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Desertification and Drought Day 2024: “United for Land: Our Legacy. Our Future” 

Bonn, Germany, 21 February 2024 – This year’s Desertification and Drought Day, observed on 17 June, will focus on the future of land stewardship. Every second, an equivalent of four football fields of healthy land becomes degraded – adding up to a total of 100 million hectares every year. Engaging present and future generations is more important than ever to halt and reverse these alarming trends and meet global commitments to restore 1 billion hectares of degraded land by 2030. The theme chosen for this year's Desertification and Drought Day — “United for Land: Our Legacy. Our Future.” — seeks to mobilize all parts of society in support of sustainable land stewardship. 17 June 2024 will also mark the 30th anniversary of the Bonn-based United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD)— the sole legally binding international treaty on land management and drought ; one of the three Rio Conventions alongside climate change and biodiversity. Ibrahim Thiaw, UNCCD Executive Secretary, said: “Up to 40 per cent of the world’s land is already degraded, affecting  close to half of humanity. Yet the solutions are on the table. Land restoration lifts people out of poverty and builds resilience to climate change. It is time to unite for land and show a red card to land loss and degradation worldwide.” Hosted by the Government of the Federal Republic of Germany, the global observance event will take place at the Bundeskunsthalle (Art and Exhibition Hall of the Federal Republic of Germany) in Bonn on Monday, 17 June 2024. “Around a quarter of the world’s population is affected by drought. The condition of our soils in Europe is also deteriorating rapidly. Protecting soil and land is a global challenge. We need to take action together today so that the generations to come can have access to vital natural resources. We will only be able to feed humankind and deal with the climate and biodiversity crisis if we have healthy soils,” Jochen Flasbarth, State Secretary of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development. Bringing together leaders from all over the world, youth and prominent personalities from academia, civil society, sports and entertainment, the global observance event will showcase a strong ambition to be united for land, ahead of the largest-ever UN conference on land and drought in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia in December 2024 (UNCCD COP16). Throughout May and June, UNCCD together with the German Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and the City of Bonn as their partner, will kick-start a #UNited4Land public awareness campaign and will be engaged in various events in and around Bonn on the future of land stewardship. Katja Dörner,  Lady Mayor of Bonn said: “As the home of the UNCCD and a city on the path towards climate neutrality in 2035, Bonn can only think and protect climate, nature and land together. Land is everything— and so much more than the area our city is built on. Land is the soil on which our crops grow, a habitat for plants and animals, a sponge for water, open space and cooling corridor— and a legacy that we pass on to future generations.” Countries around the world are mobilizing to mark Desertification and Drought Day with an array of educational, cultural and sporting activities—from film screenings to football tournaments and from tree planting to gardening competitions. A full programme of events will be available online at: https://www.unccd.int/events/desertification-drought-day. About Desertification and Drought Day Officially declared by the United Nations General Assembly in 1994 (A/RES/49/115), Desertification and Drought Day, marked annually on 17 June, has the following objectives:   To promote public awareness of the issues linked to desertification, land degradation and drought To showcase human-led solutions to prevent desertification and reverse intensifying droughts To strengthen the implementation of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification Take part in this year’s celebration: To find out more about this year’s Desertification and Drought Day, click here: https://www.unccd.int/DDD2024 To access #UNited4Land campaign materials, click here: https://trello.com/b/VdJGolcp/desertification-and-drought-day-2024 To learn more about Desertification and Drought Day activities around the world, click here: https://www.unccd.int/events/desertification-drought-day/2024/events-around-world For online participation in the global observance event in Bonn, please contact: communications(at)unccd.int For more information, please contact: UNCCD: Xenya Scanlon, +49 152 5454 0492, xscanlon@unccd.int or Yannis Umlauf, +49 178 285 8629 yumlauf@unccd.int with copy to press@unccd.int   BMZ: Press Unit, German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development Tel: +49 (0)30 18 535-2451, Email: presse@bmz.bund.de, www.bmz.de

