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Drought data shows “an unprecedented emergency on a planetary scale”: UN

UNCCD launches ‘Global Drought Snapshot’ report at COP28 in collaboration with International Drought Resilience Alliance (IDRA) Recent drought-related data based on research in the past two years and compiled by the UN point to “an unprecedented emergency on a planetary scale, where the massive impacts of human-induced droughts are only starting to unfold.” According to the report, ‘Global Drought Snapshot,’ launched by the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) at the outset of COP28 climate talks in the UAE, few if any hazard claims more lives, causes more economic loss and affects more sectors of societies than drought. UNCCD is one of three Conventions originated at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. The other two address climate change (UNFCCC) and biodiversity (UN CBD).  Says UNCCD Executive Secretary Ibrahim Thiaw: “Unlike other disasters that attract media attention, droughts happen silently, often going unnoticed and failing to provoke an immediate public and political response. This silent devastation perpetuates a cycle of neglect, leaving affected populations to bear the burden in isolation.” “The Global Drought Snapshot report speaks volumes about the urgency of this crisis and building global resilience to it.  With the frequency and severity of drought events increasing, as reservoir levels dwindle and crop yields decline, as we continue to lose biological diversity and famines spread, transformational change is needed.”  “We hope this publication serves as a wake-up call.” Drought data, selected highlights: 15–20%: Population of China facing more frequent moderate-to-severe droughts within this century (Yin et al., 2022) 80%: Expected increase in drought intensity in China by 2100 (Yin et al., 2022) 23 million: people deemed severely food insecure across the Horn of Africa in December 2022 (WFP, 2023) 5%: Area of the contiguous United States suffering severe to extreme drought (Palmer Drought Index) in May, 2023 (NOAA, 2023) 78: Years since drought conditions were as severe as they were in the La Plata basin of Brazil–Argentina in 2022, reducing crop production and affecting global crop markets (WMO, 2023a) 630,000 km2 (roughly the combined area of Italy and Poland): Extent of Europe impacted by drought in 2022 as it experienced its hottest summer and second warmest year on record, almost four times the average 167,000 km2 impacted between 2000 and 2022 (EEA, 2023) 500: years since Europe last experienced a drought as bad as in 2022 (World Economic Forum, 2022) 170 million: people expected to experience extreme drought if average global temperatures rise 3°C above pre-industrial levels, 50 million more than expected if  warming is limited to 1.5°C (IPCC, 2022) Agriculture and forests 70%: Cereal crops damaged by drought in the Mediterranean, 2016–2018 33%: loss of grazing land in South Africa due to drought (‌Ruwanza et al., 2022) Double or triple: Expected forest losses in the Mediterranean region under 3°C warming compared to current risk (Rossi et al., 2023) 5: Consecutive rainfall season failures in the Horn of Africa, causing the region’s worst drought in 40 years (with Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia particularly hard hit), contributing to reduced agricultural productivity, food insecurity and high food prices (WMO, 2023). 73,000 km2: average area of EU cropland (or ~5%) impacted by drought, 2000-2022, contributing to crop failures (EEA, 2023) $70 billion: Africa’s drought-related economic losses in the past 50 years (WMO, 2022). 44%: Expected drop in Argentina’s soybean production in 2023 relative to the last five years, the lowest harvest since 1988/89, contributing to an estimated 3% drop in Argentina’s GDP for 2023 (EU Science Hub, 2023) Water conditions 75%: Reduction of cargo capacity of some vessels on the Rhine due to low river levels in 2022, leading to severe delays to shipping arrivals and departures (World Economic Forum, 2022) 5 million: People in southern China affected by record-low water levels in the Yangtze River due to drought and prolonged heat (WMO, 2023a) 2,000: backlog of barges on the Mississippi River in late 2022 due to low water levels, causing $20 billion in supply chain disruptions and other economic damage (World Economic Forum, 2022) 2–5 times: Acceleration of long-term rates of groundwater-level decline and water-quality degradation in California's Central Valley basins over the past 30 years due to drought-induced pumpage (Levy et al., 2021)  Social dimensions  85%: People affected by droughts who live in low- or middle-income countries (World Bank, 2023) 15 times: Greater likelihood of being killed by floods, droughts and storms in highly vulnerable regions relative to regions with very low vulnerability, 2010 to 2020 (IPCC, 2023) 1.2 million: people in the Central American Dry Corridor needing food aid after five years of drought, heatwaves and unpredictable rainfall (UNEP, 2022) Remedies Up to 25%: CO2 emissions that could be offset by nature-based solutions including land restoration (Pan et al., 2023) Almost 100%: Reduction in the conversion of global forests and natural land for agriculture if just half of animal products such as pork, chicken, beef and milk consumed today were replaced with sustainable alternatives (Carbon Brief, 2023) 20 to 50%: Potential reduction in water waste if conventional sprinkler systems were replaced by micro-irrigation (drip irrigation), which delivers water directly to plant roots (STEM Writer, 2022). 