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UNEA-6 Multilateral Environmental Agreements Day: Keynote by Ibrahim Thiaw

Madame President, Dear UNEP Executive Director, Excellencies, Presidents and chairs of COPs Ministers, Dear colleagues Executive Secretaries of MEAs, Honorable Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen, I would like to start by thanking the President of UNEA (my sister Leila Ben Ali) and the Executive Director of UNEP (my other sister Inger Andersen) for dedicating an entire day of UNEA6 to the Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs). This is a real credit to UNEP. UNEA is one of the important platforms to discuss these issues. Thirty years after the signing of the Rio conventions, and more than fifty years after the creation of some of the MEAs represented here, we must face the facts: the implementation of these treaties cannot be done in silos. We cannot be effective if the left hand does not know what the right hand is doing. Even less so if all the work done by the national focal point for one convention is ignored, or worse, brushed aside by another focal point. Putting things in order therefore begins at home, at the national level. International partners and development agencies, where appropriate, should play their part. MEA secretariats should help engineer cooperation and technical support. In this respect, institutions such as UNEP and Assemblies such as UNEA have a historic responsibility and a critical role to play in harmonizing the work and focus of the various MEAs as we face a multitude of interconnected crises. About the triple planetary crisis, indeed we face a climate crisis, a pollution crisis and a nature crisis. I would be remiss, as head of the UNCCD, not to insist that the nature crisis includes the immense crisis of land and drought, which is currently affecting more than 3 billion people, causing food insecurity, water scarcity and forced displacements. Action on the land is a powerful force for unity. The health of the land determines the food we eat, the water we drink, the quality of the air we breathe, the clothes we wear and many other services that contribute to our well-being. But the damage we inflict on our land poses a serious threat to world peace, and to the global economy. Similarly, the links between land and pollution are obvious. Air pollution is amplified by sand and dust storms. While plastic pollution affects rivers, lakes and oceans, the bulk of the stock stays in land affecting food production, people and the earth system as a whole. The good news is that there are solutions to these serious problems. They are well within our reach and this is literally in our hands. Make no mistake: the best solutions are those that tackle several challenges at once. We must slow down and adapt to climate change, protect and restore nature and biodiversity, reverse land degradation and desertification, and end pollution and waste. We don’t have the luxury of dedicating Monday to climate or pollution, Tuesday to biodiversity and only think that we can wait until Wednesday to tackle Land degradation. These issues are like communicating vessels and we have to address all these challenges at once! The scientific community is increasingly moving from sounding the alarm to signposting solutions that require concerted efforts. However, progress on turning commitments into transformative action must accelerate. Rapidly. Coherently. Consistently. Excellencies, Ladies and gentlemen, 2024 represents a new opportunity for us all: The three Rio conventions will hold their COPs consecutively at the end of this year. We already had a successful CMS COP a few days ago. At the UNCCD COP16 in Saudi Arabia - in December – we will embark on a unique journey – one that brings all communities of policy and practice to join forces towards a common goal: that of making land healthy again. Parties assembled in Riyadh at UNCCD COP16 will present a groundbreaking action agenda for all MEAs to reverse degradation and to accelerate efforts to restore 1.5 billion hectares of land by 2030. Healthy and productive land is the operational link between climate action and biodiversity conservation. Linking up action on land will allow us to take advantage of the synergies that build resilience, mitigate the impacts of climate change, safeguard biodiversity, provide food security for billions around the world, and transform the way we manage the environment and consume its bounty. And this is everyone’s effort. We must ensure that the work on each MEA commitment dovetails with and amplifies the work of the others. By forging synergies with UN entities and conventions, we can amplify our impact, leverage resources, and foster greater coherence in our collective response to global environmental challenges. For example: aligning land degradation neutrality targets with nationally determined contributions and the new biodiversity targets can maximize the impact of nature-positive investments and significantly diminish the huge gap between commitment and action. After all, we are facing one single global challenge – the sustainability of the planet and striving for an environment of peace and prosperity. Martin Luther King Jr once said: “We may have all come on different ships, but we're in the same boat now”. So, while MEAs have individual mandates, they ultimately have the same ambition: protecting the people and the planet. Let us make 2024 a pivotal year for environmental multilateralism. The science is clear and sobering. Long-term planning and cooperation are of the essence. But urgent action is needed. Recent years have proven that environmental multilateralism is working. It remains our best shot at tackling the complex and interconnected environmental challenges. Let’s take it! Thank you.