Desertification and Drought Day 2024: “United for Land: Our Legacy. Our Future” 
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
Germany to host 2024 Desertification and Drought Day in Bonn

Bonn/Dubai, 9 December 2023 – Germany will host the next Desertification and Drought Day on 17 June 2024, which will also mark the 30th anniversary of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), one of the three Rio Conventions alongside climate and biodiversity. The announcement was made today on the margins of UNFCCC COP28 underway in Dubai, UAE by Mr. Jochen Flasbarth, State Secretary of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), Mr. Ibrahim Thiaw, UNCCD Executive Secretary, and Ms. Katja Dörner, Lord Mayor of Bonn and member of the Local Government for Sustainability (ICLEI) Global Executive Committee on Climate Action and Low Emission Development Portfolio. Land is the foundation of human wellbeing and plays a key role in regulating the planet’s climate. Yet up to 40 per cent of the planet’s land is degraded, affecting nearly half of the world's population. Since 2000, the number and duration of droughts has increased by 29 per cent, representing a severe risk to ecosystems and peoples’ livelihoods. The 2024 Desertification and Drought Day will focus on the transformative power of healthy land for addressing today’s most pressing and interconnected challenges, including climate change, biodiversity loss, food and water security—a blueprint for providing future generations with a healthy planet. The Day will amplify a renewed global commitment to sustainable land management and drought resilience in the run-up to UNCCD COP16, scheduled for 2-13 December 2024 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Mr. Ibrahim Thiaw, UNCCD Executive Secretary, said: “Desertification and Drought Day 2024 will mark the 30th anniversary of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification. In 1994, the world community sent a clear signal by ratifying the only legally binding treaty promoting good land stewardship. Restoring degraded land and soil provides the most fertile ground to take immediate and concerted action for our planet's health. Now, it is time to reaffirm this global commitment by unleashing land’s potential—for present and future generations.” The Federal Republic of Germany, through the Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), will host the global observance on 17 June 2024. The event will engage prominent international and German personalities and the public at large to raise awareness about desertification, land degradation and drought. Mr. Jochen Flasbarth, State Secretary of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Development, said: “No matter whether we are talking about climate change, biodiversity loss, pandemics, or food crises – soil quality plays a central role for meeting these global challenges. Soils retain water and allow trees and plants to grow. We will only be able to feed humankind and deal with the climate crisis and its impacts if we have healthy soils. In 2024, when the UN Convention to Combat Desertification celebrates its 30th anniversary, the German government will be hosting Desertification and Drought Day thus sending a signal for strong international efforts against the loss of fertile soils.” The City of Bonn, which has hosted the UNCCD Secretariat since 1999, will organize a series of events around 2024 Desertification and Drought Day. The City will play its part in highlighting the role of local governments in land restoration efforts, by displaying examples of sustainable land use practices linked to urban policies. “As Mayor of Bonn, home to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, I am thrilled that Germany is hosting the Desertification and Drought Day 2024. Here in Germany’s United Nations City is the place where the debates on climate, nature and land come together – and from where cross-cutting actions for implementing the 2030 Agenda are advanced. I full heartedly welcome