20%: EU’s land and sea areas to be made subject to restoration measures by 2030, with measures in place for all ecosystems in need of restoration by 2050 (European Council, 2023) $2 billion: investment by AFR100 in African organizations, businesses and government-led projects, announced this year with further anticipated investments of $15 billion to foster the restoration of 20 million hectares of land by 2026, generating an estimated $135 billion in benefits to around 40 million people. (Hess, 2021) 6: Riparian countries (Benin, Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Mali and Togo) participating in the Volta basin Flood and Drought management project, the first large-scale, transboundary implementation of Integrated Flood and Drought Management strategies, including an End-to-End Early Warning System for Flood Forecasting and Drought Prediction (Deltares, 2023) ~45%: global disaster-related losses that were insured in 2020, up from 40% in 1980-2018. However, disaster insurance cover remains very low in many developing countries (UNDRR, 2022) 50 km: the resolution of the water distribution maps thanks to a recently-developed method of combining satellite measurements with high-resolution meteorological data, an major improvement from the previous 300 kilometers resolution (Gerdener et al., 2023) The report was unveiled at a high-level event with the International Drought Resilience Alliance (IDRA) in Dubai (webcast at www.youtube.com/@THEUNCCD, 16:00 Dubai time / 12:00 GMT.  It is part of UNCCD’s series of Land and Drought Dialogues at COP28: https://bit.ly/3Gh7GZd).  Launched by the leaders of Spain and Senegal at COP27, IDRA is the first global coalition creating political momentum and mobilizing financial and technical resources for a drought-resilient future. Australia, Colombia, Italy and the Union of Comoros, together with the Commonwealth Secretariat and other major international organizations, are being announced at COP28 as IDRA’s latest members, bringing the Alliance’s total membership to 34 countries and 28 entities. Additional highlights from the report: Several findings in this report highlight land restoration, sustainable land management and nature positive agricultural practices as critical aspects of building global drought resilience. By adopting nature-positive farming techniques, such as drought-resistant crops, efficient irrigation methods, no-till and other soil conservation practices, farmers can reduce the impact of drought on their crops and incomes. Efficient water management is another key component of global drought resilience. This includes investing in sustainable water supply systems, conservation measures and the promotion of water-efficient technologies. Disaster preparedness and early warning systems are also essential for global drought resilience. Investing in meteorological monitoring, data collection and risk assessment tools can help respond quickly to drought emergencies and minimize impacts.  Building global drought resilience requires international cooperation, knowledge sharing as well as environmental and social justice. “Several countries already experience climate-change-induced famine,” says the report. “Forced migration surges globally; violent water conflicts are on the rise; the ecological base that enables all life on earth is eroding more quickly than at any time in known human history.” “We have no alternative to moving forward in a way that respects the planet’s boundaries and the interdependencies of all forms of life. We need to reach binding global agreements for proactive measures that are to be taken by nations to curtail the spells of drought.” “The less space the developed human world occupies, the more natural hydrological cycles will stay intact. Restoring, rebuilding and revitalizing all those landscapes that we degraded and destroyed is the imperative of our time. Urban intensification, active family planning, and curbing rapid population growth are prerequisites for societal development that respects planetary boundaries.” About  The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) is an international agreement on good land stewardship. It helps people, communities and countries create wealth, grow economies and secure enough food, clean water and energy by ensuring land users an enabling environment for sustainable land management. Through partnerships, the Convention’s 197 parties set up robust systems to manage drought promptly and effectively. Good land stewardship based on sound policy and science helps integrate and accelerate achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, builds resilience to climate change and prevents biodiversity loss. 

Drought data shows “an unprecedented emergency on a planetary scale”: UN
UNCCD and partners to host first-ever Land and Drought Pavilion at COP28

Land & Drought Pavilion to be set in the Blue Zone / Opportunities Petal from 1-10 December Bonn (Germany), 23/11/2023 – To mark their presence at the UN Climate Conference (COP28), the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) will be co-hosting the first-ever Land & Drought Pavilion together with its two flagship initiatives: the G20 Global Land Initiative and the International Drought Resilience Alliance (IDRA), as well as partners, the Arab Gulf Programme for Development (AGFUND) and the Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa (BADEA). From 1st to 10th December, the Pavilion will curate a broad range of high-level dialogues, innovation showcase sessions, and interactive discussions highlighting the importance of healthy land as a climate solution and the urgent need to build drought resilience. UNCCD will also be launching its Drought in Numbers 2023 report and announcing next year’s Desertification and Drought Day– which will mark the 30th anniversary of the Convention. All sessions will be open to accredited COP28 delegates and held in the Blue Zone / Opportunities Petal, Thematic