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19th Meeting of the Science-Policy Interface (SPI)

The 25 members of the UNCCD’s Science-Policy Interface (SPI) have assembled at the UN Campus in Bonn, Germany for a critical scientific meeting in the run up to the 16th Session of the Conference of the Parties, which will be held in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia from the 2nd to the 13th of December 2024. The SPI is a unique combination of independent scientists from all corners of the globe, science delegates to the Convention representing the five regions of the world, and five practitioners from implementing agencies and civil society. Over the past year half of the SPI members have been assembling the evidence base for a much more systemic approach to land use, so that our impacts can be more strategic and, ideally, much greater than the sum of the parts. The other half have been conducting a comprehensive analysis of aridity trends, projections and anticipated impacts, which under the Convention translates into land and people affected by the combined effects of land degradation and water scarcity. Both assessments have led to draft technical reports which will undergo independent scientific review following the meeting so that they can be finalized and published in the autumn.  The SPI is dedicated to building a bridge between science and policy. They are a global community of experts, united by a passion for understanding and safeguarding all life on land.

19th Meeting of the Science-Policy Interface (SPI)
Land issues high on UN Environment Assembly agenda

Nairobi, 1 March 2024 – Healthy land’s contribution to addressing global challenges of climate change, biodiversity loss and sustainable development was the focus of the sixth session of the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA 6), which concluded today in Nairobi. The week-long meeting saw the adoption of the first-ever UNEA resolution on land degradation as well as the announcement of the logo and slogan for the 16th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD COP16), to be held in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia from 2 to13 December 2024. Speaking at the high-level event on combating land degradation for climate and biodiversity, UNEA 6 President and Minister of Energy Transition and Sustainable Development for the Kingdom of Morocco, Leila Benali, noted: “Land is the only common denominator among the three Rio conventions, and it is only through land restoration that we can achieve their objectives. We need to build on what unites us rather than what divides us and start with working and credible solutions when it comes to land and soil health”. Announcing the slogan for COP16, “Our Land. Our Future.”, UNCCD Executive Secretary Ibrahim Thiaw said: “COP16 will be a moonshot moment for land, the Paris equivalent for UNCCD. It is crucial that there is convergence and synergy among the three COPs – biodiversity, climate change, and desertification, all taking place this year". For the first time, UNEA adopted a resolution calling for strengthening international efforts to combat desertification and land degradation, restore degraded lands, promote land conservation and sustainable land management, contribute to land degradation neutrality and enhance drought resilience. These issues will be front and center at UNCCD COP16. On behalf of the COP16 Presidency, Osama Ibrahim Faqeeha, Deputy Minister of Environment, Water and Agriculture of Saudi Arabia, said: "Land is not only important for human life but also crucial for biodiversity and maintaining the delicate balance of our environment. We have to recognize the importance of land and other natural elements of our planet, as 24 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions are associated with various land use schemes." Through the Saudi Green Initiative, the Saudi government aims to plant 10 billion trees and protect 30 per cent of the Kingdom’s land. Additional quotes: Aziz Abdukhakimov, Minister of Ecology, Environmental Protection and Climate Change of the Republic of Uzbekistan, which hosted the meeting to review progress in UNCCD implementation last November, said: "Every minute Uzbekistan loses nine square meters of fertile land, and this is a big problem for any country facing land degradation. It is important to bring together political will, science, and finance to address the challenges of climate change, land degradation, and biodiversity loss". Maria Helena Semedo, Deputy Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) said: “Land is where food begins, and without land, we cannot produce food or feed the planet. We need a holistic approach, avoiding fragmentation, and investing in sustainable transformations of our agri-food systems to ensure food security and address climate change and biodiversity loss”. Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim, President of the Association for Indigenous Women and Peoples of Chad (AFPAT), said: “Indigenous peoples, who make up 5 per cent of the world's population, protect 80 per cent of the world's biodiversity. They are the guardians of ecosystems and masters of restoring land using traditional knowledge. Direct access to finance, policy coordination, and inclusive decision-making are essential to empowering communities and implementing successful land restoration projects”. UNCCD Land Hero Patricia Kombo from Kenya, who moderated the high-level event at UNEA 6, concluded: “Land degradation is a global challenge that requires concerted action at all levels. It is only by working together that we can restore our land ecosystems, ensure food security, and mitigate the effects of climate change”. For more information: UNCCD Press Office, press@unccd.int, +49 228 815 2820, https://www.unccd.int/, @unccd Recording and photos available: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S_oSZoVZJF8 https://drive.google.com/drive/u/1/folders/1QhHqfX_pOFWBuot0ET5hGTogyrWDsq6Q For more information about UNEA 6 and UNCCD COP16 visit: https://www.unep.org/environmentassembly/unea6 and https://www.unccd.int/cop16 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.

Land issues high on UN Environment Assembly agenda
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” 
Saudi Arabia to host largest-ever UN conference on land and drought

Riyadh, 31 January 2024 – The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) signed an agreement paving the way for the 16th session of the Convention’s Conference of the Parties (COP16) in Riyadh from 2-13 December 2024.  The Riyadh COP16 will be 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. 2024 also marks the 30th anniversary of the UNCCD, one of the three major environmental treaties known as the Rio Conventions, alongside climate change and biodiversity.  At the signing ceremony in Riyadh today, Eng. Abdulrahman Abdulmohsen AlFadley, Saudi Minister of Environment, Water and Agriculture and COP16 President, said: “The hosting of the conference (COP16) in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia reflects the commitment of the wise leadership to environmental protection at the national, regional, and international levels. Additionally, Saudi Arabia launched several groundbreaking environmental projects, such as the Saudi Green Initiative and the Middle East Green Initiative.”  UNCCD Executive Secretary Ibrahim Thiaw said: “Today, we are losing fertile lands at an alarming rate, jeopardizing global stability, prosperity and sustainability. The Riyadh COP16 must mark a turning point in the way we treat our most precious resource—land—and collectively tackle the global drought emergency.”  According to UNCCD data, up to 40 per cent of the world’s land is degraded, affecting half of humanity and with dire consequences for our climate, biodiversity and livelihoods. If current trends continue, restoring 1.5 billion hectares of land by 2030 will be necessary to achieve a land-degradation-neutral world.   Droughts are hitting more often and harder all over the world—up by 29 per cent since 2000—driven by climate change but also the way we manage our land. One-quarter of the world’s population is already affected by droughts, with every three out of four people around the world projected to face water scarcity by 2050.  The Riyadh COP16 will focus on mobilizing governments, businesses and communities worldwide to accelerate action on land restoration and drought resilience as a cornerstone of food, water and energy security.   The two-week event will feature a high-level segment, as well as associated events including the Gender Caucus and the Business for Land Forum.   Taking place in the most water-scarce region and one that is severely affected by desertification and land degradation, the Riyadh COP16 will showcase efforts underway in Saudi Arabia, the Middle East region and beyond towards a green transition based on sustainable land stewardship.   For more information, please contact: Wael A Bushah, Managing Director, Environmental Awareness and Capabilities Enhancement, Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Wbushah@mewa.gov.sa. Xenya Scanlon, Chief, Communications, External Relations and Partnerships, UNCCD, xscanlon@unccd.int   UNCCD Press Office, press@unccd.int, +49 228 815 2820, https://www.unccd.int/, @unccd #UNited4Land #COP16Riyadh #UNCCDCOP16 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.

Saudi Arabia to host largest-ever UN conference on land and drought
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