the Desertification and Drought Day here in Bonn! Together with the Federal Government of Germany and under the leadership of the Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development, Ms. Svenja Schulze, I will be delighted to host a meaningful event engaging political leaders, the land community, cultural stakeholders and a broader public alike”, Katja Dörner, Lady Mayor of Bonn, said via video statement. Officially declared by the United Nations General Assembly in 1994 (A/RES/49/115), Desertification and Drought Day, marked annually on 17 June, is a unique occasion to highlight human-led solutions to prevent desertification and reverse intensifying droughts by investing in sustainable land use practices. 2024 will mark the 30th anniversary since the adoption of UNCCD, one of the three Rio Conventions. Desertification, along with climate change and the loss of biodiversity, were identified as the greatest challenges to sustainable development during the 1992 Rio Earth Summit. With its 197 Parties, UNCCD is the sole legally binding international agreement linking environment and development to sustainable land management. The Convention seeks to support countries to address desertification, land degradation, and drought. A remarkable journey from milestone initiatives such as Africa’s Great Green Wall, the largest living structure on the planet, to the establishment of Land Degradation Neutrality targets – a pledge by 130 countries to end land degradation by 2030. Germany has been a strong supporter of the convention throughout its history. During the past 30 years, Germany has contributed politically and financially as one of the most active partners acknowledging the importance of healthy land and soil - both as a cause of and a solution to some of the most critical challenges for humanity these days. For more information, please contact: UNCCD: Xenya Scanlon, +49 152 54540492, xscanlon@unccd.int or Yannis Umlauf, +55 21 979820903, yumlauf@unccd.int with copy to press@unccd.int and/or unccd@portland-communications.com Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ): Press Office, +49 30 18 535 – 2158, presse@bmz.bund.de, www.bmz.de City of Bonn: Department of Press, Protocol and Public Relations, +49 228 77-3000, presseamt@bonn.de, www.bonn.de About UNCCD The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) is the global vision and voice for land. We unite governments, scientists, policymakers, private sector and communities around a shared vision and global action to restore and manage the world’s land for the sustainability of humanity and the planet. Much more than an international treaty signed by 197 parties, UNCCD is a multilateral commitment to mitigating today’s impacts of land degradation and advancing tomorrow’s land stewardship in order to provide food, water, shelter and economic opportunity to all people in an equitable and inclusive manner.

Germany to host 2024 Desertification and Drought Day in Bonn
Notes de M. Ibrahim Thiaw à l’occasion du Forum International de Dakar sur la Paix et la Sécurité en Afrique

Excellences, Mesdames et Messieurs, « Pour une Afrique résiliante et démocratique : approche intégrée face à l’instabilité récurrente et aux fragilités institutionnelles ». Choix de thème ne pouvait être plus judicieux. Riche mais pauvre. Plusieurs intervenants ont déjà mis l’accent sur ce paradoxe vécu en Afrique. En Afrique, on parle de potentialités et d’opportunités. En Afrique, on aspire à transformer l’essai, c’est-à-dire à dépasser la phase de transition et mouvoir vers la pleine valorisation des richesses naturelles. Construire une Afrique résiliante et démocratique, suggère d’adopter une approche sécuritaire plus intégrée et adresser véritablement les causes profondes du mal africain. Mieux gérer les convoitises diverses et variées qui gangrènent le continent. Convoitises liées à la terre, à l’eau, aux hydrocarbures, aux resources minières, forestières, halieutiques et fauniques. Dans un contexte de changement climatique et de croissance démographique explosive, combinés à une faible gouvernance politique, économique et sociale, les ingrédients sont réunis pour une situation complexe.  