Drylands must not be ‘deserts’ of investment, top UNCCD official urges

Press Release

Bonn, Germany, 17 June 2011 – “Yesterday, the ‘First Africa Drylands Week’ ended with a simple, yet new, message: the drylands are areas with great potential for the development and sustainable growth of its populations and nations. We must translate this into reality in economic terms with regard to the costs of inaction in relation to the costs and benefits of action in order to convince treasuries that the drylands should no longer be ‘deserts’ of investment,” Mr. Luc Gnacadja, the UN’s top advisor on land degradation, desertification and drought, said this morning.

“I am certain that the discussions and field trips this week [in Senegal] have clarified much better than I could ever do in words, that the challenges of desertification, land degradation and drought while real, are solvable,” he added.

Mr Gnacadja was speaking in Dakar, Senegal, at the global observance of the World Day to Combat Desertification, which also ended today. At a parallel event, taking place in Madrid, Spain, world football star Mr Carlos Marchena was designated a Drylands Ambassador of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD).

The events in Dakar brought together over 100 participants, including scientists, policy-makers and representatives of the international and civil society organizations and community groups, to consider ways to ensure the long-term sustainable management of the forests in the drylands. The Government of Senegal hosted both events, which were organized with the leadership of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in cooperation with the Collaborative Partnership on Forests (CPF).

In its joint press release dispatched from the events, the CPF said the First Africa Drylands Week “demonstrated renewed solidarity and unity throughout the Circum-Saharan region. Scientific and operational partnership, based on comprehensive consultation and inclusive approaches and methodologies between the development and cooperation partners, countries and civil society will reinforce governance systems, including sustainable land management, land tenure and secure livelihoods. Under this framework, individual countries, or groups of countries will be able to develop their own initiatives that will together contribute to successful land management, combat effects of climate change, prevent and combat desertification, conserve biodiversity and mitigate the vulnerability of rural and urban societies and ensure food security for the tens of millions of families, across the Sahara and the Sahel.” The CPF’s 27 partners are among the largest international organizations that focus on forest issues.

Established in 1994, the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) is the sole legally binding international agreement linking environment and development issues to the land agenda. It focuses on drylands, which cover 41% of the Earth and are in habited by over 2 billion people. Drylands account for 44% of the world’s cultivated ecosystems and have provided 30% of all the world’s cultivated plants. However, eight of the world’s 25 biodiversity ‘hotspots’ are in the drylands and up to one fifth of the drylands have been steadily degraded since the 1980s. The Convention’s 193 Parties are dedicated to improving the living conditions of the world’s poorest 1.2 billion resident in the drylands, to maintaining and restoring the land’s productivity, and to mitigating the effects of drought.