New York, USA, 22 September 2011 – A historic United Nations General Assembly meeting on desertification and drought, the first times heads of state and government have met to discuss the issue, concluded in New York yesterday. Closing the high-level meeting attended by over 100 heads of state and government, Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, President of the current session of the General Assembly said "unless desertification, land degradation and drought are addressed urgently wherever they occur, the three pillars of sustainable development would be corroded."
In his summary, Al-Nasser said many leaders supported the establishment of an advisory panel to strengthen the scientific basis of the work. They also stressed making the UN Convention to Combat Desertification a global policy and monitoring framework to address the issues of soil and land degradation, building a land degradation neutral world and improving funding activities to recover degraded land.
Speaking at the opening ceremony of the meeting, UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, said, "recent studies show that land degradation is occurring in humid, tropical areas at a faster rate than ever before. It is a phenomenon that now affects every region of the world. Let us resolve today to adopt a target of no more land degradation by the end of this decade. Let us make sustainable land-use a cornerstone of the green economy for poverty eradication and sustainable development."
More than 100 Heads of State and Government and other high-ranking officials, attended the meeting three weeks before the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) at its tenth session (COP 10), to be held in Changwon, Republic of Korea, from 10 to 21 October 2011.
The UNCCD Executive Secretary Luc Gnacadja said "to sustain life on Earth we must build a land degradation neutral world. If we do not take bold actions to protect, restore and manage land and soils sustainably, we will miss climate change, biodiversity, forests and MDG targets. We will not alleviate rural poverty and hunger, ensure long-term food security, build resilience to drought and water stress. This will lead to consequences including more political conflicts over scarce resources and continued forced migrations."
"Our most significant non-renewable geo resource is fertile land and soil. Nevertheless each year, an estimated 24 billion tons of fertile soil are lost. Arable land loss is estimated at 30 to 35 times the historical rate. In the drylands, due to drought and desertification 12 million ha are transformed in new man-made deserts each year. The world has continued building towards 'a soil peak' which will have far-worse consequences than the current 'oil peak'," he said.
Land degradation is a global phenomenon, with 78% of the degrading land taking place in the non-drylands. A recent report by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations shows states that 900 million hectares of degraded land still offer opportunities for restoration, which is an opportunity for investment.
During the opening Plenary, the UNCCD COP President, on behalf of the G77 and China and the incoming UNCCD COP10 President, Republic of Korea, as well as the representatives of the African States, the European Union and the United States of America echoed urgent calls for greater international awareness of the issue and concerted action to address it.
At the beginning of the event, Yann Arthus-Bertrand, French photographer and UNEP Goodwill Ambassador previewed his new film 'Desertification'. It shows the impact the world's people have on the planet. At the launch of an earlier film he remarked, "It's too late to be pessimistic."
At the press conference, Hifikenye Pohambo, President of Namibia, said "land degradation is a global problem, thus it must be addressed through joint efforts and cooperation."
About the UNCCD
Established in 1994, the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) is the sole legally binding international agreement linking environment and development issues to the land agenda. The Convention focuses on all the world's drylands, home to over 2 billion people, 50% of the world's livestock and accounting for 44% of all cultivated ecosystems. The Convention's 194 Parties are dedicated to combating land degradation and mitigating the effects of drought in the drylands by improving the living conditions of the affected populations and ecosystems.
Contact UNCCD Secretariat:
Wagaki Mwangi, +49 228 8152820, mobile +49 173 2687593, email: wmwangi [at] unccd.int (wmwangiatunccddotint)
Yukie Hori, +49 228 8152829, mobile +49 173 2687590, email: %20yhori [at] unccd.int (yhoriatunccddotint)