human species (a terrestrial species par excellence) has in common.  The leaders of the private sector, who will also be invited, should unequivocally align themselves with the only viable path for business and for a decent life on earth, the path, as I said, of sustainable land and water management.  Among the expectations of Riyadh COP16, two items stand out: To adopt an historic decision on managing the impacts of the recurrent and increasingly intense droughts that are affecting the world Adopting a clear stance and a clear decision to restore degraded land on a large scale, in order to maintain the natural balances that are essential to life on earth Beyond drought and land, COP will cover : Sand and dust storms Gender Youth engagement The gender gap one land ownership is incredible. While aggregate figures show that only 1 ha of land in 4 in the world is owned by women, the percentage can be as low as 4% of female land ownership in some regions. In Riyadh, COP16 is also expected to discuss youth engagement. Up to 1 billion young people in the world are ready to engage into land restauration, creating green jobs and boosting the economy. Saudi Arabia, as the host country, will provide the tens of thousands of participants expected to attend with the best possible facilities, with a tailor-made site. The UNCCD Secretariat and the host country wish to set up a COP-Legacy: the Riyadh Global Drought Resilience Partnership. This unprecedented Partnership targets the 80 least well-off countries (WB ranking) and aims to build the resilience (ecological, economic and social) of the target countries, in order to consign to history the terrible images of distress, destruction and death that our screens vomit out,  year-in year-out, as a result of droughts. As I said before, droughts are natural hazards and cannot be stopped. But we can mitigate its impact and turn off our screens those images of starving children, corpses and bones.  Ladies and gentlemen, Riyadh COP will be the moment of truth, first and foremost for the countries of the MENA region, which are hosting this Conference for the first time. This region has every right to exercise its leadership and soft power on such a crucial yet non-controversial issue. The timing couldn't be better. It's up to us to grasp it. 

The Riyadh COP: the clock of hope. Presentation by Ibrahim Thiaw
GEF 67th Council Meeting: Speech by Ibrahim Thiaw