UNEA-6 Multilateral Environmental Agreements Day: Keynote by Ibrahim Thiaw
Signing of COP16 host country agreement with Saudi Arabia: Remarks by Ibrahim Thiaw

Your Excellency Minister Abdulrahman Al-Fadley, Honorable Ministers and Deputy ministers, Dear Colleagues and friends, It’s an honor for me to sign this agreement, on behalf of the United Nations, with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, as host to the Conference of the Parties (COP16) of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD). I would like to thank Minister Al-Fadley, and through you, the Government and people of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The moment could not be more solemn: today we have signed more than a Host Country Agreement. We are sealing the commitment between two Parties, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United Nations, to join forces, to forge daily relationships, to build bridges across oceans and continents in order to make Riyadh, from 2 to 13 December 2024, the Multilateral Capital of the World, as far as our relations with the land are concerned. We are building an umbrella under which vulnerable populations around the world will find protective shelter to build their resilience in the face of severe and destructive droughts. Indeed, Saudi Arabia, its people and its Leadership will welcome tens of thousands of participants to the sixteenth session (COP16) of the United Nations Convention to Combat Land Degradation and Mitigate the Effects of Drought. Between the time we sign this agreement and the time we actually hold the Conference of the Parties, humanity will have degraded some 100 million hectares of fertile land. Over the same period, it is feared that hundreds of millions of people will be hit by severe droughts, with no safety valve or protective cushion. During the same period, women, children and other vulnerable groups will find themselves forced to flee from poverty, often venturing on extraordinarily perilous odysseys. Unless exceptional measures are taken, the loss of soil and productive land will lead to further conflicts over access to land and water, further food insecurity and, in some cases, a total loss of food sovereignty. Ladies and Gentlemen, COP16 will put a human face on these so-called natural or ecological phenomena. Coinciding with the 30th anniversary of this global treaty, COP16 will take place at a pivotal moment for our Convention. It is the time to move from strategies, plans and other methodological visions to action. It is the time to transform pledges into operations on the ground. Having realized how much we have scarred the face of the earth, we need to heal the wounds, not only to make the earth more beautiful, but to enable it to provide us with more vital services. We need the land. Land does not need us. We live off the land, it feeds us, clothes us and waters us. COP 16 gives humanity the opportunity not only to review its relationship with nature, but also to save itself from the perils it is inflicting on itself. Riyadh, in December, will be this nurturing and refreshing oasis in the middle of the desert. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia will be offering the representatives of the 197 Contracting Parties to the UNCCD and many other stakeholders not only its legendary hospitality but also a strong sense of solidarity and shared commitment.   We hope the world will heed our urgent call and this generous invitation from our hosts to come together in Riyadh for COP16 and secure our land's future. Thank you. Shukran.

