Desertification and Drought Day: Message from Ibrahim Thiaw

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Humanity is totally dependent on the natural world and the land we live on. We have transformed nearly three quarters of the Earth’s ice-free land to meet our demands for food, raw materials, and homes. It is not sustainable. We are putting our land under enormous pressure.

Climate change, rapid urbanisation, and population growth are all causing land degradation. Today, over 3 billion people – almost half the world’s population – are directly or indirectly affected. In turn, land degradation worsens climate change, accelerates biodiversity losses, and exposes us to new zoonotic infectious diseases like COVID-19.

We must act now to reverse land degradation. There is hope. This year, we enter the UN Decade of Ecosystem Restoration. Restoring natural ecosystems can reduce land degradation and restore hope.

The pandemic has reminded us how much we depend on each other. How much our fate depends on our relationships with nature. How much we need a good political will, combined with collective action, and sustained investment. When these come together, we can make a difference. This is what Drought and Desertification Day stands for this year: to build back better with healthy land.

Restoring land can give us better food and water security, reduced carbon emissions, and healthy air quality. This is how we can build a greener, healthier, and more sustainable future.

We already have the tools – like responsible land governance, and investments that protect and restore nature.  Investing in healthy land to drive a green recovery is a smart economic decision.

The Great Green Wall in Africa is a wonderful example of what we can potentially achieve, together. We are creating a mosaic of green and productive landscapes, right across Africa, and harnessing the Sahel’s abundant natural resources to power the future. A future that creates jobs and rebuilds livelihoods, raising millions out of poverty. A future that insulates economies against future crises. A future that provides hope for the most vulnerable, including women and youth.

Let’s build forward better with healthy land. We need you all to work with us to achieve this goal.