Arena 4, 1st floor, stand 205 and livestreamed on UNCCD’s YouTube and Facebook channels. Among the highlights of the programme: The Opening Dialogue, Raising Land & Drought on the Climate Agenda on 1 December will convene partners and experts to discuss expected outcomes from land and drought conversations at COP28. The high-level event of the International Drought Resilience Alliance co-chaired by Spain and Senegal leaders on 1 December will see the launch of Drought in Numbers 2023 report. IDRA will also welcome new member countries and update on progress achieved thus far. A high-level event “Rio Conventions on the Road to 2024” will bring together the leadership of the three Rio Conventions: CBD, UNFCCC and UNCCD. A high-level dialogue on women’s land rights will be hosted on 4th December, which will also coincide with Gender Equality Day at COP28. On 6th December, several start-ups will gather in the Pavilion to showcase their land restoration innovations, in a hackathon format. A high-level session will take place on 9th December, where the Convention will announce the host country of the next Desertification and Drought Day, 17 June 2024. Remarks from high-level representatives from the host country and city are expected. Youth-led dialogues, including panels on empowering female ecopreneurship and a Youth4Land Intergenerational Dialogue. A ‘Dry delights reception’ will be hosted on the last day of the Pavilion (10th December). Experts will showcase drought-resilient foods, namely water lentils, explaining the production process, walking attendees through its nutritional benefits, and providing an opportunity to taste. Notes to Editors The detailed programme and timings can be found here: https://unccd.int/cop28pavilion Daily highlights from the sessions will be available on UNCCD’s website. Visual assets are available here: https://trello.com/b/6EexwgYj/unccd-cop28-dubai-2023 For additional information on UNCCD’s presence at COP28 and other media-related enquiries, please contact press@unccd.int and/or unccd@portland-communications.com About UNCCD The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) is the global vision and voice for land. We unite governments, scientists, policymakers, private sector and communities around a shared vision and global action to restore and manage the world’s land for the sustainability of humanity and the planet. Much more than an international treaty signed by 197 Parties, UNCCD is a multilateral commitment to mitigating today’s impacts of land degradation and advancing tomorrow’s land stewardship in order to provide food, water, shelter and economic opportunity to all people in an equitable and inclusive manner.

UNCCD and partners to host first-ever Land and Drought Pavilion at COP28
Notes de M. Ibrahim Thiaw à l’occasion du Forum International de Dakar sur la Paix et la Sécurité en Afrique

Excellences, Mesdames et Messieurs, « Pour une Afrique résiliante et démocratique : approche intégrée face à l’instabilité récurrente et aux fragilités institutionnelles ». Choix de thème ne pouvait être plus judicieux. Riche mais pauvre. Plusieurs intervenants ont déjà mis l’accent sur ce paradoxe vécu en Afrique. En Afrique, on parle de potentialités et d’opportunités. En Afrique, on aspire à transformer l’essai, c’est-à-dire à dépasser la phase de transition et mouvoir vers la pleine valorisation des richesses naturelles. Construire une Afrique résiliante et démocratique, suggère d’adopter une approche sécuritaire plus intégrée et adresser véritablement les causes profondes du mal africain. Mieux gérer les convoitises diverses et variées qui gangrènent le continent. Convoitises liées à la terre, à l’eau, aux hydrocarbures, aux resources minières, forestières, halieutiques et fauniques. Dans un contexte de changement climatique et de croissance démographique explosive, combinés à une faible gouvernance politique, économique et sociale, les ingrédients sont réunis pour une situation complexe.  Aujourd’hui, les risques sécuritaires les plus élevés dans le monde (et en Afrique) ne sont plus les conflits armés entre nations ennemies. Nous ne sommes plus dans un contexte de rivalité Est-Ouest, de décolonisation ou de guerres de libération. Aujourd’hui, parmi les premières causes d’insécurité figure la détérioration de l’environnement. On se tue pour l’accès à un lopin de terre fertile, à un point d’eau ou à un pâturage. L’instabilité s’installe dans certains pays riches en ressources naturelles, maintenant ainsi leurs populations dans une pauvreté absolue, comme si quelqu’un avait décidé, avec un dessein plus ou moins avoué, que plus le pays africain est riche, plus ses populations doivent rester dans la pauvreté. Certains évoquent -non sans me révolter profondément- le concept de malédiction des ressources.   Cependant, si le concept d’insécurité a changé de centre de gravité, notre réponse est restée largement figée dans le temps ; par conséquent, souvent mal adaptée. On le voit chaque jour, par la fermeture des opérations de maintien de la paix (alors qu’il n’y a point de paix), le retrait de troupes étrangères venues en masse, avec la meilleure volonté du monde. On le voit par l’inadaptation des réponses offertes par nos forces de défense nationales, parfois mal formées aux situations conflictuelles asymétriques. On le voit aussi par l’inadaptation des réponses des Etats aux nombreux défis environnementaux, dont les départements chargés de l’environment disposent de budgets faméliques et de ressources inadéquates.   