Signing of COP16 host country agreement with Saudi Arabia: Remarks by Ibrahim Thiaw
Notes de M. Ibrahim Thiaw à l’occasion du Forum International de Dakar sur la Paix et la Sécurité en Afrique

Excellences, Mesdames et Messieurs, « Pour une Afrique résiliante et démocratique : approche intégrée face à l’instabilité récurrente et aux fragilités institutionnelles ». Choix de thème ne pouvait être plus judicieux. Riche mais pauvre. Plusieurs intervenants ont déjà mis l’accent sur ce paradoxe vécu en Afrique. En Afrique, on parle de potentialités et d’opportunités. En Afrique, on aspire à transformer l’essai, c’est-à-dire à dépasser la phase de transition et mouvoir vers la pleine valorisation des richesses naturelles. Construire une Afrique résiliante et démocratique, suggère d’adopter une approche sécuritaire plus intégrée et adresser véritablement les causes profondes du mal africain. Mieux gérer les convoitises diverses et variées qui gangrènent le continent. Convoitises liées à la terre, à l’eau, aux hydrocarbures, aux resources minières, forestières, halieutiques et fauniques. Dans un contexte de changement climatique et de croissance démographique explosive, combinés à une faible gouvernance politique, économique et sociale, les ingrédients sont réunis pour une situation complexe.  Aujourd’hui, les risques sécuritaires les plus élevés dans le monde (et en Afrique) ne sont plus les conflits armés entre nations ennemies. Nous ne sommes plus dans un contexte de rivalité Est-Ouest, de décolonisation ou de guerres de libération. Aujourd’hui, parmi les premières causes d’insécurité figure la détérioration de l’environnement. On se tue pour l’accès à un lopin de terre fertile, à un point d’eau ou à un pâturage. L’instabilité s’installe dans certains pays riches en ressources naturelles, maintenant ainsi leurs populations dans une pauvreté absolue, comme si quelqu’un avait décidé, avec un dessein plus ou moins avoué, que plus le pays africain est riche, plus ses populations doivent rester dans la pauvreté. Certains évoquent -non sans me révolter profondément- le concept de malédiction des ressources.   Cependant, si le concept d’insécurité a changé de centre de gravité, notre réponse est restée largement figée dans le temps ; par conséquent, souvent mal adaptée. On le voit chaque jour, par la fermeture des opérations de maintien de la paix (alors qu’il n’y a point de paix), le retrait de troupes étrangères venues en masse, avec la meilleure volonté du monde. On le voit par l’inadaptation des réponses offertes par nos forces de défense nationales, parfois mal formées aux situations conflictuelles asymétriques. On le voit aussi par l’inadaptation des réponses des Etats aux nombreux défis environnementaux, dont les départements chargés de l’environment disposent de budgets faméliques et de ressources inadéquates.   Si les causes profondes de notre maladie sont liées à l’environnement, pourquoi donc la gestion des resources naturelles continue d’être ignorée dans les accords de paix ou dans les manifestes de partis et d’élus politiques ? Pourquoi les budgets, ressources et politiques relatifs à la gestion des resources naturelles continuent de figurer en filigrane ? Comment peut-on soigner un malade dont le diagnostic continue d’être faussé ? Les meilleurs médecins de brousse n’étant pas forcément de bons mages, il est essentiel que le patient joue à la transparence. Vous me permettrez de citer deux cas de figure pour illustrer mes propos : Première illustration : la rareté des ressources comme source de conflit. Dans son rapport sur le pastoralisme et la sécurité, le Bureau des Nations Unies pour l’Afrique de l’Ouest et le Sahel[1] confirme que la compétition croissante pour l'accès à l'eau et aux pâturages est l'un des principaux moteurs des conflits dans la sous-région. Au départ, l’on assiste à une compétition classique entre usagers de la nature : agriculteurs et éleveurs. A l’arrivée, l’on peut faire face à un conflit inter-ethnique. Non, les Peuls et les Dogons ne sont pas des ennemis. Pas plus que les Haoussa et les Touaregs ; les Toubous et les Djerma. Bien au contraire, ces groupes avaient en fait, depuis des siècles, pacifié leurs relations grâce à la puissante « parenté à plaisanterie », introduite au début du 13è siècle par le régime de Soundiata Keita. Des pactes sacrés et des actes concrets étaient institutionnalisés pour ne jamais verser le sang de son « cousin à plaisanterie ».   