Prime Minister Abdulla Nigmatovich Aripov,
Your Excellency Mr. Aziz Abdukhakimov, Minister of Ecology, Environmental Protection and Climate Change,
Madame Biljana Kilibarda, Chair of the Committee of the Review of Implementation of the Convention (CRIC)
Representatives of International Organizations
Representatives of Non-Governmental Organizations,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
What a pleasure to be back in beautiful Samarkand. I would like to thank the Government and the people of Uzbekistan for their hospitality and the legendary generosity.
It is not by chance that Samarkand -- one of the oldest inhabited cities in Central Asia -- is inscribed in the prestigious UNESCO World Heritage list. Samarkand is distinguished for being the ‘Crossroads of cultures’.
As there is no culture without nature, this city will also be, for the better part of the next ten days, one of the centers of the world.
A center where the 197 Parties to the UN Convention dealing with Land and Drought are gathered to measure the pulse of the planet.
Time to assess how much of our land we have degraded, how much of our economy we have destroyed, knowingly or unknowingly; willingly or unwillingly.
Time to appreciate how sustainable -- or rather unsustainable -- our lifestyle is.
Time to check how much of our children’s reserves and shares we are eating.
How much of our grandchildren’s future we are jeopardizing, by over-harvesting and over-exploiting our natural capital.
More often than not, we do this for greed. Not for absolute need.
Being in Samarkand, we are reminded that civilizations before us left us with the food, the fiber, the water on which we all so much depend on!
But being in Uzbekistan is also a reminder of how much we have destroyed nature, in the name of progress. In the name of development and in the quest of prosperity.
We have inflicted the ugliest scars on the face of the Earth.
One such environmental disaster is found here, in the Aral Sea. This once so large a freshwater body that we misnamed as sea, is now partially filled with sand dunes. A tragedy that unfolded in just one generation.
I am very much looking forward to visiting the Aral area to also witness the Herculean tasks undertaken to mitigate the environmental risks associated with the diversion and over-harvesting of the water.
Samarkand will go down in the annals of the Convention as the place where a crucial meeting was organized and served as a steppingstone between COP15 in Abidjan and COP16 in Riyadh.
As we navigate through the five ambitious days ahead, your deliberations in Samarkand will be foundational for the success of the upcoming COP in Riyadh in December next year.
From the agenda of CRIC 21, allow me to single out two items: the new dashboard on land degradation, thanks to your reports and data collected from 126 countries. For the first time in the history of the Convention, we have trends on both land loss and land remediation, as reported by our Parties.
While this work is still to be perfected, the early indications give us chilling numbers: at least 100 million ha of land are degraded every year.
We call upon all Parties to the Convention to contribute to the next report as this database can potentially serve as a world reference on land loss and land restoration.
Additionally, we will hear from two intergovernmental working groups, namely the Group on the Mid-term review and the team working on Drought.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
As you know, issues of land degradation and drought resilience have gained an unprecedented momentum over the last few years. While much remains to be done, your work has never been as noticed as today. Not only in the media, but also in boardrooms and in the corridors of power.
This is an indication of the growing global commitment and attention to the scourge of desertification, drought and land degradation. The world is coming to realize that these phenomena affect us all, rich and poor, though the poorest bear the brunt.
But this increased awareness is coupled with a significant increase of workload from your Secretariat. Our personnel feel the need of doing more, and they are doing much more.
But with much less. Over the last ten years, our budget has stagnated in euro numbers. In reality, by value terms, the budget has been drastically reduced considering the important rise in the cost of living. An analysis and a budget proposal will be made to the next COP.
Finally, allow me to say how proud I am to have such a talented staff from the Secretariat and the Global Mechanism. Please join me in expressing my gratitude to all for their hard work.
Ladies and gentlemen,
We could not have a better host for this CRIC session. We could not be in better conditions to deliver a successful session.
Your deliberations and guidance, in this magnificent hall, will -- by and large -- be the foundation upon which millions of people from around the world will have access to healthy land and live on a healthy planet.
Your deliberations will shape the future of the unborn. What direction do you want to point them in? The direction of a healthy environment, as we have inherited from our ancestors; or the direction of a miserable life that, unless we change gears, we are likely to live to our offspring.
The future is now. It is literally in our hands. Thank you.