Si les causes profondes de notre maladie sont liées à l’environnement, pourquoi donc la gestion des resources naturelles continue d’être ignorée dans les accords de paix ou dans les manifestes de partis et d’élus politiques ? Pourquoi les budgets, ressources et politiques relatifs à la gestion des resources naturelles continuent de figurer en filigrane ? Comment peut-on soigner un malade dont le diagnostic continue d’être faussé ? Les meilleurs médecins de brousse n’étant pas forcément de bons mages, il est essentiel que le patient joue à la transparence. Vous me permettrez de citer deux cas de figure pour illustrer mes propos : Première illustration : la rareté des ressources comme source de conflit. Dans son rapport sur le pastoralisme et la sécurité, le Bureau des Nations Unies pour l’Afrique de l’Ouest et le Sahel[1] confirme que la compétition croissante pour l'accès à l'eau et aux pâturages est l'un des principaux moteurs des conflits dans la sous-région. Au départ, l’on assiste à une compétition classique entre usagers de la nature : agriculteurs et éleveurs. A l’arrivée, l’on peut faire face à un conflit inter-ethnique. Non, les Peuls et les Dogons ne sont pas des ennemis. Pas plus que les Haoussa et les Touaregs ; les Toubous et les Djerma. Bien au contraire, ces groupes avaient en fait, depuis des siècles, pacifié leurs relations grâce à la puissante « parenté à plaisanterie », introduite au début du 13è siècle par le régime de Soundiata Keita. Des pactes sacrés et des actes concrets étaient institutionnalisés pour ne jamais verser le sang de son « cousin à plaisanterie ».   Malheureusement, les points de rupture écologiques ont été atteints depuis longtemps, et ces compétitions pour l’accès à la terre et à l’eau s’amplifient, prenant parfois des dimensions confessionnelles. Mal gérés, ils alimentent les rhétoriques de mouvements Jihadistes, dont certains reprochent aux Etats de prendre partie. Là aussi, il est à craindre que nous déployons des réponses mal adaptées aux défis. Le Sahel est d’abord et avant tout malade de l’effrondrement du vivant.   Les causes des conflits évoluent donc, nos réponses ne le sont pas. La rareté des ressources naturelles n’est pas la seule cause de conflits dans nos régions. Hélas, autre signe de mauvaise gouvernance, l’abondance des ressources est aussi un germe dévastateur.   Les ressources minières, les hydrocarbures, les ressources fauniques, halieutiques et forestières attisent d’énormes convoitises. Et cela n’a rien de récent. Déjà en 1885, la conférence de Berlin consacrait le dépècement de l’Afrique par huit puissances européennes. Les indépendances politiques des Etats modernes n’ont pu se défaire d’un joug économique bien établi, basé essentiellement sur l’extraction. Ces convoitises prennent de l’ampleur avec l’avénement de l’économie-monde, avec de nouveaux venus sur la scène, qui cherchent aussi une place au soleil. Un rapport stratégique conjoint de l’UNEP et d’INTERPOL sur l’environnement, la paix et la sécurité en République Démocratique du Congo [2], note que des criminels exploitent illégalement les ressources naturelles, y compris l'or, le coltan et les diamants. Plus grave, ces exploitants illégaux financent divers groupes armés non-étatiques qui se battent entre eux, de telle sorte qu’aucun groupe ne domine l’autre. Une façon de perpétuer le chaos et, par conséquent l’exploitation abusive des ressources. Le rapport estime qu'au moins 40 % des conflits internes sont liés aux ressources naturelles. La criminalité environnementale ne peut être combattue de manière isolée. Pour lutter contre ces crimes organisés, de loin les plaies les plus profondes infligées à l’économie africaine, les réponses doivent être multi-formes, organisées et bien coordonnées.  Pour être efficace, une telle lutte nécessite un effort global et coopératif. Cela exigera également une réponse plus large de la part de la communauté internationale, mais surtout des pays concernés. L’abondance comme la rareté des ressources ne doivent pas être des fatalités. Ni l’une ni l’autre ne devrait constituer une menace sérieuse à la paix et à la sécurité. En fait, elles ne le sont que lorsque la gouvernance est défaillante. Parlant des réponses à ces crises, empruntons une analogie médicale : ne vaut-il pas mieux chercher les causes profondes de la maladie, plutôt que de prodiguer un traitement symptomatique superficiel ? Jusque-là, les réponses militaires ont été privilégiées– y compris au Sahel. Nul doute que les vaillantes forces armées sont nécessaires, mais elles ne peuvent demeurer la seule réponse, face aux urgences climatiques, aux pénuries d’eau, aux déficits alimentaires et à la pauvreté.   L’on ne tire pas une balle sur un feu de brousse si l’on veut l’éteindre. La Police n’arrêtera ni un vent de sable, ni un ouragan. Pour lutter contre l’élévation du niveau de la mer qui menace des millions de citoyens, la solution est à chercher du côté de la réduction des émissions de gaz à effet de serre, ou tout au moins des techniques d’adaptation au changement climatique. Le développement durable et la sécurité humaine sont comme des siamois. Inséparables, ils sont complémentaires. Le développement n’est point envisageable sans la sécurité. De même, il n’y a point de sécurité sans une gestion durable de nos ressources naturelles.   