Malheureusement, les points de rupture écologiques ont été atteints depuis longtemps, et ces compétitions pour l’accès à la terre et à l’eau s’amplifient, prenant parfois des dimensions confessionnelles. Mal gérés, ils alimentent les rhétoriques de mouvements Jihadistes, dont certains reprochent aux Etats de prendre partie. Là aussi, il est à craindre que nous déployons des réponses mal adaptées aux défis. Le Sahel est d’abord et avant tout malade de l’effrondrement du vivant.   Les causes des conflits évoluent donc, nos réponses ne le sont pas. La rareté des ressources naturelles n’est pas la seule cause de conflits dans nos régions. Hélas, autre signe de mauvaise gouvernance, l’abondance des ressources est aussi un germe dévastateur.   Les ressources minières, les hydrocarbures, les ressources fauniques, halieutiques et forestières attisent d’énormes convoitises. Et cela n’a rien de récent. Déjà en 1885, la conférence de Berlin consacrait le dépècement de l’Afrique par huit puissances européennes. Les indépendances politiques des Etats modernes n’ont pu se défaire d’un joug économique bien établi, basé essentiellement sur l’extraction. Ces convoitises prennent de l’ampleur avec l’avénement de l’économie-monde, avec de nouveaux venus sur la scène, qui cherchent aussi une place au soleil. Un rapport stratégique conjoint de l’UNEP et d’INTERPOL sur l’environnement, la paix et la sécurité en République Démocratique du Congo [2], note que des criminels exploitent illégalement les ressources naturelles, y compris l'or, le coltan et les diamants. Plus grave, ces exploitants illégaux financent divers groupes armés non-étatiques qui se battent entre eux, de telle sorte qu’aucun groupe ne domine l’autre. Une façon de perpétuer le chaos et, par conséquent l’exploitation abusive des ressources. Le rapport estime qu'au moins 40 % des conflits internes sont liés aux ressources naturelles. La criminalité environnementale ne peut être combattue de manière isolée. Pour lutter contre ces crimes organisés, de loin les plaies les plus profondes infligées à l’économie africaine, les réponses doivent être multi-formes, organisées et bien coordonnées.  Pour être efficace, une telle lutte nécessite un effort global et coopératif. Cela exigera également une réponse plus large de la part de la communauté internationale, mais surtout des pays concernés. L’abondance comme la rareté des ressources ne doivent pas être des fatalités. Ni l’une ni l’autre ne devrait constituer une menace sérieuse à la paix et à la sécurité. En fait, elles ne le sont que lorsque la gouvernance est défaillante. Parlant des réponses à ces crises, empruntons une analogie médicale : ne vaut-il pas mieux chercher les causes profondes de la maladie, plutôt que de prodiguer un traitement symptomatique superficiel ? Jusque-là, les réponses militaires ont été privilégiées– y compris au Sahel. Nul doute que les vaillantes forces armées sont nécessaires, mais elles ne peuvent demeurer la seule réponse, face aux urgences climatiques, aux pénuries d’eau, aux déficits alimentaires et à la pauvreté.   L’on ne tire pas une balle sur un feu de brousse si l’on veut l’éteindre. La Police n’arrêtera ni un vent de sable, ni un ouragan. Pour lutter contre l’élévation du niveau de la mer qui menace des millions de citoyens, la solution est à chercher du côté de la réduction des émissions de gaz à effet de serre, ou tout au moins des techniques d’adaptation au changement climatique. Le développement durable et la sécurité humaine sont comme des siamois. Inséparables, ils sont complémentaires. Le développement n’est point envisageable sans la sécurité. De même, il n’y a point de sécurité sans une gestion durable de nos ressources naturelles.   Permettez-moi, pour conclure, d’en dire un mot sur l’immigration clandestine, une de nos plaies ouvertes et cause d’une grave insécurité humaine. Si ce phénomène est aussi ancien que l’humanité, les récentes vagues de départs non-organisés sont autant socialement douloureuses qu’elles ne sont économiquement pénibles. Les pertes des moyens de production dues à la dégradation des terres agricoles et pastorales ou à la sur-exploitation des pêcheries ont jeté des millions de jeunes sur des routes périlleuses. Ces départs, vers des destinations de plus en plus lointaines, sont d’abord des fuites de cerveaux ou de bras valides. Certains, mais une minorité de plus en plus réduite, s’en sortent. La majorité n’y parviennent pas. Là aussi, certains pays de destination ont adopté la politique du tout-sécuritaire, allant jusqu’à construire des murs, physiques ou virtuels. Nous pensons que l’une des meilleures solutions seraient d’investir sur les zones et pays d’émigration, sur la restauration des terres dégradées, afin de permettre une production décente et sécurisante pour les familles. De Antananarivo à Tanger, de Djibouti à Dakar, de Luanda à Mombasa, l’Afrique regorge de ressources, de solutions et d’opportunités. Ne manquant ni de terre ni de soleil, ni de bras ni de génie, l’Afrique est comme ce fruit mûr qui demande à être cueilli. Dans un monde assailli par de féroces compétitions, l’Afrique doit s’inventer des solutions favorables à son développement et s’affranchir d’un joug politique et économique qui n’a que trop durer.   