Colleagues and friends.
Welcome to Drought Day – an important moment to discuss how to increase action on drought prevention and resilience.
An important moment to showcase effective policies and projects from across the globe.
An important moment to send a message to Parties that we need a strong decision on drought at this UNCCD COP.
I have vivid memories of the devastation that a drought caused in my hometown in Mauritania in the 1970s.
First, our water supply drained.
Then our crops failed.
Finally, our livestock perished.
The risk of famine loomed over our village for months.
These memories still haunt me.
But for hundreds of millions of people today, these are not memories.
They are a brutal reality, and a consequence of the climate and environmental crises.
The land is drying up.
Fertile grounds are turning to dust.
If we stay on our current course, more of us will live with extreme water shortages – including an estimated one in four children by 2040.
We must act decisively to prevent this future.
We must deal with drought, using every tool at our disposal.
We know what these tools are.
Land restoration is one. A simple and easily accessible one.
It removes carbon from the atmosphere, slowing the climate change that drives droughts.
It helps vulnerable communities adapt.
It increases agricultural production.
Land restoration commitments covering almost one billion hectares are in place for the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration.
We must deliver on these commitments.
But restoration is not enough.
We need to protect and manage the land.
We need sustainable and efficient management techniques that grow more food with less land and water.
We need to change our relationships with food, fodder and fibre – by diversifying our diets and reducing waste, among other measures.
We also need coordination, communication and cooperation to deal with the complex causes and impacts of drought.
With proactive national drought policies and a joined-up approach to managing natural resources, we can mitigate the effects of drought.
We should set up effective early warning systems that work across boundaries.
New technologies – such as satellite monitoring and artificial intelligence – offer guidance for early warning and precision for informed decisions.
We should also mobilize sustainable finance to improve resilience at the local level.
Because investing in soil health makes business sense.
According to recent economic analyses, every dollar invested in land restoration can generate up to 30 dollars in ecosystem services.
We are moving forward.
128 countries have expressed political will to achieve or exceed Land Degradation Neutrality.
66 countries have taken part in the recently completed UNCCD’s Drought initiative to shift to a proactive and risk-based approach to drought.
But we need to do more.
And we will only succeed if we work together.
We must commit to pursuing concerted policy and partnerships at all levels.
We need to mobilize farmers, local communities, small and medium sized enterprises, consumers, green investors, green entrepreneurs and young people.
Today, and at this COP, we have a real chance to drive increased action.
So, I ask you to build on the growing momentum.
To come out of this COP with a robust and actionable decision on drought.
Such a decision – implemented with ingenuity, commitment and solidarity – would take us a long way.
It would motivate action towards sustainable practices in land and water management.
It would build our resilience to drought and slow climate change.
It would allow current and future generations to thrive, instead of just survive.
And that, dear friends, is why we are here today.