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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
18 countries selected for support to strengthen LDN Targets and integrated land use planning frameworks

Following the “Call for Requests for Support to Assist Countries in Strengthening Land Degradation Neutrality Targets and Integrated Land Use Planning Frameworks” launched on May 12th, the UNCCD would like to thank all the countries that responded to the call. After a thorough evaluation of all applications against the established selection criteria, and taking also into consideration a balanced representation of countries at (sub)regional levels, the following 18 countries were selected for participation in the second phase of the Land Degradation Neutrality Target Setting Programme (LDN TSP 2.0) and the related GEF Enabling Activity project “Integrating Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) into land use planning frameworks to strengthen national UNCCD enabling environments”: Argentina, Benin, Central African Republic, Georgia, Jordan, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Malawi, Namibia, Nigeria, Pakistan, Panama, Peru, Republic of Moldova, South Africa, Sri Lanka, St. Lucia and Türkiye. Detailed information on the selection process is included in document ICCD/CRIC(21)8 to be presented at the upcoming 21st Session of the Committee for the Review of the Implementation of the Convention. The Secretariat and the Global Mechanism of the UNCCD look forward to working closely with the 18 selected countries as they advance in transforming their land-based agendas and lead the way for the UNCCD community in this regard.  

18 countries selected for support to strengthen LDN Targets and integrated land use planning frameworks
World leaders urged to prioritize women’s land rights at the UN 

Bonn/New York, 16 June 2023 – Women facing worsening droughts, raging wildfires and other climate change impacts will deliver an urgent message to the international community at the United Nations in New York, calling for better land rights for women and girls everywhere.  Drought, land degradation and desertification – all of which are becoming more frequent – are impacting women and girls first and worst, world leaders will hear at an event in the United Nations General Assembly on 16th June to mark Desertification and Drought Day.  The theme of this year’s global observance, led by the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), is ‘Her Land. Her Rights.’  Women make up around half of agricultural workers in developing countries and produce 60-80 per cent of food grown in these regions yet own less than one-fifth of all land worldwide. When land degrades and water and other resources become scarce, women and girls are exposed to poverty, hunger, displacement and violence.  Among the leaders and gender equality champions advocating for women’s full land rights will be the Prime Ministers of Iceland Katrín Jakobsdóttir and of Namibia Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila, and the Vice-President of the Government of Spain Teresa Ribero Rodríguez. They will be joined by Finland’s first female President Tarja Halonen, UNCCD Goodwill Ambassadors and musicians Baaba Maal, Inna Modja and Ricky Kej, as well as indigenous and youth activists from countries as diverse as Canada and Chad.   In a shared call to action, they will show there is a solution: women. They will say that when legal barriers to women owning and inheriting land are removed, women are able to make decisions on how to manage land, and both soil health and agricultural yields improve. Women are also more likely to invest in their family’s nutrition, health and education which benefits the whole of society.  UNCCD Executive Secretary Ibrahim Thiaw said: “Investing in women's equal access to land is not just an act of justice. It is an investment in our future, a commitment to the prosperity of our planet. It is an affirmation that we value not only the land beneath our feet, but the hands that work it.”   To coincide with the event, UNCCD is launching a new analysis, which shows:  Despite comprising nearly half the world's agricultural workforce and producing up to 80 per cent of food in developing countries, women’s rights to inherit their husband’s property continue to be denied in over 100 countries.  Discriminatory practices related to land tenure, credit access, equal pay and decision-making often impede their active participation in sustaining land health. Today, less than one-in-five landholders worldwide are women.  If women had equal rights to land, agricultural production in the poorest regions would increase by up to 4 per cent and malnourishment would decline by 12–17 per cent, resulting in 150m fewer hungry people globally.   Countries with more women parliamentarians prioritize women and girls’ role in land protection and are more likely to ratify relevant treaties and set aside land for conservation. Meanwhile, only 12 per cent of the 881 national environment-related ministries run by elected officials are led by women.   The event will continue to build on UNCCD’s ‘Her Land. Her Rights.’ campaign, which was launched on International Women’s Day in March 2023.    Organized jointly by the UNCCD with UN Women, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the UN Human Rights Office, and the UN Development Programme (UNDP), the high-level event “Her Land. Her Rights: Advancing Gender Equality and Land Restoration Goals” will include debates and discussions on a woman’s role in sustainable land management.    A digital photo exhibition entitled ‘Her Land’ created and curated by Inna Modja will offer an immersive experience of the daily realities facing women and girls living on the frontlines of desertification, land degradation and drought. She will also be joined by fellow Goodwill Ambassadors Baaba Maal and Ricky Kej in a live musical performance.   In addition to New York, other events to mark Desertification and Drought Day – which officially falls every year on June 17th – will take place in all parts of the world, including China, Fiji, Hungary, Italy, Kenya, Mexico, Morocco, Serbia, Türkiye, and Vietnam.  ENDS  Notes to editors  For interviews and enquires please contact: unccd@portland-communications.com or press@unccd.int 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.   

