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
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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
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.