Bonn, Germany, 13 September 2011 – Speaking at a Press Briefing in Bonn ahead of the special UN High-level meeting in New York on 20 September, UNCCD Executive Secretary Luc Gnacadja said world leaders must put a cap on land degradation.
He said every year some 12 million hectares of land are degraded. 'We should work towards a land degradation neutral world through a target of zero net land degradation. The first priority is to prevent degradation. Where the land has already been degraded, we should reclaim and rehabilitate an equivalent area of land as an offset.'
The historic meeting to take place at the UN Headquarters next week will provide an opportunity for world leaders to provide political impetus and guidance for a sustained global response to the world's desertification/land degradation challenges.
It will provide a unique opportunity to raise awareness on the global land degradation threat and the urgent need for stronger action to implement the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD).
'There is a vaccine for the disease of land degradation. It has already been tried and tested. Now we need to roll it out worldwide. We need to invest heavily in sustainable land management globally.'
'The vaccine is being used in parts of south east Asia through agroforestry schemes, in Queensland, Australia through drought management programmes, and in Africa where Evergreen Agricultural systems have been adopted on more than six million hectares. However in many areas it is not happening fast enough.'
'We are only four years away from the Millennium Development Goal to eradicate poverty. But poverty persists in areas affected by desertification. More than a billion people are the victims of this. But it is not just the billion directly affected. We are all at risk. Yet there is gross underinvestment in these regions largely due to misperception. The remote location of drylands, political marginalization and associated lack of infrastructure have partly led to a limited access to markets, education and health facilities.'
UN General Assembly Resolution 65/160 expressed concern over the increasing vulnerability of poor communities in Latin America, Caribbean, Asia, Northern Mediterranean, and Central and Eastern European Regions.
He said governments need to raise this as a priority national policy issue.
"Just 6-10 inches of top soil stand between us and extinction," he said. 'Productive land is a finite resource like our oceans and forests.'
Looking ahead to the tenth Session of the Parties to the Convention which begins on 10 October in Changwon, the Republic of Korea, he urged Parties to continue rapid progress on strengthening the scientific basis of the Convention. He also called for major progress towards meeting the objectives of the UNCCD 10 year strategy (2008-2018) and a clear plan to rapidly integrate National Action Programmes into national policies for poverty alleviation and sustainable development.
About the UNCCD
Established in 1994, the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) is the sole legally binding international agreement linking environment, development and the promotion of healthy soils. The UNCCD focuses on the drylands, which cover 41% of the Earth and are inhabited by over 2 billion people. Drylands account for 44% of the world's cultivated ecosystems and have provided 30% of all the world's cultivated plants. However, up to one fifth of the surface area is steadily degrading. 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.