G20 environment ministers meeting

ES portrait

16 September 2020

Statement by UNCCD Executive Secretary Mr. Ibrahim Thiaw

Your Excellency Engineer Abdulrahman Al-Fadley, 
Your Excellency Shinjiro Koizumi, 
Your Excellency Sergio Costa, 
Ladies and gentlemen,

At the outset, I would like to thank the Saudi presidency for this invitation.  

The close alignment of the overarching theme  and priorities  under the G20 presidency of Saudi Arabia with the vision of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is remarkable.  

And timely. 

We welcome discussions at a point when our collective interdependence and vulnerabilities – especially in the face of COVID-19 – are very much exposed. 

For UNCCD galvanizing our collective efforts to combat land degradation and habitat loss – delivering on SDG 15 - in particular, is critical for the health and welfare of people and for planet earth. 

Land degradation drives fragmentation and the disappearance of valuable terrestrial habitats which further exacerbates biodiversity loss. 

At a global scale, the area of non-degraded land is still progressively shrinking . We know that 75% of the Earth's terrestrial ecosystems have already been transformed from their natural state.  

Country reports, to the UNCCD, show that 1 in 5 hectares are degraded. 

The most vulnerable people are the most severely affected of course.  But land degradation undermines sustainable development and prosperity in all regions – including in G20 countries.

But if we, in a coordinated way, avoid, reduce, and reverse land degradation we can better protect the rich biodiversity and vital ecosystem services that support all life on Earth.

There are millions of hectares with the potential to be restored. 

There are millions of hectares that can be sustainably managed.

And there are millions of hectares that deserve to be protected and conserved. 

As we enter the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration and as we inch closer to agreeing the post 2020 Biodiversity Framework, UNCCD stands ready to engage with the G20 on these issues.  

And on any initiatives pursued under Saudi’s G20 Presidency.  


Let me end by thanking the Saudi presidency once more for its strong voice and leadership on land issues. I wish you well in your discussions today. 

Thank you!