Permettez-moi, pour conclure, d’en dire un mot sur l’immigration clandestine, une de nos plaies ouvertes et cause d’une grave insécurité humaine. Si ce phénomène est aussi ancien que l’humanité, les récentes vagues de départs non-organisés sont autant socialement douloureuses qu’elles ne sont économiquement pénibles. Les pertes des moyens de production dues à la dégradation des terres agricoles et pastorales ou à la sur-exploitation des pêcheries ont jeté des millions de jeunes sur des routes périlleuses. Ces départs, vers des destinations de plus en plus lointaines, sont d’abord des fuites de cerveaux ou de bras valides. Certains, mais une minorité de plus en plus réduite, s’en sortent. La majorité n’y parviennent pas. Là aussi, certains pays de destination ont adopté la politique du tout-sécuritaire, allant jusqu’à construire des murs, physiques ou virtuels. Nous pensons que l’une des meilleures solutions seraient d’investir sur les zones et pays d’émigration, sur la restauration des terres dégradées, afin de permettre une production décente et sécurisante pour les familles. De Antananarivo à Tanger, de Djibouti à Dakar, de Luanda à Mombasa, l’Afrique regorge de ressources, de solutions et d’opportunités. Ne manquant ni de terre ni de soleil, ni de bras ni de génie, l’Afrique est comme ce fruit mûr qui demande à être cueilli. Dans un monde assailli par de féroces compétitions, l’Afrique doit s’inventer des solutions favorables à son développement et s’affranchir d’un joug politique et économique qui n’a que trop durer.   Je vous remercie. [1] Pastoralisme et Sécurité en Afrique de l’Ouest et au Sahel Vers une coexistence pacifique Etude du Bureau des Nations Unies pour l’Afrique de l’Ouest et le Sahel (UNOWAS) Aout 2018 https://unowas.unmissions.org/sites/default/files/rapport_pastoralisme_fr-avril_2019_-_online.pdf [2] INTERPOL-UN Environment (2016). Strategic Report: Environment, Peace and Security – A Convergence of Threats https://wedocs.unep.org/handle/20.500.11822/17008;jsessionid=2EAB6CD7FA6C6DB77CC024356BEC658C  

Notes de M. Ibrahim Thiaw à l’occasion du Forum International de Dakar sur la Paix et la Sécurité en Afrique
Healthy land crucial for global climate, security and prosperity

Samarkand, 17 November 2023 – Halting and reversing rapid land loss around the world is key for addressing global challenges of climate change, food and water security, and forced migration, concluded the five-day conference of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD). The 21st session of the Committee to Review the Implementation of the Convention (CRIC21) was hosted by the Government of Uzbekistan in Samarkand from 13-17 November, bringing together some 1,000 delegates from 117 countries representing governments, civil society and academia. The meeting marked a halfway checkpoint towards reaching the global goal to end land loss by 2030. It also focused on tackling worsening sand and dust storms and droughts, in the region and beyond, and empowering women in land restoration efforts. UNCCD Executive Secretary Ibrahim Thiaw said: “Land degradation and drought are disruptors, wreaking havoc on societies and people’s lives, and throwing millions on the dangerous roads of migration. We must urgently scale up investment in land restoration to ensure stability and prosperity for billions of people around the world.” The meeting convened against the backdrop of new UNCCD data collected from 126 countries, indicating that some 420 million hectares, an area roughly the size of Central Asia, were degraded between 2015-2019. If current trends persist, a staggering 1.5 billion hectares of land will need to be restored by 2030 to reach global goals. Commenting on the outcomes of CRIC21, Biljana Kilibarda, CRIC Chair, said: “Convening for the first time in Central Asia, this meeting was an opportunity to put stronger emphasis on the relevance of problems of land degradation and drought to the whole region and the role of international cooperation in solving them. We reviewed the progress in the implementation of the Convention and provided recommendations to accelerate our efforts.” On 15 November, the Government of Uzbekistan convened a high-level event on sand and dust storms. According to UNCCD experts, more than 2 billion tonnes of sand and dust enter the atmosphere every year, with far-reaching implications for economies, human health, and even security. Obidjon Kudratov, First Deputy Minister of Ecology, Environmental Protection and Climate Change of Uzbekistan, commented: “This high-level event brought recognition of sand and dust storms as a global problem.” He also noted that the Central Asian region is losing US$ 6 billion a year to land degradation. For the first time, a two-part Gender Caucus convened during CRIC to advance the implementation of the Convention’s Gender Action Plan, and bolster women’s engagement in land restoration and drought resilience efforts. CRIC21 recommendations will inform decision-making by the Convention’s 196 country Parties and the European Union ahead of the next UNCCD Conference of the Parties (COP), to be held in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, in December 2024. UNCCD is one of three Conventions originated at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro alongside climate change (UNFCCC) and biodiversity (CBD). CRIC21 convened just under two weeks before the start of the UNFCCC COP28 in Dubai, UAE. “We are in a vicious circle, where land degradation is fueling climate change and climate change is exacerbating land loss in the world. Our message to COP28 is clear: we are only resilient to climate change as our land is,” concluded Thiaw.   Notes to editors For interviews and enquires please contact: press@unccd.int and/or unccd@portland-communications.com More information about the 21st session of the UNCCD Committee on the Review of the Implementation of the Convention (CRIC21): https://www.unccd.int/cric21 About UNCCD The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) is the global vision and voice for land. We unite governments, scientists, policymakers, private sector and communities around a shared vision and global action to restore and manage the world’s land for the sustainability of humanity and the planet. Much more than an international treaty signed by 197 parties, UNCCD is a multilateral commitment to mitigating today’s impacts of land degradation and advancing tomorrow’s land stewardship in order to provide food, water, shelter and economic opportunity to all people in an equitable and inclusive manner.

