More than two billion people are affected by desertification, which leads to poverty, drought, famine, demographic pressures
New York, United States, 19 September 2011 – The United Nations will convene a high-level meeting on Tuesday, 20 September to focus on actions to protect the drylands, home to two billion people. Productive lands in dry regions around the world are under increasing threat due to poor land management practices and climate change.
More than 12 million hectares of productive land are lost due to desertification every year, the equivalent of losing an area the size of South Africa every decade. While productive land becomes scarcer, providing food for the 9 billion people predicted to live on Earth in 2050 will require a 70 per cent increase in global food production.
The UN high-level meeting aims to spur actions to reverse desertification. To develop better policies for sustainable land management with a firmer scientific basis, one of the meeting's main discussion points will be the establishment of a global scientific panel to foster stronger connections between the scientific community and the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD).
More than 100 Heads of State and Government, or Heads of Delegation, will participate in the high-level meeting, which will open with a 9:30am plenary, followed by interactive panels and a closing plenary at 5:45pm. A short film, "Desertification", by Yann Arthus-Bertrand, cinematographer and Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Environment Programme, will be screened at the meeting.
"The people who live in the arid lands, which occupy more than 40 per cent of our planet's land area, are among the world's poorest and most vulnerable to hunger," UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said. "Frequently, they depend on land that is degraded and where productivity has shrunk to below subsistence levels."
While the term desertification often conjures up visions of land turning into barren tracts of sand, it actually refers to a less dramatic but equally destructive process - the loss of the capacity to grow crops or raise livestock in arid, semi-arid or dry sub-humid areas, so-called drylands, where some 2.3 billion people live in nearly 100 countries.
"This high-level meeting will provide a unique opportunity to raise awareness on the global land degradation threat and the urgent need for stronger action," UNCCD Executive Secretary Luc Gnacadja said. "We are all at risk. Just 6-10 inches of top soil stand between us and extinction."
By controlling and reversing desertification, curbing the effects of drought and restoring productive lands, there is an opportunity to make a direct positive contribution to reducing poverty, improving people's lives and meeting the targets of the Millennium Development Goals. Addressing desertification ensures that reducing poverty and improving development are sustainable over the long term, especially with an expanding global population.
After the meeting's conclusion, the President of the General Assembly will present a summary of the discussions to the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification at its tenth session (COP 10), to be held in Changwon, Republic of Korea, from 10 to 21 October 2011, and to the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, often referred to as Rio +20, to be held in Rio de Janeiro from 4 to 6 June 2012.
About the UNCCD
Desertification, along with climate change and the loss of biodiversity, were identified as the greatest challenges to sustainable development during the 1992 Rio Earth Summit. Established in 1994, UNCCD is the sole legally binding international agreement linking environment, development and the promotion of healthy soils. The Convention's 194 signatory countries, or Parties, work to alleviate poverty in the drylands, maintain and restore the land's productivity, and mitigate the effects of drought.
More information on the UN General Assembly High-level Meeting:
For media information, contact:
UN Department of Public Information:
Dan Shepard, 1 212 9639495, shepard [at] un.org (shepardatundotorg)
Wynne Boelt 1 212 9638264, boelt [at] un.org (boeltatundotorg)
Wagaki Mwangi, +49 228 8152820, wmwangi [at] unccd.int (wmwangiatunccddotint)
Issued by the UN Department of Public Information and UNCCD