Warsaw, Poland, 19 November 2013 – ‘Land belongs to the future, let’s climate proof it!’ is the slogan for next year’s World Day to Combat Desertification and drought. It captures the theme of ecosystem-based adaptation for 2014 and underscores the urgent need for action to protect healthy ecosystems and to manage productive land sustainably.
“Land is the basis of all life on Earth and the source of livelihood for over 2 billion people. But every year, over 12 million productive hectares are transformed into wasteland through desertification and drought alone,” says Monique Barbut, Executive Secretary of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD).
"There is a fairly close match between ecosystem collapse and the political instability or conflict in the world today. With the livelihoods of so many people still dependent on the land, climate proofing our productive lands, especially in the world’s drylands, cannot be delayed any further.”
“Either we take the measures needed to enhance resilience and enable land-dependent communities to adapt or we prepare for the political consequences of our inaction. The choice is ours and 2014 is the year we are calling on every country to do its part," Barbut added.
Under the theme of ecosystem-based adaptation, the World Day to Combat Desertification aims to increase the attention given to land and soil in the context of climate change adaptation and food security, as well as to mobilize public actions for sustainable land management.
Ecosystem-based adaptation focuses on natural solutions for adapting to the impacts of climate change. It is one of the least costly adaptation strategies and offers many co-benefits, such as water, soil and biodiversity conservation.
Until now, climatic variations combined with unsustainable human activities have been the main drivers of land degradation and desertification. However, an increase in the number of extreme weather events and severity of droughts and floods in the last decades is threating the livelihoods of many communities around the world.
The impacts are taking a toll on the resilience of ecosystems and communities, making it harder and harder for people who depend on the land for sustenance to recover their livelihoods. This in turn has serious implications for migration and security.
Through ecosystem-based adaptation, preventive actions could be taken to protect land and soil, which ultimately, is more cost effective than responding to disasters.
The World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought has been marked every year since 1994. It was designated by the United Nations General Assembly to be observed in every nation in order to raise awareness about the effects of unsustainable land use and to promote implementation of the UNCCD.
During the 2014 commemoration, the UNCCD will announce the winners of the 2014 Land for Life Award. This is a prestigious global award with a prize fund of USD$100,000 to recognize innovations and leadership in land and soil management and restoration.
Applications for the Award, which is open to individuals, organizations, governments and research institutions, are now being accepted. The application deadline is 15 March 2014.
As part of the day’s activities, governments will also announce their 2014 National Drylands Champions, a recognition program which rewards national activities that make a practical contribution to sustainable land management.
For more information on the World Day to Combat Desertification, click here.