The sixteenth session of the Conference of the Parties (COP16) of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) will take place in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, from 2 to 13 December 2024.
“We depend on land for our survival. Yet, we treat it like dirt.”
– UN Secretary-General António Guterres
Land. We walk on it every day. It feeds, clothes and shelters us. It sustains our economies, our lives and livelihoods.
Today, the future of our land is on the line. We are losing 100 million hectares of healthy and productive lands each year. Our soils—which take up to hundreds of years to form—are being depleted in a matter of minutes. Droughts are hitting harder and more often, with women and girls affected first and worst. Three out of four people in the world are projected to face water scarcity by 2050. The proverbial well may soon run dry.
But we have the power to bring land back to life. We can turn degradation into restoration. We can go from devastating droughts and floods to robust economies and resilient communities. And we can ensure that those who depend on land the most have a say in how decisions are made.
For this, we need to scale up ambition and investment. To deliver a moonshot moment for land. We need to restore 1.5 billion hectares of degraded lands by 2030. To have a collective agreement on how to tackle worsening droughts. To feed growing populations without converting more land or depleting our soils. And to deliver secure land rights for women in all parts of the world.
As the vision and voice for land, UNCCD is the world’s foremost platform where governments, businesses and civil society come together to discuss present-day challenges and chart a sustainable future for land.
UNCCD is one of the three major treaties known as the Rio Conventions—alongside climate change and biodiversity. We cannot stop the climate crisis today, biodiversity loss tomorrow, and land degradation the day after. We need to tackle all these issues together—and healthy land is at the heart of reaching global climate and nature goals.
This is what’s at stake at the next UNCCD COP16 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia – the largest-ever meeting of UNCCD’s 197 Parties, the first to be held in the Middle East region and the largest multilateral conference ever hosted by Saudi Arabia. Happening in the year that also marks the 30th anniversary of the UNCCD. COP16 is set to become a landmark event for accelerating action on land restoration, drought resilience and green transition. Now is time to unlock our land’s future!