Ladies and Gentlemen, Distinguished Members of the GEF Council, Ibn Khaldun, the renowned Tunisian father of sociology in the Middle Ages, once said: "He who finds a new path is a pathfinder, even if the trail has to be found through the desert." We are pathfinders. Together, we are forging new and innovative trails towards sustainability and resilience, even in the most challenging environments. For many of us who have been observing this institution function and transform itself over time, the GEF is more than just a facility. It’s a family. It’s an example of what we can do together, to address global issues. An example of what we should be doing more and better. Setting clear rules of engagement while supporting -efficiently- the countries and communities in need. As far as land restoration is concerned, I am pleased to note several proposed GEF Trust Fund financing packages for large scale land restoration initiatives are being considered at this Council. We need large scale and multi-country actions to bring degraded land back to health, build resilience to drought, secure food for all, reduce tensions and conflicts and avert forced migration. Yes, Land restoration provides multiple solutions, and responds perfectly to GEF mandate: biodiversity conservation, climate change, fight against land degradation and pollution. Yet, despite the clear uptick in investments, according to all available data, we are not winning the battle and should certainly not rest on our laurels. Land degradation is ruining the global economy, destructuring the social fabric of our communities, destroying fragile ecosystems, threatening the global security. Such as a virus, land loss is attacking the most fragile communities, accentuating poverty and amplifying the impacts of climate change and biodiversity degradation. Dear Council members, While droughts by all means are not a new phenomenon, we are observing the increase and intensity of their occurrence. 29% more droughts are observed since the beginning of the new millennia. The GEF Council ought to respond to the increase demands for help. Droughts are among the most viscous disruptors of our time: droughts disrupt food, water, energy and even global supply chains, as exemplified by the disruptions created this year in the Panama Canal. GEF Council may wish to pay attention to these trends. Droughts are exacerbated by Climate Change, Ecosystem change, habitat destruction. As we all know Southern Africa is currently facing an extreme environmental and humanitarian crisis as a severe drought takes a stronger hold on the region. Eastern Africa suffered for 4 consecutive years. Many countries Latin America and Asia are hit hard. Over 100 countries, including small islands have been affected in the last years. You may be aware Senegal and Spain created the International Drought Resilience Alliance. Nearly 40 countries and over 30 organizations are working together for global drought resilience. IDRA partners are clear there is an urgent need to establish effective early warning systems (that work across borders), bolster that land-water management nexus and mobilize sustainable financing to improve drought resilience. So, since I am addressing the GEF Council, I take the opportunity to raise with you – and stress to Council Members - the urgency of investing more in land restoration and drought resilience. Separately.  And together and scale! Large scale multi country land based approaches – that deliver multiple global benefits - combined with the integrated programmes of GEF8 - represent a clear path forward. By addressing the interconnected challenges of land degradation, water scarcity, biodiversity loss and climate change, we will be achieving more comprehensive and lasting results. The recently launched Blue and Green Islands Integrated Program (BGI-IP) by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Global Environment Facility provides a case in point. We need more. We can do more, whiting existing resources. We should much more! We are going to be working with SIDS to strengthen their regional programming and we are expecting strong participation of SIDs in our upcoming COP in Riyadh in December 2024. In the SIDS – or LIONS (Large Island Ocean States) as Carlos Manuel has started to call them, data plays a crucial role. Accurate, timely, and accessible data enables us to make informed decisions, measure progress, and adapt our strategies as needed. Investing in data collection and analysis is not just an option; it is a necessity. Vital for decision support – in the small islands, in the hyper arid areas and in the high mountains. So GEF’s investments and those of other Partners are directed where they are most needed. With this in mind, the UNCCD has recently engaged 18 “champion countries” in the Land Degradation Neutrality Target Setting Process 2.0 to demonstrate how countries can strengthen their LDN targets - and support better land use decisions by mainstreaming LDN into their integrated land use planning frameworks. To make better decisions - again with GEF support. All of this leads to stronger policies, improved implementation, and greater resilience. Especially in the face of drought and flood. It is a proactive approach that saves lives, protects livelihoods, and preserves our natural resources. As we look ahead to UNCCD COP 16 in Riyadh, we are filled with ambition and determination. As the main financing instrument for the Rio Conventions, we look forward to the GEF’s strong participation in our upcoming COP this year. We look forward to land and drought – not just capturing the Council’s attention.  But capturing more investment too. The UNCCD COP – from 2nd-13th of December – is an ideal opportunity to reinforce our investments in land.  And underline the critical issue of drought resilience.  COP16 will open with a Leaders Summit where Heads of State and Government, CEOs from the Private Sector and Heads of Institutions will be invited. A Ministerial Segment is also foreseen as well as large gatherings of Civil Society, Local communities and Indigenous groups. Seven Thematic Days will help design and formulate a strong action agenda, which will be an excellent leverage to the GEF. UN agencies, the WB and NGOs have agreed to play a lead role in organizing the Days. This year COP16 provides an opportunity for the GEF to showcase the results achieved to date – especially in transformative large scale change and nurturing the enabling environment – at the landscape level. This COP is not just a meeting; it will be a milestone in our journey towards a land degradation-neutral world.  I extend a warm invitation to all of the GEF family of stakeholders to join us in Riyadh from the 3rd-13th of December. Your presence and participation will be invaluable.  Though the path is not always easy – we will be blazing a trail together.

GEF 67th Council Meeting: Speech by Ibrahim Thiaw
Address to the Parliamentary Committee for Environment and Sustainable Development of the Chamber of Deputies of Brazil

