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Remarks by the UNCCD Executive Secretary Ibrahim Thiaw

Welcome to the nineteenth session of the Committee for the Review of the Implementation of the Convention.

This is a unique session, for reasons that we would have preferred to avoid. This is the first session of the UNCCD to be held online.

The COVID-19 pandemic, and the distancing rules that we must all follow, has forced us to meet this way. I thank you for your commitment and patience in this time of great disruption and difficulty.

While the pandemic has forced us apart, it has also emphasized the importance of the UNCCD’s work.

Healthy land is essential to humanity. It is at the core of what we do, of what we are. And it is at the core of human and planetary health – by feeding us, buffering us from zoonotic diseases, regulating our climate and providing the home for crucial biodiversity.   

So, even though our work has become more difficult, we must redouble our efforts to protect, manage and restore the land – particularly with COP 15 and the beginning of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration just around the corner.

Colleagues,

At this session, you might not be negotiating decisions, or issuing agreed recommendations, as you have done in previous years.

But what you do over the next five days remains vital nonetheless.

At this session, you will discuss the Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) target-setting programme and the efforts of the Global Mechanism to help countries develop Transformative Projects and Programmes.

You will hear a report from the Global Mechanism on the LDN Fund, which has in its short life already received backing of more than USD 150 million.

You will receive an update on the drought initiative, gender action plan and land tenure frameworks.

And you will hear the interim report of the Intergovernmental Working Group on drought, which is looking at options for the UNCCD to provide focus and emphasis to the work on drought.

Now, I do understand that some of these issues are still the subject of lively debate among Parties, which is why this online session holds great relevance.

You will share your experiences on these issues and processes with your counterparts. You will put forth your points of view and listen to those that do not necessarily align with your own. You will, I hope, start to move towards common ground. In so doing, you will set the stage for negotiations on these pivotal issues at the COP.

It is my sincere wish that we make as much progress as practically possible at this session, and in its wake.

Colleagues,

Given the pressures building on the planet, we really have no time to waste.

If you ask me: healthy land will be essential for a sustainable recovery from the pandemic. Sustainable land management, land restoration, creates green jobs. Mitigates climate change, slows nature and biodiversity loss. Increases food security and frees millions of people from poverty and hunger. Protecting natural habitat and species reduces the risk of future pandemics. In a nutshell, combating desertification can contribute to creating a world of peace, prosperity and equity.

The work we do under this Convention is essential to protecting, managing and restoring healthy land to seize all of these benefits. But we can only fulfill the land’s full potential if we do it together.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts and experiences.

Thank you.