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Adaptation potential of landscape restoration captures attention at the IWG Drought meeting in Yerevan

As one of the pilot countries to set up the land restoration targets under the UNCCD Land Degradation Neutrality target-setting programme, Armenia has been strategically placed to welcome the members of the UNCCD International Working Group on Drought (IWG) to share national successes in harnessing the adaptation potential of restored natural landscapes. In the words of the UNCCD COP15 President Alain Richard Donwahi, in the challenging times of uncertainty, geopolitical tensions and conflict, the meeting of IWG on Drought demonstrates that the coming-together of countries to protect the environment has the power to eclipse national interests and conflicting agendas to improve lives. One of the least forested countries in the Caucasus Region, with just over ten per cent of forest cover still intact, Armenia is stongly motivated to invest major efforts in projects such as the restoration on natural and agricultural landscapes around the closed stone mines in Artik. The IWG members who gathered in Yerevan earlier this month had an opportunity to meet the activists from the local youth eco-club who presented the positive impact of the project for local communities. Restoring land cover, reinforcing river slopes and planting pioneer tree species on the site of the abandoned stone quarry created a natural barrier against weather extremes, providing residents with a park and a recreation area, and introducing new habitats for a more diverse flora and fauna. Over the course of the project, water pipelines have also been restored and an automated early warning system installed at a local weather station to improve protection against environmental hazards. The total number of beneficiaries of the project is estimated at over 15 000 people, 60 per cent of whom are women. While thanking the government Armenia for hosting the IWG meeting, UNCCD Executive Secretary Ibrahim Thiaw called the attention of participants to the importance of united efforts and a strong political commitment to increase the resilience of nations and communities to extreme weather events, reduce human suffering and promote sustainable development. The IWG on Drought was established by the UNCCD COP 15 to identify and evaluate the full spectrum of options, including global policy instruments, regional policy frameworks and national plans to effectively manage drought under the Convention and support a shift from reactive to proactive drought management.   In his remarks the Minister of Environment of the Republic of Armenia Hakob Simidyan stressed that the problem of combating land degradation has become of strategic importance to the country. With about 70 per cent of the territory affected by desertification, and 30 per cent severely degraded, mitigating and preventing the effects of drought becomes all-important for the stable and sustainable national development. The attendees also received a training in skill development for multilateral negotiations, delivered in English and Russian, since many participants came from the Central and Eastern Europe, Central Asia and the Caucasus region. The acquired skill set will serve as an important asset for national delegates at the upcoming UNCCD CRIC21 in October 2023 and the COP16 in 2024.

Adaptation potential of landscape restoration captures attention at the IWG Drought meeting in Yerevan
Statement by the UNCCD Executive Secretary Ibrahim Thiaw at the non-statutory meeting of the Great Green Wall

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, Welcome to this non-statutory meeting of the Great Green Wall. And thank you for joining.  Friends,  The Great Green Wall is arguably one of the most inspiring Land Restoration Program in the world. By its ambition, its size, its institutional set up with a dedicated  Heads of State Summit, Ministerial Conference and Agencies (national and regional). It is politically endorsed by the continental body and is therefore institutionally hooked to the African Union. The political support it has makes it unique and inspiring. Even more inspiring when one thinks that in the Sahara and the Sahel, we have one of the harshest ecological conditions, coupled with a very challenging socio-political and security situation. This makes it even more compelling. A new departure was given in 2021, at the One Planet Summit in Paris, with USD 19 Billion pledged by donors and technical support offered by Partners. This meeting will be an opportunity for us to get some updates as to what has worked; and what has not; what needs to be fixed? Both Governments, Donor Agencies and Partners? It is refreshing to know that much progress has already been made, while we still have a long way to go to achieve our ambitions. We will hear more in a short while from different speakers. It is equally encouraging to see, despite all the constructive criticism, that the Great GreenWall is inspiring action in other parts of Africa, and elsewhere in the world. The Southern Africa region (SADC) is busy preparing a similar program The Middle East Green Initiative (which also covers parts of Africa) has already received its first funding of USD 2.5 B from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia An Eastern Africa corridor may be developed soon Other similar initiatives under the umbrella of the African Union’s NEPAD are also ongoing such as the AFR100, which we salute It seems the movement of large-scale land restoration is unstoppable, as these provide multiple benefits and respond to various Sustainable Development Goals. Before I go any further, let me recognize few leaders that are in the room and give them the floor for their opening remarks and their blessings: To officially open the meeting, please welcome the Nigerian rotating Presidency of the Great GreenWall. We have the honor of welcoming Minister Mohammed H. Abdullahi, Chair of the Council of Ministers of the Great GreenWall. We are also honored to have with us Her Excellency Ms. Josefa Leonel Correia Sacko, Commissioner for Rural Economy, and Agriculture of the AU Commission Ms. Inger Andersen J’aimerai maintenant partager avec vous quelques avis et recommandations générales qui découlent de nos observations et de nos interactions avec tous les acteurs au cours de deux dernières années. Ces commentaires n’altèrent en rien l’authenticité et la pertinence du programme de la Grande Muraille Verte, bien au contraire. 1.   Financement : sur les USD 19 milliards annoncés il y a deux ans lors du One Planet Summit à Paris, 80% des fonds sont déjà programmés, répartis en 150 projets dans le pipeline. 4 milliards restent encore à programmer. Nous notons cependant un déphasage entre les attentes des acteurs nationaux de la Grande Muraille Verte et cette première liste de projets. En effet, la majorité de ces projets étaient déjà planifiés avant le One Planet Summit; par ailleurs, certains de ces projets ne sont pas situés dans les zones d’intervention prioritaires de la Grande Muraille Verte. Ce déphasage peut être corrigé s’il y a une meilleure coordination au niveau national par les ministères chargés de l’ordonnancement. C’est à cet effet que nous saluons la présence parmi nous de ministres de l’Economie. Nous saluons aussi la mise en place dans beaucoup de pays, de coalitions nationales, qui sont des structures intersectorielles de coordination. La coordination doit idéalement se faire depuis l’amont, c’est-à-dire la planification, et doit bien entendu se poursuivre au moment de la mise en œuvre. Par ailleurs, plusieurs agences nationales de la Grande Muraille Verte expriment leur volonté d’être mieux impliqués dans la mise en œuvre des projets portant le label de la Grande Muraille Verte afin de jouer leur rôle de coordination et de suivi, afin d’être en mesure de rendre compte à leurs autorités nationales. Il serait intéressant d’avoir des opinions sur ces questions et surtout de clarifier, dans chaque pays, les procédures de planification et d’exécution des projets. Les structures gouvernementales officielles, adéquatement recalibrés, doivent être aux commandes. 2.  Renforcement des institutions : Tout en saluant encore une fois la volonté politique à haut niveau, nous recommandons fortement que les institutions de mise en œuvre et de suivi de la Grande Muraille Verte soient revues et renforcés. Dans la plupart des pays, les structures nationales de la Grande Muraille Verte -tout comme l’Agence régionale- manquent de personnels suffisant en qualification et en nombre, pour pleinement jouer leur rôle de planification, de développement, de suivi-évaluation et de coordination d’un programme d’une telle ampleur et d’une telle complexité. Nous encourageons les gouvernements et l’Agence panafricaine à exécuter la décision, prise en 2021, du Conseil des Ministres de la Grande Muraille Verte. La décision commandite un audit institutionnel de la Grande Muraille Verte, pour adapter les anciennes structures (régionale et nationales) à la nouvelle configuration post-One Planet Summit. Nous encourageons également les partenaires techniques et financiers à accompagner ce processus de renforcement institutionnel, condition essentielle pour la réussite de cet ambitieux programme. 3.  Prochaines étapes : La préparation de la prochaine phase de la Grande Muraille Verte doit démarrer incessamment, pour assurer une continuité après 2025. Le budget total estimé de la Grande Muraille Verte à 2030 était de 33 milliards de dollars. Pour atteindre cet objectif, il serait judicieux de : (i) tirer des leçons de la phase actuelle (ii) procéder à la préparation de la prochaine phase et développer des projets bankables. Un tel exercice nécessite un effort conséquent dans chaque pays, mais aussi au niveau régional. Merci  