Mr Chairman, Honorable members of the Committee Your excellency, Minister of Environment and Climate, Ladies and Gentlemen, On behalf of the secretariat of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), I would like to thank the Committee for welcoming me today; especially, as Brazil is looking to secure productive lands and build the resilience of economic sectors, communities, and ecosystems to drought. Promoting sustainable Land management and building resilience to drought: these are the two pillars, the two reason d’être of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification.   As the only global treaty dealing with land and drought, the UNCCD celebrates its 30th birthday on 17 June. Remember, it is one of the three Conventions conceived in Rio de Janeiro, at the famous 1992 Summit. After two years of gestation, the Convention was signed in Paris in 1994. We support countries and regions in developing plans, policies and interventions to halt and reverse the loss of fertile land; to create national plans for drought resilience. Brazil ratified the Convention in 1997, integrating the treaty into its legal framework. Brazil is a global leader in agricultural commodity trading; one of the top hydropower producers in the world; and is home to ecosystems that regulate rainfall patterns across the country —and the entire region. Yet, Brazil is affected by more and more severe and frequent droughts, disrupting food production, rural economy and human security. This means Brazil is uniquely placed to appreciate the centrality of sustainable land and water management to all economic and social sectors. Now, why are land degradation and drought a top concern? Consider this: in optimum conditions, it takes between 200 and 400 years for 1 cm of topsoil to form. However, every second, I repeat every second, the world loses the equivalent of four football fields of healthy land due to the destruction of native vegetation and poor land management. Annually, this adds up to 100 million hectares, an area larger than the State of Mato Grosso. If current trends continue, we will need to restore 1.5 billion hectares of land by 2030 to reach the Land Degradation Neutrality goal. Brazil accounts among the countries that continue to lose fertile land every day, every second. In parallel, droughts are hitting faster and more often, posing an unprecedented emergency on a planetary scale: last year, 1 in 4 people in the world were affected by drought, and events have increased by 29% since the year 2000. Drought is a natural phenomenon. However, global warming and the way we treat our land are combining to create human-made droughts. We see their devastating consequences all around us: crop failure, disruptions in freight transportation (as is the case this year with the disruption of the Panama Canal), soaring energy costs, loss of livelihoods, conflicts over scarce resources, large-scale forced migrations. Again, Brazil is one of the most freshwater in the world. Yet, it is no stranger to the impacts of land degradation and drought: from the lingering impacts of a historic drought in the Amazon, to pressures on hydropower and agricultural production, to the expansion of semi-arid and even arid lands. Mr Chairman, Drought is a hazard, but it needn’t be a disaster, as long as we manage it proactively. With the right investments, policies, and incentives, it is possible to decouple the severity of drought from its most serious impacts on societies, economies, and ecosystem functions. Any single dollar invested in drought resilience and prevention can yield up to ten dollars in return. It is therefore encouraging to see Brazil join the International Drought Resilience Initiative. While we can not stop droughts from occurring, with early warnings, preparedness and adapted responses, we can better mitigate its impacts. Since we are as resilient to drought and climate change as our lands are, it is crucial we make agrifood systems part of the solution, incentivizing sustainable land and water management practices that replenish, rather than squander, the natural capital all of us depend on. From that perspective, what I saw two days ago in Caatinga is encouraging. It was indeed inspiring to witness a whole of Government, in fact a whole of society approach to combatting desertification and building the resilience to drought. This said, much remains to be done in Caatinga and other areas affected by land loss and drought. As representatives of the People of Brazil, your role, honourable Parliamentarians can not be understated. We need to plan at the landscape level. This calls for land-use planning to identify the areas that are best suited for food production, protection of water sources, and ecosystem conservation. At the farm level, sustainable land management can combine precision agriculture to optimize the use of irrigation and fertilizers, with low-tech and nature-based solutions like agroforestry, crop rotation or reduced tilling. Again, coming back to Caatinga, low-tech approaches such as the cisternas are making a difference. To further buttress productive systems, and to protect the livelihoods of the 38 million Brazilians who are most vulnerable to desertification and drought, it is also vital this Parliament allocates a robust budget to support the communities: enhancing water management, building resilience to drought; monitoring and assessment; and supporting a just land transition. Especially, in the Caatinga drylands and the Cerrado, which underpins the water security in Brazil and beyond. At the UNCCD secretariat, we stand ready to support Brazil in its journey towards a more resilient future — but it all starts with your decision to prioritize land and drought in your policies and in the budget you allocate to implementing them. Your leadership ---Brazil’s leadership--- can prevent human suffering, protect economic sectors and set an example for nations across the region and around the world. Particularly, in the lead-up to UNCCD COP16, which will be held from 2-13 December in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. UNCCD COP16 is gearing up to be the largest, and most ambitious, global summit on land and drought to date. Together, we will chart the way for Land Degradation Neutrality targets, drought resilience frameworks, and stronger agrifood systems, and work to unlock a multibillion land restoration industry. Given Brazil’s active environmental diplomacy, the country has a particular role to play as a member of groups such a the G20, BRICS, G77 and LAC. Land degradation and Drought issues are rather unifying. They provide excellent opportunities for countries to play their soft power. Brazil’s active diplomacy and extraordinary political influence will be needed to make the Riyadh COP a moonshot moment for land and fought in the world. Finally, COP16 provide opportunity to Members of Parliament from country Parties to actively participate in the Conference. We look forward to your active engagement in the lead up to, and during COP16, and stand ready to support Brazil in its drive to be a beacon for sustainable land management. Thank you

Address to the Parliamentary Committee for Environment and Sustainable Development of the Chamber of Deputies of Brazil
Address to authorities in Caatinga, Brazil

