Do you have confidence in us to build the Great Green Wall, young people ask leaders

Press Release


Bonn, 9 November 2021 - A high-level ministerial event on the African led Great Green Wall initiative held yesterday identified critical elements to help the public and private sectors to make best use of the billions of dollars pledged this year, and bring to fruition 8,000km of green projects, stretching right across Africa.

Placing local populations and national institutions at the center, making traditional knowledge and capacities the entry points, taking a holistic approach and putting in place effective governance and accountability systems are among the vital elements identified.

Two inspiring youth from the GGW countries, Ms Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim and Mr Sayouba Bonkoungou called for the involvement of local populations, traditional and indigenous communities, stating “the Great Green Wall will not be done in the offices. It must be done by communities, where they live.”

“There is no time. We have nine years, and already climate change has reached 1.5 degrees Celsius in our region. We need action. It is up to you to put this in action. Do you have confidence in our ability to do it? We need to go to COP27 with results, not promises,” Ms Ibrahim said on their behalf.

Environment Ministers from Mali, Nigeria and Senegal, representatives of the African Union and the Pan African Agency of the GGW and other multilateral partners, such as the Global Environment Facility, the Green Climate Fund, but representatives of the governments of Ireland and France were among the panelists.

The event took place Monday, 8 November, at the Climate Change COP26 and was organized by the Great Green Wall (GGW) Accelerator, a global collaborative initiative led jointly by the Pan African Agency of the Great Green Wall and the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD).

Mr Modibo Kone, Minister of Environment of Mali said the Great Green Walls should not be top-down, but needs to be developed with young people on the ground, whose employment is a priority, when developing national priorities from the bottom up.

He also stressed the need for sustainable solutions stressing that the demands of populations will have to be met, and the choice is between sustainable or unsustainable solutions.

Environment minister Mr Abdou Karim Sall recalled the rapid actions taken by Senegal since March, including the creation and inauguration of a Presidential Council for the Great Green Wall and 14 recommendations for action.

Ms Inna Moja, renown singer and actress and UNCCD Land Ambassador shared the aspirations of the local populations she met during her journey through the Sahel when filming of the Great Green Wall film. “The people in the region have aspirations and dreams in the initiative, and it’s not just a matter of survival, because to have only that wish would be terrible. It is true the Great Green Wall is a vision by Africans for Africa. But it has now become a global movement because it will benefit everyone in the world. It is vital for communities to act and to get the support they need. In my view, the ambition is not unattainable. It can be achieved,” she said.

Participants highlighted some of the motivations for investing in the Great Green Wall and discussed how best to implement the new funding pledges announced last week during the COP26 World Leaders Summit, when heads of State and leading international organizations met to discuss the latest updates on the GGW Accelerator.

Mr Philippe Lacoste, Director for Sustainable Development at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of France, said “we believe the Great Green Wall is the key to the Future of the Sahel. France will continue to support its realization at all levels.”

“This project brings so many solutions for today’s planetary issues. We will hear people making change, at the level of the countries, with financial partners, as well as youth at the frontlines,” said Mr Eamon Ryan, Minister of Environment, Climate and Communication, Ireland.

Mr Carlos Manuel Rodriguez, Chief Executive Office of the Global Environment Facility, commended the progress made by heads of state at COP26 to work collaboratively on climate change, forests and land use.

“We are breaking barriers. We are breaking silos. We are working on landscape management…. We opened a door that was not there…. This is a framework. We can support the countries in a more comprehensive manner. I hope that countries will have just one project, instead of 20 countries,” noting that policy coherence at the country level is the common challenge at the national level.

Reiterating that the artificial divide between climate change, desertification and biodiversity, has to disappear because they are different sides of the problem, Mr Yannick Glemarec, chief executive of the Green Climate Fund, said the Great Green Wall, as an African vision for Africa “is an extremely compelling vision.”

“It helps to increase biological diversity, improve climate resilience, but also [helps] to increase food security, job creation, recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, and achieve peace and social stability. It would be important to assess how many of the 169 targets of the Sustainable Development Goals will be realized,” he added.

Mobilizing more national institutions and support by international partners would be key to this process and to avoiding future catastrophic events, he said.

The interactive panel also highlighted the need for governments, UN entities, civil society, and the private sector to build partnerships to provide decisive large-scale action to implement the Great Green Wall.

“COP 26 is a historic moment when attention is focused on the need for change as never before. With strategic partnerships like the Great Green Wall Accelerator, together we can develop and strengthen national and regional capacities and rethink, adapt and invest in a more sustainable future, especially for the poorest and most vulnerable people in the Sahel,” said Mr Gilbert F. Houngbo, President of International Fund for Agricultural Development.

Mr Ibrahim Thiaw, UNCCD Executive secretary, commended countries for a bold vision that is realizing all 17 SDG, but reminded participants that “the public is impatient for urgent action, is watching us, and we all have a responsibility in transforming the pledges into concrete actions.”

He said UNCCD, will continue to coordinate efforts and ensure no one is left behind, noting that for 12 years people watched and thought this vision was not realizable, but we now have 9 years to achieve this vision and a huge opportunity to create a dynamic to transform the world.

Ms Inger Anderson, Executive Director, United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) recalled lessons over five decades, including the need to address land and climate change issues together and Africa speaking with one voice, which put together have made the Great Green Wall a success.

Mr Eduardo Mansour of the Food and Agriculture organization of the United Nations (FAO) highlighted the lessons from and results of restoring a mosaic of initiatives, not just trees, on the 60,000 hectares of degrading land restored in the Great Green Wall with support from the Organization, and added that the Great Green Wall is a flagship project for the UN Decade for Ecosystem Restoration.

Ms Josefa Leonel Correia Sacko, Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture of the African Union Commission, in her closing remarks said it costs about USD440 per hectare to USD530 per hectare to restore land in the Sahel, depending on the region. Thus, the current contributions amount to about half the USD 36-49 billion needed to restore 100 million hectares of land to reach the 2030 targets.

“The GGW is a programme of Africa, and we are proud that this baby is taking shape and transferring the lessons learned to other regions of Africa,” she added, and said the GGW has been expanded to the countries in the Southern African Development Community, which faces similar challenges, including a serious unfolding drought crisis.

The Accelerator was launched in early 2021 by President of France Emmanuel Macron and other world leaders at the One Planet Summit. It aims to support African and other actors for the Great Green Wall (GGW) Initiative to better coordinate, monitor and measure the impact of their actions.

It is developing two tools: a harmonized results management framework to offer a better overview of what is happening, and what are the best practices to scale up. But also, an online platform to be release early 2022 that will support the dialogue between all the parties and enhance fruitful collaborations.

She said the partners to the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration will stay united in support of what is a united African endeavor that can bring hope to the region

The bold and transformative philanthropic investment made by Bezos Earth Fund boosts the foundational pledges from the One Planet Summit that had since grown to USD19.6 to combat climate change, restore African land, and provide jobs and food security for millions across the Sahel.

The Bezos Earth Fund made an additional one billion US dollars pledge last Monday, 1 November, to support landscape restoration in Africa, including the Great Green Wall.

About the Great Green Wall

The Great Green Wall is an African-led movement with an epic ambition to grow an 8,000km natural wonder of the world across the entire width of Africa. The Wall promises to be a compelling solution to the many urgent threats not only facing the African Continent, but the global community as a whole – notably climate change, drought, famine, conflict and migration. Once complete, the Great Green Wall will be the largest living structure on the planet, 3 times the size of the Great Barrier Reef.

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