Desertification and Drought Day
Madrid, Friday 17 June | 11:00
Opening remarks by Ibrahim Thiaw, Executive Secretary, UNCCD
Your Excellency Pedro Sanchéz, Prime Minister of Spain;
Your Excellency, Teresa Ribera, Deputy PM and Minister of Ecological Transition
Mr. Virginijus Sinkevičius, European Commissioner for the Environment, Oceans and Fisheries
H.E. Mr Alain-Richard Donwahi, President of UNCCD-COP15
Excellencies Ambassadors and Members of the Diplomatic Corps
Representatives of Civil Society Organisations,
Members of the press,
Ladies and gentlemen,
I am delighted to welcome you to this event marking the global celebrations of the 2022 “Desertification and Drought Day.”
- A day officially declared by the UN General Assembly in 1997.
- A day that seeks to share innovative solutions to ensure lives and livelihoods are no longer lost to drought.
- A day when each of us can participate in actions that increase our collective resilience because every action counts. There is no small action. There is only INACTION.
- A day to celebrate the progress we are making and to inspire each other to act now to build the resilience of present and future generations.
We all know it: an ever growing number of countries and people are being affected by drought globally.
Let me illustrate what I mean.
Half of the world’s population is expected to face severe water scarcity in the next 8 years.
Consequently, as many as 700 million people (about 10% of the world’s population) are at risk of being displaced during that period1
Drought is set to increase in severity and frequency. Think about this: the consequences of droughts could affect up to three-quarters of humanity by 2050. There is nowhere on earth to hide!
If we are unable -or unwilling- to avert the severe alterations we are inflicting on the Planet, let’s be prepared to confront the new reality.
Drought is a natural hazard, but we can avert the humanitarian disasters that are un-folding in our very eyes, in some parts of the world.
As we speak, the situation is dire: at least 26 million people are struggling for food in Eastern Africa following four consecutive poor rainfall seasons2.
Make no mistake: no country - poor or rich - is immune to drought. Spain, our host for this year’s observance day, painfully knows this. From the United States to Australia, from Mali to Mexico, from Madagascar to Canada.
Drought has multiple nick-names: forest fires; food and energy shortage; forced migration; civil unrest; water rationing, to name but a few.
We need to further build our resilience to droughts. With Climate change, they are likely to appear more frequently, and when they do, to hit harder.
In this sense, commitments made by countries to restore one billion hectares of degraded land are a step in the right direction.
Indeed, we need to protect and manage the land. Without healthy and productive land, livelihoods and jobs will become increasingly precarious. Younger people will be left with fewer prospects.
At the last UNCCD Conference in Abidjan, the 197 Parties decided to act on drought together. Another step in the right direction.
They agreed to establish a new intergovernmental working group on drought which is responsible for identifying concrete policy options.
There is high hope that at the next Conference of the Parties due for 2024 in Saudi Arabia, Parties would agree on meaningful policy actions to mitigate the growing impacts of drought.
Just a couple of weeks ago, the US government announced its plan to elevate drought and water security to a strategic international policy level.
This is inspiring.
Prime Minister Sanchez,
I want to thank you and the government of Spain for your great hospitality.
In particular, I want to thank you for helping us remember that yes, droughts and their effects can be devastating, but they do not have to turn into human disasters.
Preparing in advance is far cheaper than reacting and responding to impacts after droughts hit.
We should therefore set up effective early warning systems and mobilize sustainable finance to improve drought resilience.
The good news is we know what needs to be done to drought-proof our future.
But the time to act is now.
As the rallying call for this day is “Rising up from drought together,” let me conclude with an African proverb:
“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
So, together, let’s go faster and further.
Thank you very much.