Healthy land crucial for global climate, security and prosperity
Sand and dust storm frequency increasing in many world regions, UN warns

Two billion tons of sand and dust, equal in weight to 350 Great Pyramids of Giza, enter the atmosphere every year; UNCCD experts attribute over 25% of the problem to human activities Wreaks havoc from Northern and Central Asia to sub-Saharan Africa; Health impacts poorly understood Sand and dust storms are an underappreciated problem now “dramatically” more frequent in some places worldwide, with at least 25% of the phenomenon attributed to human activities, according to the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD). Accompanied by policy recommendations, the warning comes as a five-day meeting takes place in Samarkand, Uzbekistan to take stock of global progress in the Convention’s implementation.  The UNCCD is one of three Conventions originated at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. The other two address climate change (UNFCCC) and biodiversity (UN CBD). The meeting, 13-17 November (https://www.unccd.int/cric21), includes a high-level session on 15 November hosted by the Government of Uzbekistan on ways to address the impacts of sand and dust storms on global agriculture, industry, transportation, water and air quality, and human health. Says Ibrahim Thiaw, UNCCD’s Executive Secretary: “The sight of rolling dark clouds of sand and dust engulfing everything in their path and turning day into night is one of nature’s most intimidating spectacles.  It is a costly phenomenon that wreaks havoc everywhere from Northern and Central Asia to sub-Saharan Africa.” “Sand and dust storms present a formidable challenge to achieving sustainable development. However, just as sand and dust storms are exacerbated by human activities, they can also be reduced through human actions,” adds Thiaw. While sand and dust storms (SDS) are a regionally common and seasonal natural phenomenon, the problem is exacerbated by poor land and water management, droughts, and climate change, according to UNCCD experts. And fluctuations in their intensity, magnitude, or duration “can make SDS unpredictable and dangerous.” With impacts far beyond the source regions, an estimated 2 billion tons of sand and dust now enters the atmosphere every year, an amount equal in weight to 350 Great Pyramids of Giza.  In some areas, desert dust doubled in the last century. “Sand and dust storms (SDS) have become increasingly frequent and severe having substantial transboundary impacts, affecting various aspects of the environment, climate, health, agriculture, livelihoods and the socioeconomic well-being of individuals.  The accumulation of impacts from sand and dust storms can be significant,” says Feras Ziadat, Technical Officer at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO), Chair of the UN Coalition on Combating Sand and Dust Storms. “In source areas, they damage crops, affect livestock, and strip topsoil. In depositional areas atmospheric dust, especially in combination with local industrial pollution, can cause or worsen human health problems such as respiratory diseases. Communications, power generation, transport, and supply chains can also be disrupted by low visibility and dust-induced mechanical failures. The United Nations Coalition on Combating Sand and Dust Storms, currently chaired by FAO, was created in 2019 to lead global efforts to tackle SDS.” In their Sand and Dust Storms Compendium and accompanying SDS Toolbox (https://www.unccd.int/land-and-life/sand-and-dust-storms/toolbox), UNCCD, FAO and partners offer guidance on approaches and methodologies for collecting and assessing SDS data, monitoring and early warning, impact mitigation and preparedness, and source mapping and anthropogenic source mitigation at sub-national, national, regional and global levels. The SDS discussion forms part of the agenda of this year’s meeting in Uzbekistan of the UNCCD’s Committee for the Review of the Implementation of the Convention (CRIC 21) and global progress in delivering the Convention’s strategic objectives. It marks the first time since its establishment that UNCCD has convened one of its most significant meetings in Central Asia. The meeting comes at a critical juncture, as recent statistics published via UNCCD’s new data dashboard (https://data.unccd.int/) shows the world now losing nearly 1 million square kilometers of healthy and productive land every year – some 4.2 million square kilometers between 2015-2019, or roughly the combined area of five Central Asian nations: Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. During the meeting (at 18:00 local time / 13:00 GMT, Tuesday 14 November) UNCCD and FAO experts will launch three reports: Sand and dust storms. A guide to mitigation, adaptation, policy and risk management measures in agriculture Contingency planning process for catalysing investments and actions to enhance resilience against sand and dust storms in agriculture in the Islamic Republic of Iran and Preparing for sand and dust storm contingency planning with herding communities: a case study on Mongolia Other items on the CRIC 21 agenda include promoting sustainable land management, ensuring fair land rights for women, and tackling droughts and wildfires exacerbated by climate change and environmental degradation. * * * * * Background: Sand and dust storms Sand and dust storms (SDS) are known by many local names: the sirocco, haboob, yellow dust, white storms, or the harmattan. While SDS can fertilize both land and marine ecosystems, they also present a range of hazards to human health, livelihoods and the environment. SDS events typically originate in low-latitude drylands and sub-humid areas where vegetation cover is sparse or absent. They can also occur in other environments, including agricultural and high-latitude areas in humid regions, when specific wind and atmospheric conditions coincide. SDS events can have substantial transboundary impacts, over thousands of kilometers. Unified and coherent global and regional policy responses are needed, especially to address source mitigation, early warning systems, and monitoring. SDS often have significant economic impacts: for example, they cost the oil sector in Kuwait an estimated US$ 190 million annually, while a single SDS event in 2009 resulted in damage estimated at US$ 229 - 243 million in Australia. The major global sources of mineral dust are in the northern hemisphere across North Africa, the Middle East and East Asia. In the southern hemisphere, Australia, South America and Southern Africa are the main dust sources. More than 80% of Central Asia is covered by deserts and steppes which, coupled with climate change and lasting droughts, represent a major natural source of sand and dust storms. The dried-up Aral Sea is a major source of SDS, emitting more than 100 million tons of dust and poisonous salts every year, impacting the health not just of the people living in the vicinity, but far beyond and generating annual losses of US$ 44 million.  