Your Excellency Minister Marina Silva, Your Excellency Minister Wellington Dias, Dear governor Jerónimo Rodrigues, I also would like to recognize here the authorities of the University of the São Francisco Valley - Univasf   that is hosting us today, Ladies and gentlemen, On behalf of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) I thank you wholeheartedly for the warm welcome to Caatinga. Especially, for sharing your experience in securing resilient lands and livelihoods in the drylands. On 17 June, the United Nations Convention on Land and Drought (UNCCD) will mark a significant milestone - 30 years of commitment to our planet. As the only legally binding global instrument focused on land and drought, the UNCCD stands proudly alongside the Biodiversity and Climate Conventions as one of the three Rio Conventions, born out of the world famous 1992 Summit. We support our 197 Parties in designing policies, investments, and interventions to halt and reverse the loss of productive land; to create national plans for drought resilience; and to reduce the negative impact of land and soil loss in vulnerable communities. Brazil ratified the Convention in 1997, integrating the treaty into its legal framework. Caatinga is home to scores of species, many of them unique to this biome, and is said to be the most populous dryland area on the planet. Its very existence acts as living proof of the ability of plants, animals, and culturally diverse communities to adapt to semiarid environments. However, life in the planet’s —life that required hundreds and even thousands of years to evolve— is now under pressure from the combined effects of land degradation and climate change. Every year, the world loses 100 million hectares of fertile land, an area larger than the state of Mato Grosso. More than half of the world’s rangelands are degraded, compromising food security and the soil carbon stock, which comes only after the ocean’s.  If current trends continue, we will need to restore 1.5 billion hectares of land by 2030 to reach the Land Degradation Neutrality goal. Barren lands cannot adequately infiltrate and retain water, increasing runoff and accelerating erosion, instead. As a result of global warming and the way we treat our lands, droughts are hitting faster and more often, posing an emergency on a planetary scale: last year, 1 in 4 people were affected by drought worldwide, and events have increased by 29% since the year 2000. Drought is a hazard, but it needn’t be a disaster. With evidence-based policies, practices, and investments, it is possible to decouple the severity of drought from its most serious impacts on lives and livelihoods. Earlier today, I joined a visit to the community of Malhada da Areia. There, I had the opportunity to see how nature-based solutions, sustainable land and water management practices, and simple technologies are building drought resilience. The community is investing in rainwater harvesting; water reuse systems; and agricultural practices that replenish, rather than deplete, the soils. Across Caatinga, this and dozens of other communities are also fencing selected areas to enable natural regeneration of the native vegetation; keeping the grazing stock within the carrying capacity of their land; and diversifying their sources of income. Each and every one of them shows, with tangible results, that it is very much possible to reset our relationship with the land, and prepare for drought before it strikes. With support from civil society organizations, governmental entities, research institutions, and international partners —with your support— the estimated 38 million Brazilians that live in semiarid lands shall also be able to lay the ground for a more resilient, and prosperous, future. Consider the UNCCD Secretariat your trusted ally. Along with the International Drought Resilience Alliance, to which we are delighted to welcome Brazil. Excellencies, Ladies and gentlemen, from 2 to 13 December, Saudi Arabia will host UNCCD COP16 - the largest and most ambitious global summit on land and drought to date. Together, we will set targets for land degradation neutrality, set up frameworks for drought resilience, strengthen agri-food systems, and work to unlock a multi-billion-dollar land restoration industry.  Where human-made drought says crop failure, we say proactive drought management; where land degradation says migration, we say sustainable land management; where unchecked land conversion says deforestation, we say land use planning; where the lack of prioritization says reactive, we say proactive. In the lead-up to COP16, I count on Brazil’s leadership to help steer our collective boat to a sustainable, and equitable, future for all. Thank you.

Address to authorities in Caatinga, Brazil
New observatory to track progress of Africa's Great Green Wall 