Aujourd’hui, les risques sécuritaires les plus élevés dans le monde (et en Afrique) ne sont plus les conflits armés entre nations ennemies. Nous ne sommes plus dans un contexte de rivalité Est-Ouest, de décolonisation ou de guerres de libération. Aujourd’hui, parmi les premières causes d’insécurité figure la détérioration de l’environnement. On se tue pour l’accès à un lopin de terre fertile, à un point d’eau ou à un pâturage. L’instabilité s’installe dans certains pays riches en ressources naturelles, maintenant ainsi leurs populations dans une pauvreté absolue, comme si quelqu’un avait décidé, avec un dessein plus ou moins avoué, que plus le pays africain est riche, plus ses populations doivent rester dans la pauvreté. Certains évoquent -non sans me révolter profondément- le concept de malédiction des ressources.   Cependant, si le concept d’insécurité a changé de centre de gravité, notre réponse est restée largement figée dans le temps ; par conséquent, souvent mal adaptée. On le voit chaque jour, par la fermeture des opérations de maintien de la paix (alors qu’il n’y a point de paix), le retrait de troupes étrangères venues en masse, avec la meilleure volonté du monde. On le voit par l’inadaptation des réponses offertes par nos forces de défense nationales, parfois mal formées aux situations conflictuelles asymétriques. On le voit aussi par l’inadaptation des réponses des Etats aux nombreux défis environnementaux, dont les départements chargés de l’environment disposent de budgets faméliques et de ressources inadéquates.   Si les causes profondes de notre maladie sont liées à l’environnement, pourquoi donc la gestion des resources naturelles continue d’être ignorée dans les accords de paix ou dans les manifestes de partis et d’élus politiques ? Pourquoi les budgets, ressources et politiques relatifs à la gestion des resources naturelles continuent de figurer en filigrane ? Comment peut-on soigner un malade dont le diagnostic continue d’être faussé ? Les meilleurs médecins de brousse n’étant pas forcément de bons mages, il est essentiel que le patient joue à la transparence. Vous me permettrez de citer deux cas de figure pour illustrer mes propos : Première illustration : la rareté des ressources comme source de conflit. Dans son rapport sur le pastoralisme et la sécurité, le Bureau des Nations Unies pour l’Afrique de l’Ouest et le Sahel[1] confirme que la compétition croissante pour l'accès à l'eau et aux pâturages est l'un des principaux moteurs des conflits dans la sous-région. Au départ, l’on assiste à une compétition classique entre usagers de la nature : agriculteurs et éleveurs. A l’arrivée, l’on peut faire face à un conflit inter-ethnique. Non, les Peuls et les Dogons ne sont pas des ennemis. Pas plus que les Haoussa et les Touaregs ; les Toubous et les Djerma. Bien au contraire, ces groupes avaient en fait, depuis des siècles, pacifié leurs relations grâce à la puissante « parenté à plaisanterie », introduite au début du 13è siècle par le régime de Soundiata Keita. Des pactes sacrés et des actes concrets étaient institutionnalisés pour ne jamais verser le sang de son « cousin à plaisanterie ».   Malheureusement, les points de rupture écologiques ont été atteints depuis longtemps, et ces compétitions pour l’accès à la terre et à l’eau s’amplifient, prenant parfois des dimensions confessionnelles. Mal gérés, ils alimentent les rhétoriques de mouvements Jihadistes, dont certains reprochent aux Etats de prendre partie. Là aussi, il est à craindre que nous déployons des réponses mal adaptées aux défis. Le Sahel est d’abord et avant tout malade de l’effrondrement du vivant.   Les causes des conflits évoluent donc, nos réponses ne le sont pas. La rareté des ressources naturelles n’est pas la seule cause de conflits dans nos régions. Hélas, autre signe de mauvaise gouvernance, l’abondance des ressources est aussi un germe dévastateur.   Les ressources minières, les hydrocarbures, les ressources fauniques, halieutiques et forestières attisent d’énormes convoitises. Et cela n’a rien de récent. Déjà en 1885, la conférence de Berlin consacrait le dépècement de l’Afrique par huit puissances européennes. Les indépendances politiques des Etats modernes n’ont pu se défaire d’un joug économique bien établi, basé essentiellement sur l’extraction. Ces convoitises prennent de l’ampleur avec l’avénement de l’économie-monde, avec de nouveaux venus sur la scène, qui cherchent aussi une place au soleil. Un rapport stratégique conjoint de l’UNEP et d’INTERPOL sur l’environnement, la paix et la sécurité en République Démocratique du Congo [2], note que des criminels exploitent illégalement les ressources naturelles, y compris l'or, le coltan et les diamants. Plus grave, ces exploitants illégaux financent divers groupes armés non-étatiques qui se battent entre eux, de telle sorte qu’aucun groupe ne domine l’autre. Une façon de perpétuer le chaos et, par conséquent l’exploitation abusive des ressources. Le rapport estime qu'au moins 40 % des conflits internes sont liés aux ressources naturelles. La criminalité environnementale ne peut être combattue de manière isolée. Pour lutter contre ces crimes organisés, de loin les plaies les plus profondes infligées à l’économie africaine, les réponses doivent être multi-formes, organisées et bien coordonnées.  