Tokyo International Symposium on Combating Desertification

Monique Barbut at the podium

Majority of people in Japan tend to think desertification is happening far away from them. During the symposium today, they learned why they should care and take action in the fight against desertification and land degradation.

“Japan is not immune from the impact of land degradation,”  said Monique Barbut, UNCCD Executive Secretary, speaking at the opening of the symposium. “For example, the Japanese government aims to increase the food self-sufficiency rate to 45%. It will be tough when nearly 30% of the agricultural land in Japan is already degraded. Meeting food self-sufficiency targets means not just food production increases but should also mean land restoration and rehabilitation in Japan.”

She further mentioned the potential impact of land degradation on international peace and security because the loss of productive land is driving people to make risky life choices. 

Mr. Yoshihiro Seki, Vice Minister for Environment in Japan, introduced Japan’s cooperation on the drylands issues through bilateral and multilateral cooperation. He stressed the importance of land restoration in achieving the 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

The symposium participants then heard from three keynote speakers: Prof. Kazuhiko Takeuchi, Director, IR3S, University of Tokyo and Senior Visiting Professor, UNU-IAS; Prof. Uriel Safriel, Professor Emeritus, Hebrew University of Jerusalem; and Ms. Majig Tungalag, Director, Department of Forest Policy and Coordination, Ministry of Environment, Green Development and Tourism, Mongolia.

Two panel discussions followed, the first one focusing on the UNCCD process and the second about the role of science and technology in achieving Sustainable Development Goal target 15.3 by combatting desertification to achieve a “land degradation-neutral world” by 2030. 

The symposium was held in the United Nations University in Tokyo, where the observance of the International Year for Desert and Desertification was held 11 years ago, and in commemoration of over the 20 years of the implementation of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD). It was co-organized by the UNCCD secretariat along with the Ministry of Environment in Japan and Tottori University.

Information about the symposium (English and Japanese):