The Great Green Wall Observatory, a digital platform that will help track progress of Africa's largest land restoration initiative, was unveiled on 27-29 May following the meeting of 11 participating countries in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. The Observatory was developed by the Great Green Wall Accelerator, hosted by the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) as part of its supporting role to the Pan African Agency for the Great Green Wall (PAGGW) and other partners.   The Great Green Wall is an ambitious and transformative Initiative launched by the African Union in 2007 to combat land degradation, desertification, and the negative impacts of climate change in the Sahel region of Africa.   Across the African continent, degrading land jeopardizes farmers' livelihoods and shapes economies heavily reliant on agriculture, compromising public health and education, while also destabilizing regional and global trade, and being a major driver of conflicts and forced migration.   Restoring land is essential for safeguarding ecosystems, driving economic growth, mitigating natural disasters, and enhancing land productivity and food supplies. This is of particular importance in the Sahel, where political and security challenges make progress a matter of urgency. Success in this region offers a model for other areas facing similar challenges, demonstrating that humanity can overcome adversity and promote sustainable development.  The Great Green Wall Accelerator, established in 2021 and hosted by the UNCCD Global Mechanism, was created to strengthen the monitoring of the Initiative's funding and results. The Accelerator has played a pivotal role in enhancing governance, fundraising efforts, and stakeholder engagement across the Initiative.  While ‘commendable progress’ has been made in land restoration and job creation, overcoming challenges in governance, finance and technical support remains critical. Stakeholders are calling for greater clarity and data on progress.   The Great Green Wall Observatory, funded by the Government of Austria through the Austrian Development Agency, is a direct response to this need for the national agencies and the Pan African Agency. Through its creation, UNCCD has supported the development of a comprehensive map of available funds and projects to facilitate access to financial resources.   "The Great Green Wall Observatory, which we have just launched, is a product that we appreciate very much because it has been produced in a very participatory way and it meets the existing needs by allowing us to assess the status of funding and progress in our respective countries.” said Pananditigri Nabasnogo Roch, National Coordinator of Burkina Faso's Great Green Wall for the Sahara and Sahel Initiative.   These data are, for the first time, available online – thus helping ensure transparency and accountability in the implementation of the Great Green Wall Initiative.  “The Great Green Wall remains the beacon of hope for Africa and the world, symbolizing humanity's ability to combat environmental degradation. We call on all stakeholders, partners, and communities to continue their commitment in support of this visionary initiative. Data remains a critical asset to the success of this initiative, and we call on all stakeholders to make use of the Great Green Wall Observatory to contribute relevant data to help accelerate progress,” said UNCCD Executive Secretary Ibrahim Thiaw.   It is important to note that the UNCCD does not provide funding nor implement the Great Green Wall Initiative. Instead, the UNCCD provides critical technical support, encourages private sector participation, and promotes the involvement of civil society and research institutions through national Great Green Wall coalitions.   “Through these actions, the UNCCD aims to support the Great Green Wall Initiative countries and partners in achieving its long-term goals and create a sustainable, resilient future for the people of the Sahel and beyond,” added Thiaw.  About the Great Green Wall Initiative   The Great Green Wall is an African-led movement launched in 2007 by leaders from the Sahelian countries, with an epic ambition to grow an 8,000 km natural wonder of the world across the entire width of Africa. Countries of the initiative include Burkina Faso, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sudan and Chad.  The Initiative aims to regreen the Sahel, restoring degraded lands and providing decent livelihoods as well as jobs and opportunities for millions of people in Africa. It snakes all the way from Senegal in the West to Djibouti in the East. The Great Green Wall aims to restore 100 million hectares of degraded land, sequester 250 million tons of carbon and create 10 million green jobs by 2030.  About the Great Green Wall Accelerator   In 2021, the Great Green Wall Accelerator, hosted by the Global Mechanism of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) was created to monitor funding and results of the GGW Initiative.  The independent review of the Great Green Wall Accelerator is available here.  About the Great Green Wall Observatory  In 2023, Development Gateway, an IREX Venture (DG), was contracted by the UNCCD to develop and roll out the platform as a monitoring evaluation system to inform local, national, and regional programming.   For more information - https://ggwobservatory.org/en  

New observatory to track progress of Africa's Great Green Wall 
UNCCD welcomes G7 decisive statement on land