World leaders urged to prioritize women’s land rights at the UN 
A capacity-building workshop on drought resilience marks achievements of the Ankara Initiative

As the international cooperation to address the growing threat of drought projected to affect over ¾ of the world population by 2050 gains momentum, the recent workshop in Istanbul on building negotiation skills and developing action plans became a fitting tribute to the successes of the Ankara Initiative that supported capacity-building under the UNCCD for many years. In his message to the participants, UNCCD Executive Secretary Ibrahim Thiaw remarked that the support provided by the Government of Türkiye since 2016 resulted in key contributions to national policy recommendations on issues such as land tenure, gender equality and land degradation neutrality (LDN).  As an arid and semi-arid country that made outstanding progress in land rehabilitation and restoration, Turkiye has been uniquely positioned to share its experience, providing a number of capacity-building and knowledge-sharing initiatives for UNCCD Parties working toward achieving LDN. The General Manager of Combating Desertification and Erosion Nurettin Taş presented a decision support system developed by Türkiye to realize the national LDN targets and confirmed the country’s commitment to sharing its expertise with other countries facing desertification, land degradation and drought. The practical part of the workshop for over 30 Parties from Africa and CEE included interactive trainings on building the knowledge base and developing an effective skill set for multilateral negotiations on drought resilience and LDN implementation, which will be an important asset for national delegates at the UNCCD CRIC21 in October 2023 and the COP16 in 2024.

A capacity-building workshop on drought resilience marks achievements of the Ankara Initiative
UNCCD and the Republic of Korea usher in a new era of cooperation to advance Land Degradation Neutrality

Bonn, Germany, 10 February 2023 – Today, the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) and the Korea Forest Service of the Republic of Korea signed a new Memorandum of Understanding to further support Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN).  Welcoming the new agreement, UNCCD Executive Secretary Ibrahim Thiaw said: “I take this opportunity to thank Korea Forest Service and the Republic of Korea for their leadership and commitment to the work of the UNCCD in restoring balance with nature and advancing the global target of net zero land loss. Your continued political and financial support through the Changwon Initiative will be essential for consolidating partnerships and accelerating the achievement of a land-degradation neutral world.”   Speaking at the signing ceremony, Sang Seop Lim, Deputy Minister of the Korea Forest Service, commented: “I hope that we will not only expand cooperation but also deliver greater results and that thereby we will be able to develop a strong partnership and best practices that will benefit the international community.”   The Changwon Initiative, which was a major outcome of UNCCD COP10 that took place in the Republic of Korea in 2011, has inspired and catalyzed the global target of “a land-degradation neutral world” enshrined in the Sustainable Development Goals. Activities supported through the initiative turned the vision of LDN into a concrete concept known as the "net zero land loss” to stabilize the quantity and quality of land resources and the ecosystems it supports.  The Changwon Initiative has been an important success factor for some of the most significant results achieved by the UNCCD over the past decade. The second phase of the Initiative focuses on enhancing the scientific process to support the Convention’s implementation, promoting partnerships at all levels to improve livelihoods of affected populations, addressing sub-regional and regional challenges through land restoration and reforestation, and promoting synergies with other relevant conventions and international organizations.   The Changwon Initiative continued support for the LDN Target-Setting Programme is helping countries set their voluntary national LDN targets and define measures for achieving them. To date, some 130 countries have joined the programme and more than 100 of those have already committed themselves not to degrade more land than they restore.  The Initiative’s contribution has also been essential to the secretariat’s work on sand and dust storms (SDS), with a number of knowledge and guidance products launched to date: the SDS Compendium and the Global SDS Source Base-Map.  Connecting researchers and policymakers through the UNCCD Science-Policy Interface, the Initiative has been key to providing a strong scientific foundation to the development of policy decisions and ensuring that the latest knowledge on drought and land restoration are reflected in national policies. This expert guidance, packaged in the Global Land Outlook, as well as its regional and thematic editions, delivers relevant and current information to practitioners and policymakers, enabling UNCCD Parties to effectively plan, implement and monitor their commitments to healthy land.  Showcasing good practices in sustainable land management is another key objective for the Changwon Initiative. For over ten years, the Land for Life Award has brought to light over 20 outstanding projects in more than a dozen countries worldwide, proving that land restoration can be an effective solution to climate change and biodiversity loss while contributing to job creation and food security.  The ongoing support through the Changwon Initiative toward action-oriented UNCCD programmes will enable the Convention to continue and scale up its efforts to provide collaborative and evidence-based support to country Parties who strive to end land degradation and safeguard land resources.  For more information, contact:   UNCCD: Ms. Xenya Scanlon   Chief, Communications, External Relations and Partnerships   T: +49 152 5454 0492   E: press@unccd.int About    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 to provide food, water, shelter and economic opportunity to all people in an equitable and inclusive manner.   https://www.unccd.int/    The Korea Forest Service (KFS) is an independent agency specializing in forestry that is overseen by the Ministry for Food, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries of the Republic of Korea. The KFS has the overall responsibility for establishment and implementation of forest policies and laws and delivers projects based on rehabilitation technologies in collaboration between the government and the private sector. The agency is actively involved with all three UN Rio Conventions: UNCCD, CBD and UNFCCC, contributing to global environmental issues. To take the leading role in both bilateral and regional cooperation for mitigating desertification and drought, the KFS is promoting closer cooperation through bilateral forestry cooperation arrangements and establishment of the Northeast Asia Forest Network.  https://www.forest.go.kr/ 