Pour être efficace, une telle lutte nécessite un effort global et coopératif. Cela exigera également une réponse plus large de la part de la communauté internationale, mais surtout des pays concernés. L’abondance comme la rareté des ressources ne doivent pas être des fatalités. Ni l’une ni l’autre ne devrait constituer une menace sérieuse à la paix et à la sécurité. En fait, elles ne le sont que lorsque la gouvernance est défaillante. Parlant des réponses à ces crises, empruntons une analogie médicale : ne vaut-il pas mieux chercher les causes profondes de la maladie, plutôt que de prodiguer un traitement symptomatique superficiel ? Jusque-là, les réponses militaires ont été privilégiées– y compris au Sahel. Nul doute que les vaillantes forces armées sont nécessaires, mais elles ne peuvent demeurer la seule réponse, face aux urgences climatiques, aux pénuries d’eau, aux déficits alimentaires et à la pauvreté.   L’on ne tire pas une balle sur un feu de brousse si l’on veut l’éteindre. La Police n’arrêtera ni un vent de sable, ni un ouragan. Pour lutter contre l’élévation du niveau de la mer qui menace des millions de citoyens, la solution est à chercher du côté de la réduction des émissions de gaz à effet de serre, ou tout au moins des techniques d’adaptation au changement climatique. Le développement durable et la sécurité humaine sont comme des siamois. Inséparables, ils sont complémentaires. Le développement n’est point envisageable sans la sécurité. De même, il n’y a point de sécurité sans une gestion durable de nos ressources naturelles.   Permettez-moi, pour conclure, d’en dire un mot sur l’immigration clandestine, une de nos plaies ouvertes et cause d’une grave insécurité humaine. Si ce phénomène est aussi ancien que l’humanité, les récentes vagues de départs non-organisés sont autant socialement douloureuses qu’elles ne sont économiquement pénibles. Les pertes des moyens de production dues à la dégradation des terres agricoles et pastorales ou à la sur-exploitation des pêcheries ont jeté des millions de jeunes sur des routes périlleuses. Ces départs, vers des destinations de plus en plus lointaines, sont d’abord des fuites de cerveaux ou de bras valides. Certains, mais une minorité de plus en plus réduite, s’en sortent. La majorité n’y parviennent pas. Là aussi, certains pays de destination ont adopté la politique du tout-sécuritaire, allant jusqu’à construire des murs, physiques ou virtuels. Nous pensons que l’une des meilleures solutions seraient d’investir sur les zones et pays d’émigration, sur la restauration des terres dégradées, afin de permettre une production décente et sécurisante pour les familles. De Antananarivo à Tanger, de Djibouti à Dakar, de Luanda à Mombasa, l’Afrique regorge de ressources, de solutions et d’opportunités. Ne manquant ni de terre ni de soleil, ni de bras ni de génie, l’Afrique est comme ce fruit mûr qui demande à être cueilli. Dans un monde assailli par de féroces compétitions, l’Afrique doit s’inventer des solutions favorables à son développement et s’affranchir d’un joug politique et économique qui n’a que trop durer.   Je vous remercie. [1] Pastoralisme et Sécurité en Afrique de l’Ouest et au Sahel Vers une coexistence pacifique Etude du Bureau des Nations Unies pour l’Afrique de l’Ouest et le Sahel (UNOWAS) Aout 2018 https://unowas.unmissions.org/sites/default/files/rapport_pastoralisme_fr-avril_2019_-_online.pdf [2] INTERPOL-UN Environment (2016). Strategic Report: Environment, Peace and Security – A Convergence of Threats https://wedocs.unep.org/handle/20.500.11822/17008;jsessionid=2EAB6CD7FA6C6DB77CC024356BEC658C  

Notes de M. Ibrahim Thiaw à l’occasion du Forum International de Dakar sur la Paix et la Sécurité en Afrique
Healthy land crucial for global climate, security and prosperity