The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) welcomes the G7 Climate, Energy and Environment Ministers Communiqué of 30 April 2024, which underlines the critical importance of addressing land degradation, desertification and soil health as fundamental elements of global sustainability efforts. UNCCD is particularly encouraged by the Italian G7 Presidency's launch of a voluntary Hub on Sustainable Land Use dedicated to promoting a collaborative and common approach to sustainable land use initiatives in Africa and in the Mediterranean Basin in support of achieving land degradation neutrality (LDN). The Hub will focus on sustainable livelihoods, enhancement of food security and promotion of land-based employment, with special regard to communities on the frontlines of land degradation, including Indigenous Peoples, youth and women. The UNCCD commends the G7 for its commitment to immediate and tangible action, such as proposals to increase funding for sustainable land management by 40 per cent over the next decade and to advance scientific research on soil health. These initiatives are critical to addressing these crises and underscore the need for global cooperation and leadership in this crucial decade. "Integrating land and soil health into broader economic and social systems provides a pathway to sustainable, inclusive growth that leaves no one behind. This approach is essential to building resilience to the impacts of climate change and ensuring the health and productivity of the land on which all life depends,” said UNCCD Executive Secretary Ibrahim Thiaw. “The G7's recognition of land degradation and desertification as both environmental and socio-economic challenges dovetails seamlessly with the goals of the UNCCD. Our collaborative approach is critical to scaling up efforts to significantly reduce land degradation, with the goal of a 50 per cent reduction by 2040, as outlined in the G20 Global Land Initiative,” he added. Furthermore, G7's strong emphasis on the interlinked crises of climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution, which have significant impacts on land and soil, is a decisive step forward ahead of the meetings of the Conferences of the Parties (COPs) to the three Rio Conventions later this year, notably UNCCD COP16 to be held in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia from 2-13 December. “Welcoming the G7's vision, the UNCCD calls on all nations to strengthen their commitment to land health as an integral part of their environment and development agendas. UNCCD looks forward to further collaboration with the G7 and other international partners. Together, we want to implement the ambitious agendas set out in this Communiqué and ensure that land remains a cornerstone of global efforts to combat environmental degradation and promote sustainable development,” Thiaw concluded.

UNCCD welcomes G7 decisive statement on land
UNEA-6 Multilateral Environmental Agreements Day: Keynote by Ibrahim Thiaw

Madame President, Dear UNEP Executive Director, Excellencies, Presidents and chairs of COPs Ministers, Dear colleagues Executive Secretaries of MEAs, Honorable Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen, I would like to start by thanking the President of UNEA (my sister Leila Ben Ali) and the Executive Director of UNEP (my other sister Inger Andersen) for dedicating an entire day of UNEA6 to the Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs). This is a real credit to UNEP. UNEA is one of the important platforms to discuss these issues. Thirty years after the signing of the Rio conventions, and more than fifty years after the creation of some of the MEAs represented here, we must face the facts: the implementation of these treaties cannot be done in silos. We cannot be effective if the left hand does not know what the right hand is doing. Even less so if all the work done by the national focal point for one convention is ignored, or worse, brushed aside by another focal point. Putting things in order therefore begins at home, at the national level. International partners and development agencies, where appropriate, should play their part. MEA secretariats should help engineer cooperation and technical support. In this respect, institutions such as UNEP and Assemblies such as UNEA have a historic responsibility and a critical role to play in harmonizing the work and focus of the various MEAs as we face a multitude of interconnected crises. About the triple planetary crisis, indeed we face a climate crisis, a pollution crisis and a nature crisis. I would be remiss, as head of the UNCCD, not to insist that the nature crisis includes the immense crisis of land and drought, which is currently affecting more than 3 billion people, causing food insecurity, water scarcity and forced displacements. Action on the land is a powerful force for unity. The health of the land determines the food we eat, the water we drink, the quality of the air we breathe, the clothes we wear and many other services that contribute to our well-being. But the damage we inflict on our land poses a serious threat to world peace, and to the global economy. Similarly, the links between land and pollution are obvious. Air pollution is amplified by sand and dust storms. While plastic pollution affects rivers, lakes and oceans, the bulk of the stock stays in land affecting food production, people and the earth system as a whole. The good news is that there are solutions to these serious problems. They are well within our reach and this is literally in our hands. Make no mistake: the best solutions are those that tackle several challenges at once. We must slow down and adapt to climate change, protect and restore nature and biodiversity, reverse land degradation and desertification, and end pollution and waste. We don’t have the luxury of dedicating Monday to climate or pollution, Tuesday to biodiversity and only think that we can wait until Wednesday to tackle Land degradation. These issues are like communicating vessels and we have to address all these challenges at once! The scientific community is increasingly moving from sounding the alarm to signposting solutions that require concerted efforts. However, progress on turning commitments into transformative action must accelerate. Rapidly. Coherently. Consistently. Excellencies, Ladies and gentlemen, 2024 represents a new opportunity for us all: The three Rio conventions will hold their COPs consecutively at the end of this year. We already had a successful CMS COP a few days ago. At the UNCCD COP16 in Saudi Arabia - in December – we will embark on a unique journey – one that brings all communities of policy and practice to join forces towards a common goal: that of making land healthy again. Parties assembled in Riyadh at UNCCD COP16 will present a groundbreaking action agenda for all MEAs to reverse degradation and to accelerate efforts to restore 1.5 billion hectares of land by 2030. Healthy and productive land is the operational link between climate action and biodiversity conservation. Linking up action on land will allow us to take advantage of the synergies that build resilience, mitigate the impacts of climate change, safeguard biodiversity, provide food security for billions around the world, and transform the way we manage the environment and consume its bounty. And this is everyone’s effort. We must ensure that the work on each MEA commitment dovetails with and amplifies the work of the others. By forging synergies with UN entities and conventions, we can amplify our impact, leverage resources, and foster greater coherence in our collective response to global environmental challenges. For example: aligning land degradation neutrality targets with nationally determined contributions and the new biodiversity targets can maximize the impact of nature-positive investments and significantly diminish the huge gap between commitment and action. After all, we are facing one single global challenge – the sustainability of the planet and striving for an environment of peace and prosperity. Martin Luther King Jr once said: “We may have all come on different ships, but we're in the same boat now”. So, while MEAs have individual mandates, they ultimately have the same ambition: protecting the people and the planet. Let us make 2024 a pivotal year for environmental multilateralism. The science is clear and sobering. Long-term planning and cooperation are of the essence. But urgent action is needed. Recent years have proven that environmental multilateralism is working. It remains our best shot at tackling the complex and interconnected environmental challenges. Let’s take it! Thank you.

