Mr. President, Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Let me first join previous speakers to express, on behalf of the secretariat of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, Land degradation and Drought (UNCCD), our deepest appreciation and gratitude to the Government of the State of Qatar for hosting the fifth UN Conference on Least Developed countries.
The world over, we are seeing common challenges. Widespread land degradation. Biodiversity in decline. Natural disasters and extreme weather events, exacerbated by climate change.
Everyone is starting to feel the sting, but there is no doubt that the 46 least-developed countries (LDCs) have been facing these challenges for far longer and at a far-greater intensity.
Such events have a disproportionate impact on LDCs in terms of economic losses, deaths, disrupted livelihoods and damage to infrastructure.
About a quarter of people in LDCs live on severely degraded lands. Over 34 per cent of crop and livestock production loss in LDCs is traced to drought. This cost to agriculture? USD 37 billion between 2008 and 2018.
There are many ways that LDCs, with the support of the international community, can act. Today, I will focus on the critical role of the land: specifically, land restoration, drought resilience and agriculture that build on sustainable land management.
Land restoration, sustainable agriculture and nature-based solutions are a smart investment, for many reasons.
They create jobs quickly: on average, between 7 and 40 jobs per US$1 million invested. Planting trees or restoring floodplains, for example, are labour-intensive tasks that are well suited to public employment programs.
Such employment options are important for LDCs, in which the youth population is expected to rise to 300 million by 2050, almost double 2010 figures.
Land restoration, sustainable agriculture and nature-based solutions can reach other segments of the labour market. For instance, thousands of small and medium-sized enterprises are active in forest and land restoration efforts. They could contribute to job creation and economic growth, if supported.
Encouragingly, we are seeing a growing movement for healthy land.
Farmers and herders using sustainable land management practices are minimizing degradation, increasing drought resilience, and nursing degraded land back to health.
There are many examples. More than five million hectares have been restored in Niger’s Zinder province, boosting food security for more than 2.5 million people.
Malawi is dedicating 1.5 per cent of its domestic budget to its Youth Forest Restoration Program, employing thousands of young people to revitalize 50,000 hectares of land.
In Ethiopia, large-scale land restoration of degraded watersheds over five years saw gross primary production in treated locations grew by 13.5 per cent on average in areas affected by severe droughts.
A major limiting factor to wider action is domestic budgetary resources. So, we need bilateral and multilateral donors to step in.
There are many ways to do this. For example, countries and donor institutions can explore opportunities linking debt forgiveness to investments in land restoration and other nature-based solutions.
Backing healthy land in LDCs is a win-win solution.
Employment creation would reduce poverty: building markets for products from developed countries and reducing forced migration.
Increasing food production through sustainable land management in LDCs would enhance stability in the global food market. Sustainable land-use practices can also capture carbon, helping to stabilize the climate.
Mr. President, distinguished delegates,
Yes, LDCs are facing challenges. But LDCs, with the appropriate international support, can use their land, their biodiversity and their natural resources to overcome these challenges. To become thriving nature-positive economies. And to ensure that their people are healthy, happy and prosperous. Should LDCs prioritize their investments in restoring their degraded lands, in enhancing their resilience to droughts, when they meet at LDC6 in a decade, poverty and hunger will have substantially decreased, decent land-based jobs and exportation of agriculture produce will have thrived. This can accelerate the pace of transitioning from the LDCs to middle income group of countries.