Samarkand, 17 November 2023 – Halting and reversing rapid land loss around the world is key for addressing global challenges of climate change, food and water security, and forced migration, concluded the five-day conference of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD). The 21st session of the Committee to Review the Implementation of the Convention (CRIC21) was hosted by the Government of Uzbekistan in Samarkand from 13-17 November, bringing together some 1,000 delegates from 117 countries representing governments, civil society and academia. The meeting marked a halfway checkpoint towards reaching the global goal to end land loss by 2030. It also focused on tackling worsening sand and dust storms and droughts, in the region and beyond, and empowering women in land restoration efforts. UNCCD Executive Secretary Ibrahim Thiaw said: “Land degradation and drought are disruptors, wreaking havoc on societies and people’s lives, and throwing millions on the dangerous roads of migration. We must urgently scale up investment in land restoration to ensure stability and prosperity for billions of people around the world.” The meeting convened against the backdrop of new UNCCD data collected from 126 countries, indicating that some 420 million hectares, an area roughly the size of Central Asia, were degraded between 2015-2019. If current trends persist, a staggering 1.5 billion hectares of land will need to be restored by 2030 to reach global goals. Commenting on the outcomes of CRIC21, Biljana Kilibarda, CRIC Chair, said: “Convening for the first time in Central Asia, this meeting was an opportunity to put stronger emphasis on the relevance of problems of land degradation and drought to the whole region and the role of international cooperation in solving them. We reviewed the progress in the implementation of the Convention and provided recommendations to accelerate our efforts.” On 15 November, the Government of Uzbekistan convened a high-level event on sand and dust storms. According to UNCCD experts, more than 2 billion tonnes of sand and dust enter the atmosphere every year, with far-reaching implications for economies, human health, and even security. Obidjon Kudratov, First Deputy Minister of Ecology, Environmental Protection and Climate Change of Uzbekistan, commented: “This high-level event brought recognition of sand and dust storms as a global problem.” He also noted that the Central Asian region is losing US$ 6 billion a year to land degradation. For the first time, a two-part Gender Caucus convened during CRIC to advance the implementation of the Convention’s Gender Action Plan, and bolster women’s engagement in land restoration and drought resilience efforts. CRIC21 recommendations will inform decision-making by the Convention’s 196 country Parties and the European Union ahead of the next UNCCD Conference of the Parties (COP), to be held in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, in December 2024. UNCCD is one of three Conventions originated at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro alongside climate change (UNFCCC) and biodiversity (CBD). CRIC21 convened just under two weeks before the start of the UNFCCC COP28 in Dubai, UAE. “We are in a vicious circle, where land degradation is fueling climate change and climate change is exacerbating land loss in the world. Our message to COP28 is clear: we are only resilient to climate change as our land is,” concluded Thiaw.   Notes to editors For interviews and enquires please contact: press@unccd.int and/or unccd@portland-communications.com More information about the 21st session of the UNCCD Committee on the Review of the Implementation of the Convention (CRIC21): https://www.unccd.int/cric21 About UNCCD The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) is the global vision and voice for land. We unite governments, scientists, policymakers, private sector and communities around a shared vision and global action to restore and manage the world’s land for the sustainability of humanity and the planet. Much more than an international treaty signed by 197 parties, UNCCD is a multilateral commitment to mitigating today’s impacts of land degradation and advancing tomorrow’s land stewardship in order to provide food, water, shelter and economic opportunity to all people in an equitable and inclusive manner.

Healthy land crucial for global climate, security and prosperity
CRIC21 opening remarks by UNCCD Executive Secretary Ibrahim Thiaw

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) Honorable Delegates, Representatives of International Organizations Representatives of Non-Governmental Organizations, Observers,   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. Excellencies, 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.  

CRIC21 opening remarks by UNCCD Executive Secretary Ibrahim Thiaw