Recognition of SDS as a disaster risk appears to be high in North-East Asia, parts of West Asia and North America but less prominent elsewhere. Low recognition of SDS as a disaster risk is likely due to the lack (in many cases) of significant immediate direct human fatalities or injuries from individual SDS events, and limited consolidated documentation on their long-term health, economic or other impacts. SDS and health SDS can be life-threatening for individuals with adverse health conditions. Fine dust particles are carried to high tropospheric levels (up to a few kilometres high) where winds can transport them over long distances. The health implications of SDS have been under increased investigation for decades, with most studies conducted in East Asia, Europe and the Middle East. There has been a lack of studies in West Africa. A particular focus of this research has been SDS modification of air pollution. The cause-and-effect between sand and dust in the atmosphere and health outcomes remains unclear and requires more extensive study.  What can be said is that at-risk members of a population, especially those with pre-existing cardiopulmonary issues, including childhood asthma, may have a higher mortality or morbidity rate during a dust storm. SDS can also impose major costs on the agricultural sector through crop destruction or reduced yield, animal death or lower yields of milk or meat, and damage to infrastructure. For annual crops, losses are due to burial of seedlings or crops under sand deposits, loss of plant tissue and reduced photosynthetic activity as a result of sandblasting. This can lead to complete crop loss in a region or reduced yield. There may also be a longer-term effect on some perennial crops due to tree or crop damage (such as lucerne/alfalfa crowns being damaged). On a positive note, SDS dust can contain soil nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, as well as organic carbon. Some places benefit from this nutrient deposition on land, and mineral and nutrient deposition on water, particularly ocean bodies. When deposited, these can provide nutrients to downwind crop or pasture areas.  These limited benefits, however, are far outweighed by the harms done. Globally, the main large dust sources are dried lakes; local sources include glacial outwash plains, volcanic ash zones and recently plowed fields. The multi-faceted, cross-sectoral and transnational impacts of SDS directly affect 11 of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals yet global recognition of SDS as a hazard is generally low due in part to the complexity and seasonally cumulative impact of SDS, coupled with limited data. Insufficient information and impact assessments hinder effective decision-making and planning to effectively address SDS sources and impacts.   UNCCD helps governments create policies to promote the scaling-up of sustainable land management practices and to find and use the latest science to develop and implement effective mitigation policies. Working with The Regional Environmental Centre for Central Asia, UNCCD assists countries vulnerable to drought and sand and dust storms in Central Asia to develop and implement risk reduction strategies at national and regional level. UNCCD encourages countries to adopt a comprehensive risk reduction strategy with monitoring and early warning systems to improve preparedness and resilience to these environmental disasters. Among the measures most needed are A multi-sectoral approach bolstered by information-sharing, short- and long-term interventions, engaging multiple stakeholders, and raising awareness of SDS. Land restoration, using soil and water management practices to protect soils and increase vegetative cover, which have been shown to significantly reduce the extent and vulnerability of source areas, and reduce the intensity of typical SDS events. Early warning and monitoring, building on up-to-date risk knowledge, and forecasting, with all stakeholders (including at-risk populations) participating to ensure that warnings are provided in a timely and targeted manner Impact mitigation, through preparedness to reduce vulnerability, increase resilience, and enables a timely, effective response to SDS events * * * * * About The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) is an international agreement on good land stewardship. It helps people, communities and countries create wealth, grow economies and secure enough food, clean water and energy by ensuring land users an enabling environment for sustainable land management. Through partnerships, the Convention’s 197 parties set up robust systems to manage drought promptly and effectively. Good land stewardship based on sound policy and science helps integrate and accelerate achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, builds resilience to climate change and prevents biodiversity loss. The UNCCD Secretariat led the creation of the SDS Compendium document in collaboration with the UNCCD Science-Policy Interface (SPI), the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the World Health Organization (WHO), the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), UN Women, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO), the UN Development Programme (UNDP), the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR), and external experts and partners.