UNEA-6 Multilateral Environmental Agreements Day: Keynote by Ibrahim Thiaw
Signing of COP16 host country agreement with Saudi Arabia: Remarks by Ibrahim Thiaw

Your Excellency Minister Abdulrahman Al-Fadley, Honorable Ministers and Deputy ministers, Dear Colleagues and friends, It’s an honor for me to sign this agreement, on behalf of the United Nations, with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, as host to the Conference of the Parties (COP16) of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD). I would like to thank Minister Al-Fadley, and through you, the Government and people of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The moment could not be more solemn: today we have signed more than a Host Country Agreement. We are sealing the commitment between two Parties, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United Nations, to join forces, to forge daily relationships, to build bridges across oceans and continents in order to make Riyadh, from 2 to 13 December 2024, the Multilateral Capital of the World, as far as our relations with the land are concerned. We are building an umbrella under which vulnerable populations around the world will find protective shelter to build their resilience in the face of severe and destructive droughts. Indeed, Saudi Arabia, its people and its Leadership will welcome tens of thousands of participants to the sixteenth session (COP16) of the United Nations Convention to Combat Land Degradation and Mitigate the Effects of Drought. Between the time we sign this agreement and the time we actually hold the Conference of the Parties, humanity will have degraded some 100 million hectares of fertile land. Over the same period, it is feared that hundreds of millions of people will be hit by severe droughts, with no safety valve or protective cushion. During the same period, women, children and other vulnerable groups will find themselves forced to flee from poverty, often venturing on extraordinarily perilous odysseys. Unless exceptional measures are taken, the loss of soil and productive land will lead to further conflicts over access to land and water, further food insecurity and, in some cases, a total loss of food sovereignty. Ladies and Gentlemen, COP16 will put a human face on these so-called natural or ecological phenomena. Coinciding with the 30th anniversary of this global treaty, COP16 will take place at a pivotal moment for our Convention. It is the time to move from strategies, plans and other methodological visions to action. It is the time to transform pledges into operations on the ground. Having realized how much we have scarred the face of the earth, we need to heal the wounds, not only to make the earth more beautiful, but to enable it to provide us with more vital services. We need the land. Land does not need us. We live off the land, it feeds us, clothes us and waters us. COP 16 gives humanity the opportunity not only to review its relationship with nature, but also to save itself from the perils it is inflicting on itself. Riyadh, in December, will be this nurturing and refreshing oasis in the middle of the desert. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia will be offering the representatives of the 197 Contracting Parties to the UNCCD and many other stakeholders not only its legendary hospitality but also a strong sense of solidarity and shared commitment.   We hope the world will heed our urgent call and this generous invitation from our hosts to come together in Riyadh for COP16 and secure our land's future. Thank you. Shukran.

Signing of COP16 host country agreement with Saudi Arabia: Remarks by Ibrahim Thiaw