UNCCD and the Republic of Korea usher in a new era of cooperation to advance Land Degradation Neutrality
Central and Eastern Europe searches for ways to reduce land loss

Land degradation, one of the world’s most pressing environmental problems affects 16.5 percent of the land in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE), according to the latest UNCCD baseline assessment; equivalent to one out of every eight acres or hectares of the land in the region. From 6 to 9 December 2022, Bosnia and Herzegovina, one of the countries in the region, hosted a workshop to consider actions to take to avoid, reduce and reverse the land degradation, and to increase the area to be restored. Most CEE countries, including Bosnia and Herzegovina, participate in the drought initiative that is helping countries to be better prepared for droughts and have set their targets for restoring degraded lands. However, more restoration commitments above the current 13.5 million hectares, or 5% of the total degraded area, are needed to to reverse the ecosystem degradation and loss forests, croplands, grasslands, and peatlands in the region. The Workshop explored how to restore 350 million hectares of land degraded landscapes. The workshop participants, drawn mostly from countries in Central and Eastern Europe, the UNCCD and agencies that the Global Environment Facility (GEF) finances to help countries to carry out the desired actions discussed a new GEF programming cycle, known as “Healthy planet, healthy soils,” which offers countries the possibility to deliver on their environmental and climate agendas.   The Global Environmental Facility (GEF) is a financing instrument of the UNCCD and the largest environmental multi-donor trust fund. It contributes directly to the goals of the Convention through targeted financial and technical support to the countries which seek to meet the objectives of the UNCCD, and other international environmental agreements. Senad Oprašić, Head of Environmental Protection Department at Ministry of Foreign Trade and Economic Relations of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which hosted the workshop spoke about the importance of tackling environmental challenges with the help of existing climate financial mechanisms. Bosnia and Herzegovina committed to revitalize 100,000 hectares of abandoned land as a part of its LDN target-setting process, according to the Global Land Outlook’s second edition of the Central and Eastern European Thematic Report. Ms. Nadezda Dementieva and Ms. Munazza Jaleel Naqvi, on behalf of the UNCCD, stressed that investing in land restoration as a win-win solution for the environment, the economy and people to combat desertification, climate change and loss of biodiversity. They encouraged participants to work closely with the Global Mechanism of the UNCCD (GM), which assists countries to mobilize substantial resources to implement agreements under the Convention. The GM helps Parties to translate their voluntary LDN targets and national drought plans into concrete actions on the ground, including developing gender-responsive transformative projects and programmes that generate multiple benefits. The GM also drew attention to upcoming events relevant to the work under consideration, more specifically, the 21st session of the Committee for the Review of the Implementation of the Convention (CRIC21) that will take place in October 2023 in Uzbekistan and the 16th session of the Convention’s Conference of the Parties to be held in 2024 in Saudi Arabia.

Central and Eastern Europe searches for ways to reduce land loss