Sand and dust storm frequency increasing in many world regions, UN warns
Over one-fifth of Central Asia’s land degraded, new UN data warns

New UN data warns land is degrading faster than we can restore it Healthy land the size of Central Asia degraded since 2015 around the world UNCCD meets in Uzbekistan to review global progress towards ending land loss Samarkand, 13 November 2023 – At the opening of its first-ever meeting held in Central Asia, the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) unveils new data showing land degradation rapidly advancing in the region and around the world. Between 2015 and 2019, the world lost at least 100 million hectares of healthy and productive land each year. This adds up to 420 million hectares, or 4.2 million square kilometres, slightly over the combined area of five Central Asian nations: Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. These statistics underscore the need for urgent action, as escalating land degradation continues to destabilize markets, communities, and ecosystems around the globe. According to the latest UN data, over 20 per cent of the total land area in Central Asia is degraded, equivalent to roughly 80 million hectares, an area almost four times the size of Kyrgyzstan. This affects an estimated 30 per cent of the region’s combined population. The UNCCD Data Dashboard launch comes at a critical juncture as world leaders and experts are gathering in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, from 13-17 November 2023 for the 21st session of the UNCCD Committee for the Review of the Implementation of the Convention (CRIC 21). For the first time, an open Data Dashboard compiles national reporting figures from 126 countries, allowing users to explore the trends in their own regions and countries. UNCCD Executive Secretary Ibrahim Thiaw said: “The first-ever UNCCD Data Dashboard offers an eye-opening insight into rapid loss of healthy and productive land around the world, with dire consequences for billions of people. At the same time, we are seeing some ‘brightspots’—countries effectively tackling desertification, land degradation and drought. As we gather in Uzbekistan this week to review global progress towards ending land loss, the message is clear: land degradation demands immediate attention.” Land restoration ‘brightspots’ Despite a bleak global picture, there are examples of countries effectively tackling desertification, land degradation and drought. While Uzbekistan reported the highest proportion of degraded land in the Central Asia region, it also saw the largest decrease – from 30 per cent to 26 per cent – compared to 2015. A total of 3 million hectares of land in Uzbekistan have been degraded due to the drying of the Aral Sea. Between 2018-2022, Uzbekistan carried out saxaul planting on an area of 1.6 million ha to eliminate salt and dust emissions from the drained bottom of the Aral Sea. Kazakhstan increased irrigated lands by 40 per cent, expanding the total irrigated area to 2 million hectares. In Kyrgyzstan, some 120,000 hectares of pastures and forests are now under sustainable land management, including a pasture rotation system. Turkmenistan committed to restoring 160,000 hectares under its national ‘greening the desert’ initiative by 2025. Land Degradation Neutrality goal still within reach Although land degradation varies by region, UNCCD data warns that if current trends persist a staggering 1.5 billion hectares of land will need to be restored globally by 2030 to reach targets enshrined in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Barron Orr, UNCCD Chief Scientist, said: “Although global trends are going in the wrong direction, it is still possible to not only meet but exceed land degradation neutrality goals. This can be done by stopping further degradation while accelerating efforts on existing commitments to restore one billion hectares of land by 2030 with funding and action hand-in-hand.” Around the world, approximately USD$ 5 billion in bilateral and multilateral funding flowed into global efforts to combat desertification, land degradation and drought between 2016 and 2019. This helped 124 nations roll out a wide range of projects aimed at addressing these challenges. All Central Asian nations have joined the LDN target-setting programme under UNCCD, bringing the total number of participating countries to 131. Half of the LDN targets set by countries in Central Asia have already been achieved, with projects to deliver on the rest of the commitments currently underway. Notes to editors For interviews and enquires please contact: press@unccd.int and/or unccd@portland-communications.com To access the UNCCD’s Data Dashboard please click here: https://data.unccd.int/ For any enquires on data and methodology, please write to reporting@unccd.int. The data related to land degradation (i.e. SDG indicator 15.3.1) is compiled in global and aggregate form from 115 country reports and 52 country-estimates drawn from global data sources.  For other indicators, the data is compiled in global and aggregate form "as received" from 126 Parties in their 2022 UNCCD national reports. Therefore, the facts present a partial estimate of progress at the global and regional level, in terms of the status and trends in these indicators/metrics, as not all Parties have reported all indicators. The information presented should in no way be interpreted as a comprehensive global or regional assessment of status and trends in the indicators/metrics. More information about the 21st session of the UNCCD Committee on the Review of the Implementation of the Convention (CRIC21): https://www.unccd.int/cric21 Accredited media representatives are invited to attend and report on CRIC21 and associated events. Field visits where journalists can see land restoration and drought resilience projects will take place immediately prior to CRIC21. Online registration for media representatives is available at the following link: www.unccd.int/cric-21-online-registration. About UNCCD The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) is the global vision and voice for land. We unite governments, scientists, policymakers, private sector and communities around a shared vision and global action to restore and manage the world’s land for the sustainability of humanity and the planet. Much more than an international treaty signed by 197 parties, UNCCD is a multilateral commitment to mitigating today’s impacts of land degradation and advancing tomorrow’s land stewardship in order to provide food, water, shelter and economic opportunity to all people in an equitable and inclusive manner.

Over one-fifth of Central Asia’s land degraded, new UN data warns