Je vous remercie. [1] Pastoralisme et Sécurité en Afrique de l’Ouest et au Sahel Vers une coexistence pacifique Etude du Bureau des Nations Unies pour l’Afrique de l’Ouest et le Sahel (UNOWAS) Aout 2018 https://unowas.unmissions.org/sites/default/files/rapport_pastoralisme_fr-avril_2019_-_online.pdf [2] INTERPOL-UN Environment (2016). Strategic Report: Environment, Peace and Security – A Convergence of Threats https://wedocs.unep.org/handle/20.500.11822/17008;jsessionid=2EAB6CD7FA6C6DB77CC024356BEC658C  

Notes de M. Ibrahim Thiaw à l’occasion du Forum International de Dakar sur la Paix et la Sécurité en Afrique
CRIC21 opening remarks by UNCCD Executive Secretary Ibrahim Thiaw

Prime Minister Abdulla Nigmatovich Aripov, Your Excellency Mr. Aziz Abdukhakimov, Minister of Ecology, Environmental Protection and Climate Change, Madame Biljana Kilibarda, Chair of the Committee of the Review of Implementation of the Convention (CRIC) Honorable Delegates, Representatives of International Organizations Representatives of Non-Governmental Organizations, Observers,   Ladies and Gentlemen, What a pleasure to be back in beautiful Samarkand. I would like to thank the Government and the people of Uzbekistan for their hospitality and the legendary generosity. It is not by chance that Samarkand -- one of the oldest inhabited cities in Central Asia -- is inscribed in the prestigious UNESCO World Heritage list. Samarkand is distinguished for being the ‘Crossroads of cultures’. As there is no culture without nature, this city will also be, for the better part of the next ten days, one of the centers of the world. A center where the 197 Parties to the UN Convention dealing with Land and Drought are gathered to measure the pulse of the planet. Time to assess how much of our land we have degraded, how much of our economy we have destroyed, knowingly or unknowingly; willingly or unwillingly. Time to appreciate how sustainable -- or rather unsustainable -- our lifestyle is.   Time to check how much of our children’s reserves and shares we are eating. How much of our grandchildren’s future we are jeopardizing, by over-harvesting and over-exploiting our natural capital. More often than not, we do this for greed. Not for absolute need. Being in Samarkand, we are reminded that civilizations before us left us with the food, the fiber, the water on which we all so much depend on! But being in Uzbekistan is also a reminder of how much we have destroyed nature, in the name of progress. In the name of development and in the quest of prosperity. We have inflicted the ugliest scars on the face of the Earth. One such environmental disaster is found here, in the Aral Sea. This once so large a freshwater body that we misnamed as sea, is now partially filled with sand dunes. A tragedy that unfolded in just one generation. I am very much looking forward to visiting the Aral area to also witness the Herculean tasks undertaken to mitigate the environmental risks associated with the diversion and over-harvesting of the water. Samarkand will go down in the annals of the Convention as the place where a crucial meeting was organized and served as a steppingstone between COP15 in Abidjan and COP16 in Riyadh. As we navigate through the five ambitious days ahead, your deliberations in Samarkand will be foundational for the success of the upcoming COP in Riyadh in December next year. From the agenda of CRIC 21, allow me to single out two items: the new dashboard on land degradation, thanks to your reports and data collected from 126 countries. For the first time in the history of the Convention, we have trends on both land loss and land remediation, as reported by our Parties. While this work is still to be perfected, the early indications give us chilling numbers: at least 100 million ha of land are degraded every year. We call upon all Parties to the Convention to contribute to the next report as this database can potentially serve as a world reference on land loss and land restoration. Additionally, we will hear from two intergovernmental working groups, namely the Group on the Mid-term review and the team working on Drought. Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, As you know, issues of land degradation and drought resilience have gained an unprecedented momentum over the last few years. While much remains to be done, your work has never been as noticed as today. Not only in the media, but also in boardrooms and in the corridors of power. This is an indication of the growing global commitment and attention to the scourge of desertification, drought and land degradation. The world is coming to realize that these phenomena affect us all, rich and poor, though the poorest bear the brunt. But this increased awareness is coupled with a significant increase of workload from your Secretariat. Our personnel feel the need of doing more, and they are doing much more. But with much less. Over the last ten years, our budget has stagnated in euro numbers. In reality, by value terms, the budget has been drastically reduced considering the important rise in the cost of living. An analysis and a budget proposal will be made to the next COP. Finally, allow me to say how proud I am to have such a talented staff from the Secretariat and the Global Mechanism. Please join me in expressing my gratitude to all for their hard work. Ladies and gentlemen, We could not have a better host for this CRIC session. We could not be in better conditions to deliver a successful session. Your deliberations and guidance, in this magnificent hall, will -- by and large -- be the foundation upon which millions of people from around the world will have access to healthy land and live on a healthy planet. Your deliberations will shape the future of the unborn. What direction do you want to point them in? The direction of a healthy environment, as we have inherited from our ancestors; or the direction of a miserable life that, unless we change gears, we are likely to live to our offspring. The future is now. It is literally in our hands. Thank you.  

CRIC21 opening remarks by UNCCD Executive Secretary Ibrahim Thiaw
Message to UNCCD CRIC21 from UN Secretary-General António Guterres

Samarkand, Uzbekistan, 13 November, 2023 Leaders have made a promise to the world: to combat the terrible trend of transforming healthy land into desert; to revitalize areas humanity has pushed into degradation and decay; and to create a world that is land degradation neutral. Keeping these promises is vital for nature, and for communities. But we are moving in the wrong direction. Between 2015 and 2019, 100 million hectares were degraded every single year, adding up to an area twice the size of Greenland. If current trends continue, we will need to restore the health of a staggering 1.5 billion hectares of degraded land by 2030. We can and must turn this around. Around the world we see examples of land being given a new lease of life, including in Uzbekistan. And the world could surpass its neutrality target if it works together to halt new land degradation and accelerate restoration. To achieve this, we need governments, businesses and communities to work together to conserve natural areas, scale up sustainable food production, and develop green urban areas and supply chains. I urge all of you to use this intersessional meeting to step up ambition and action to help make that a reality. Together, let’s see degraded lands thrive once more.

Message to UNCCD CRIC21 from UN Secretary-General António Guterres
Towards green transformation in the Islamic world: Ibrahim Thiaw at the conference of environment ministers

Excellency, Abdulrahman Al Fadhley, Minister of Environment, Water and Agriculture of the KSA Excellency Salam Al Malik, Director General of ISESCO, Excellency Hussein Brahim Taha, SG of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation Excellencies, Ministers Esteemed delegates, and honored guests Ladies and gentlemen, As-Salaamu aleykum As we gather today in the beautiful city of Jeddah, I wish to express our profound appreciation to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for graciously hosting this gathering today. My appreciation extends to ICESCO, the linchpin behind our convening today. Now more than ever before, as we witness the catastrophic effects of environmental changes, redefining our relationships with nature is of critical importance. Allow me to bring to your attention the Centrality of sustainable land management to green transformation. Land is not merely the terrain beneath our feet. Land has always been the cradle of our civilizations. Land provides us with the essential food we eat. Land clothes us; land provides us with the water we drink and the clean air we breathe. It nurtures our ecosystems, supports our economies, and sustains our cultures. The health of our lands is therefore the cornerstone upon food security. Land degradation and drought amplify competition over access to land and water.  