Statement by the UNCCD Executive Secretary Ibrahim Thiaw at the non-statutory meeting of the Great Green Wall
Combating desertification with innovation: Great Green Wall and DeserTech tackle common challenges

Last week a group of African innovation leaders from the Great Green Wall joined a workshop in the Negev region of Israel to exchange knowledge with local innovative startup companies. The workshop is part of the DeserTech initiative that explores new ways of addressing desert-related challenges through technology and innovation while upscaling Africa's innovation ecosystem. Participants have been selected through an open application process that invited Innovators, entrepreneurs, corporate entities, investors, policy makers and non-governmental organizations from the Great Green Wall countries to explore innovative technologies and new business models that generate collaborations to restore degraded land, while creating business opportunities and jobs. The DeserTech is an innovation community, developed as a joint initiative of the Merage Foundation Israel, the Israel Innovation Institute, The Ministry of Environmental Protection and Ben Gurion University of the Negev. Located in Be'er Sheva, it promotes development, adaptation and commercialization of technologies that enable sustainable living in arid climates, while transforming the region into a global entrepreneurial hub. Earlier in the programme, 30 DeserTech Innovation Leaders from Great Green Wall countries joined a series of online workshops to identify the challenges in need of innovative tech solutions. Specific challenges include rainwater harvesting and conservation, high precision underground water detection, off-grid solar energy production, water desalinization for agricultural use, development of drought-resilient seed varieties, vertical farming, optimizing soil health and planting processes, implementing solar-powered precision irrigation, innovative roof gardening solutions, solar-powered cold storage and weather-forecasting tools. All challenges have been posted on the DeserTech marketplace. The Great Green Wall workshop in Negev also cast project teams that will be working on concrete project proposals and business models over the coming weeks, to be presented to potential donors and supporters later this year. The Great Green Wall is a flagship African-led initiative to create a mosaic of healthy productive landscapes across Africa, protect the climate and improve livelihoods. It aims to restore100 million hectares of degraded land by 2030, capture 250 million tons of carbon and create ten million green jobs in the Sahel region that includes Burkina Faso, Chad, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal and Sudan.

Combating desertification with innovation: Great Green Wall and DeserTech tackle common challenges
Progress accelerated but targeted action needed to realize Africa’s Great Green Wall ambition

Two years on since the One Planet Summit, 80 percent of the US$19 billion pledged towards the Great Green Wall Accelerator has been programmed across the 11 African nations that are part of the initiative. However, continued political leadership and country ownership, targeted action at all levels, and strengthened institutional arrangements are required to realize the vision of this Africa-led movement.

Progress accelerated but targeted action needed to realize Africa’s Great Green Wall ambition
2022 reporting process concluded

The 2022 reporting process has now concluded. We would like to thank all Parties for their efforts to submit national reports and are delighted with their active engagement in the process. We are now analyzing the reported data in preparation for CRIC21. PRAIS 4 is now closed for further submissions and submitted national reports can be found in Country Profiles. Additional national reports can be submitted on request via reporting@unccd.int. Please note these additional reports will not feature in the CRIC21 analysis but will be published on the UNCCD website upon submission. There will be no technical support or quality assurance for late submissions.  

2022 reporting process concluded