High-level dialogue on desertification, land degradation and drought

ES GA hall
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Statement by the UNCCD Executive Secretary Mr. Ibrahim Thiaw

Excellency Mr. President of the General Assembly,
Excellency Mr. Prime Minister of India, COP. 14 President,
Excellency Mr. President of the Economic and Social Council,
Excellency Ms. Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, 
Ms. Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim, Coordinator of the Association of Fulani Women and Autochthonous Peoples of Chad.
Ambassadors, Permanent Representatives,

Ladies and gentlemen, 

Let me first thank the President of the UN General Assembly for convening this historic meeting, a milestone in the life of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification. 

This is the second time the UN General Assembly has dedicated a full day to the issue of desertification, land degradation and drought, a phenomenon that is affecting more than 3 billion people in the world. 

In the insightful remarks of our previous speakers, you heard why it is so important to increase global ambition to protect, manage and restore the land.

You heard that pandemic recovery packages and this year’s planned climate and biodiversity summit are powerful tools to promote healthy land.

You have heard that the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration is another major opportunity.
I will not re-tread the same ground.

Instead, let me give you some insights from recent UNCCD research on how we can use these opportunities to build better forward with land-centred solutions.

Put simply, a land-centred approach to COVID-19 recovery can change the world.

For around USD 2.7 trillion per year, within the scope of recovery spending, we could transform the world’s economies.

Through restoring natural ecosystems.
Through rewarding agriculture that keeps soils healthy.
Through incentivizing business models that prioritize renewable, recyclable or biodegradable products and services.
Within a decade, the global economy could create close to 400 million new green jobs, generating over USD 10 trillion in annual business value. 

All of this, while delivering the benefits to nature, the climate and human health that my esteemed UN colleagues covered.
To do this, we need coherence, alignment and cooperation in three areas of policy response.

The first area is jobs.
Taking advantage of quick-start initiatives and shovel-ready projects will create jobs that will help jumpstart recovery efforts. 
Creating permanent work in protected areas management, regenerative agriculture, agroforestry, green infrastructure and ecosystem restoration would create many more stable, decent jobs – especially for youth and women.
These are the kind of jobs that will take us forwards, not backwards.

The second area is finance.
To spend in the right places, we need coherent policies.
We can repurpose subsidies, investments and other financial mechanisms to reward communities for protecting and regenerating natural capital.
Governments can make land restoration attractive to private investors through regulations and incentives. 
Green business solutions include public-private partnerships and innovative finance mechanisms such as private equity, bankable nature solutions, debt swaps and blended finance.

The third area is governance and cooperation.
Strengthening land tenure and rights would quickly create new green jobs through value addition, economies of scale and greater market access.
Meanwhile, research has shown that areas managed by indigenous peoples and local communities have encountered less environmental damage.

We must empower them.
At the same time, we must strengthen international governance and cooperation.
We need to integrate land degradation neutrality initiatives and drought plans into international processes such as the Paris Agreement and the post-2020 global biodiversity framework.
We need global partnerships that allow us to share best practices, cutting-edge technologies and innovative business models.
We need a new social contract that engages all sections of society to mobilize collective action on the land.

Excellencies, the land cannot solve all of humanity’s problems.
We still need to fully decarbonize our economies, rethink how we produce and consume resources and so much more. 
But if we protect, manage and restore the land, the benefits will be immense.

We will accelerate recovery from the COVID-19 economic crisis.
Reduce the risk of future pandemics.
Slow climate change and protect biodiversity.
Free millions of people from poverty and hunger. 
Help to create a world of peace, prosperity and equity.
You hold the power to make these benefits a reality.

I urge you to begin using it, starting today.
Thank you.