Conflicts between farmers and pastoralists are exploding all over. Consider this: any land degradation anywhere in the world, is a depreciation of our global economy and an erosion of human wellbeing. Any efforts to « green the economy » are therefore doomed to fail, unless we prioritize investments in this crucial natural capital. We know this well: nature provides 30% of the solutions to climate change. Sadly, nature-based solutions only receive 3% of the climate funding. Sadly, investments on land restoration and drought mitigation are shockingly insufficient.   This should change, and this group of countries has to power to bring positive change. Arguably, countries of the Islamic World have more power to bring positive change to the Planet than any other similar group. The Islamic World, perhaps more than other groups, needs to control its narrative on climate and environmental change. Unleashing that power can be truly transformative and bring positive change to the world. Coming back specifically to land loss, the challenge is huge.  According to the UNCCD’s Global Land Outlook report, up to 40 % of the global land has been degraded. If the current trend continues, by 2050, we will further degrade an area the size of South America. The good news is the solution is literally in our hands: it’s called Land Restoration. By restoring degraded land, we improve food security and, even more importantly, food sovereignty. Whether in Arid Lands, in grasslands or in more humid ecosystems, we have one billion hectares of land that can be put back to health by 2030. Healing one billion hectares of ailing land and putting it back to the global economy is a smart and wise investment.   One good example of such powerful change is the critical role played by Saudi Arabia during its G20 Presidency, when it led G20 Leaders to adopt the Global Land Restoration Initiative. The ambitious G20 Global Land Initiative, housed within the UNCCD, has set an audacious goal: halve land degradation in the world by 2040. This initiative is global in scope and is committed to working with all countries, including those of the Islamic World and with the ICESCO. We are also very pleased with the Middle East Green Initiative, which has received substantive financial support from Saudi Arabia and aims at restoring 200 million hectares of degraded land. We are confident that building on Islamic Civilization and its great principles of solidarity, more countries will support large-scale land restoration as well Drought Mitigation in the world. Indeed, islamic civilizations were visionaries in fields like sustainable agriculture, water conservation, and harmonious land practices. It's a heritage—a treasure of knowledge- that can be drawn upon. Yet, as we honor our past, we must confront silent killers that are chocking our economies, namely land degradation and drought.  As we build our futures, we must ensure that our progress is in harmony with nature. To achieve this, we need to combine ancestral wisdom with contemporary innovation. Weaving together Islamic principles of stewardship and reverence for nature with cutting-edge land management techniques, we can chart a course towards a green transformation. Allow me, before I conclude, to say a word about the Road to UNCCD COP16. Saudi Arabia’s role as the host of the upcoming UNCCD COP 16 is a testament of commitments to addressing these global challenges. Climate COP 27 in Sharm Es-Sheikh and COP28 in Dubai, while Morocco just hosted the WB/IMF annual assemblies …there is no mistake. There is a clear indication of Islamic Countries strong commitment to multilateralism. UNCCD COP16 in December 2024, in Riyadh, presents a unique platform for countries of this group to demonstrate their leadership in combating desertification, land degradation, and drought. We can make the next UNCCD 16th COP the moon-shoot moment for land restoration and drought resilience, for people, for the planet and for prosperity. Shukran!

