High-level event on Land Degradation held at UN Headquarters


The Permanent Missions of Qatar, Iceland and Namibia, in conjunction with the office of the President of the General Assembly, organized a High-Level Event on Land Degradation, Desertification and Drought at United Nations headquarters on Monday, 1 May 2017. The event underlined the role of Land Degradation Neutrality as an accelerator for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Ambassador Peter Thomson, President of the General Assembly, in his opening remarks, pointed out that, on average, 12 million hectares of land is lost due to desertification and land degradation every year. "More than half of the world’s agricultural land is affected by soil degradation, and the deterioration of drylands has led to the desertification of 3.6 billion hectares of land,” he said.

He said the impact of this loss has been devastating and “the lives and livelihoods of more than one billion people are currently under threat, with soil loss, erosion, contamination and degradation affecting food security, health, and sustainable local economic opportunities.”

Thomson drew attention to the catastrophic drought and famine that is currently endangering the lives of millions of people across Africa, which, he said, is a stark reminder of both the devastating consequences of desertification and land degradation and of how it can undermine our ability to achieve sustainable peace and development.

He urged the international community “to ensure that desertification, land degradation and drought-related are at the forefront…when it sets its shoulder to the wheel to drive the implementation of the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development.”

Pradeep Monga, Deputy Executive Secretary of the UNCCD and the event’s moderator, in his welcoming remarks, highlighted that “land degradation leads to a reduction in everything that societies need to survive…” and is the “exact opposite of sustainable development,” considering that “it disproportionately impacts the poorest and most vulnerable communities.”

He said the high level event was timely and well poised to contribute to the review of SDG 15 during the High Level Political Forum in 2018.

Monga praised the Group of Friends on DLDD for its catalytic role in bringing international attention to the importance of land degradation, desertification and drought issues, ensuring they were in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (the 2030 Agenda).

The Group is co-chaired by Ambassador Einar Gunnarsson of Iceland and Ambassador Neville Gertze of Namibia.  

In their opening remarks, the co-chairs said “the successful implementation of target 15.3 - on land degradation neutrality (LDN) - can connect the dots between many of the SDG's goals and targets.” 

“By safeguarding life on land, we deliver for all life on Earth. We establish the basis for communities – all citizens - everywhere to not just survive, but thrive, by building a future on a healthy and productive foundation,” the Ambassadors of Iceland and Namibia noted. 

They stressed that achieving SDG target 15.3 would empower women and girls who mostly bear the brunt of desertification, land degradation and drought, and also contribute to ending poverty and ensuring food security.

The co-chairs said as “an SDG accelerator, land degradation neutrality is an important instrument that responds effectively to ensure that ‘no one is left behind’,” adding that above all, the key message of the high level event was that the 2018 High Level Political Forum review of SDG.15 should have a special focus on target 15.3, given its central role in accelerating the achievement of the 2030 Agenda.

Melchiade Bukuru, Chief of the New York liaison office of UNCCD, said with 17 Sustainable Development Goals and hundreds of targets and indicators, “there is a need to identify areas where investments will yield maximum benefits and impacts… Achieving land degradation neutrality - will deliver many co-benefits, from biodiversity conservation and combating climate change to ensuring economic growth and human well-being.”

He briefed the meeting about the support the UNCCD is providing to countries under the national Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) target setting process (TSP), including the definition of national baselines, targets and associated measures to achieve LDN by 2030.

Bukuru acknowledged that substantial financial resources must be mobilized to achieve the target of a land degradation neutral world (SDG target 15.3) by 2030, and said it will be necessary to go beyond public resources and tap new financial instruments and intermediaries as well as to create enabling conditions to catalyze private capital around SDG implementation.

Diplomats from a range of countries, including France, Morocco, Iran, Niger participated in the well-attended event that was addressed by, among others, the Permanent Representatives of Qatar, Iceland and Namibia, Manoel Sobral, the Director UN Forum on Forests, Eva Muller, Director of  FAO’s Forestry Resources and Policy division, Reena Ghelani, Deputy Director of Operations of the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and Cecile Ndjebet, President, African Women’s Network for community Management of Forests.

For more information on the event, contact: Melchiade Bukuru, bukuru@un.org