Towards green transformation in the Islamic world: Ibrahim Thiaw at the conference of environment ministers
UNCCD implementation: Statement by DES Andrea Meza at the 78th Session of the UN General Assembly 2nd Committee

Mr. Chairman, Bureau members, distinguished delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen, Permítame trasladar mis sinceras felicitaciones a su Excelencia el Embajador Carlos Amorin, Representante Permanente de Uruguay ante las Naciones Unidas y Presidente de la Segunda Comisión de la Asamblea General. I also congratulate your fellow Bureau members. We will spare no efforts to support your work. Let me also salute the delegations of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Mongolia and Uzbekistan. Saudi Arabia will host UNCCD COP 16 in Riyadh in December 2024, Mongolia COP 17 in 2026. Uzbekistan is hosting next month the 21st session of the Committee for the Review of the implementation of the Convention in Samarkand. I wish to express my gratitude and appreciation to these countries which are playing a leadership role in the UNCCD processes and implementation. Excellencies, Three weeks ago, the UN Secretary-General drew the world leaders’ attention to the fact that only 15 per cent of the SDG targets are on track and many are, on the contrary, going in reverse. The Secretary-General sounded alarm bells warning that instead of leaving no one behind, we risked leaving the SDGs behind. And this is the case for land and its SDG 15.3, in the 2023 report[1], the findings are worrisome: “Between 2015 and 2019, the world lost at least 100 million hectares of healthy and productive land every year, affecting food and water security globally. " Worldwide, poverty, hunger, environmental degradation, and conflicts are indeed increasing. And we can see a correlation where globally the poorest and the hungriest are found in areas affected by land degradation, desertification, and drought, and the Sahel and the Dry Corridor in Central America, to name few, are clear examples of this reality. These intertwined crises of nature-climate-land degradation and conflicts require the implementation of solutions that generate multiple benefits and the mobilization of technical and economic resources at an unprecedented scale. Investing in land restoration and drought resilience are win-win and cost- effective solutions with multiple benefits for a safe and sustainable future. Land restoration and drought resilience are critical to guarantee water and food security, livelihoods, to reduce irregular migration of people and conflicts over resource scarcity. These solutions also constitute building blocks to achieve climate and biodiversity goals. Excellencies, Within this framework let me now proceed to the introduction of the Report of the Secretary-General contained in document A/78/209, section II. The report suggests some recommendations that we hope would feature the UNCCD resolution that you will negotiate in these coming days. Since this report has been before you for quite some time, I will not go into its details. Regarding the outcome of COP 15, the Secretariat is working with the country Parties to support the implementation of the COP decisions adopted in Abidjan. In the context of achieving land degradation neutrality, we noted some important political signals. For instance, in 2020 in Riyadh, the G20 Group declared their ambition to reduce 50 per cent of the world’s degraded land by 2040. This declaration and the launch of the G20 Global Land Initiative are contributing to consolidating a land restoration movement.  Over the past two years, the presidencies of G20 have included land restoration as an important political priority within their communique, and have promoted the restoration of peatlands and mangroves, as well as land affected by mining and forest fires. LDN is becoming an important vehicle to achieve the SDGs: 130 countries are currently involved in the process for setting land degradation neutrality targets, and a number of flagship initiatives on land restoration are being promoted globally: such as Great Green Wall in the Sahel and in the SADC region, the Dry Corridor, the Middle East Green Initiative.   We need to continue enhancing collaboration and cooperation to accelerate action on the ground. In terms of outreach activities, the highlight has been the observance of the World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought on June 17, celebrated in the General Assembly Hall. That day a global campaign under the theme “Her Land. Her Rights” was launched to advocate for women and girls’ access to land. Several global leaders, UN agencies and partners participated in the event and are part of this global campaign that recognizes that land restoration, conservation and sustainable management can be accelerated if we address land tenure and gender issues in an integrated manner. On the drought front, we are moving forward. We see an appetite from the international community to operate a paradigm shift in drought management – from reactive to proactive action that better prepares countries and communities for future droughts, but more information sharing, resources, and political will is needed. It is in this context that the International Drought Resilience Alliance (IDRA) was established to generate more political momentum for this agenda and to accelerate action. I invite the General Assembly to encourage its members to join this coalition. Regarding the implementation of the COP 15 decision, the Intergovernmental Working Group on Drought has been analyzing how to strengthen drought management system within the convention. Its members are currently discussing policy options to be considered by COP 16. The next COP which will be held in December 2024 in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia aspires to be a moonshot moment for the land and drought resilience agenda. We hope to see you there. Before I close my presentation, allow me to pay a short tribute to my colleague, Mr. Melchiade Bukuru, Director of our Office in New York who is about to retire after over a quarter of a century with you, for his long dedication and commitment to UNCCD processes. [1] https://hlpf.un.org/sites/default/files/2023-04/SDG%20Progress%20Report%20Special%20Edition.pdf

UNCCD implementation: Statement by DES Andrea Meza at the 78th Session of the  UN General Assembly 2nd Committee