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Drylands must not be ‘deserts’ of investment, top UNCCD official urges

Bonn, Germany, 17 June 2011 – “Yesterday, the ‘First Africa Drylands Week’ ended with a simple, yet new, message: the drylands are areas with great potential for the development and sustainable growth of its populations and nations. We must translate this into reality in economic terms with regard to the costs of inaction in relation to the costs and benefits of action in order to convince treasuries that the drylands should no longer be ‘deserts’ of investment,” Mr. Luc Gnacadja, the UN’s top advisor on land degradation, desertification and drought, said this morning. “I am certain that the discussions and field trips this week [in Senegal] have clarified much better than I could ever do in words, that the challenges of desertification, land degradation and drought while real, are solvable,” he added. Mr Gnacadja was speaking in Dakar, Senegal, at the global observance of the World Day to Combat Desertification, which also ended today. At a parallel event, taking place in Madrid, Spain, world football star Mr Carlos Marchena was designated a Drylands Ambassador of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD). The events in Dakar brought together over 100 participants, including scientists, policy-makers and representatives of the international and civil society organizations and community groups, to consider ways to ensure the long-term sustainable management of the forests in the drylands. The Government of Senegal hosted both events, which were organized with the leadership of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in cooperation with the Collaborative Partnership on Forests (CPF). In its joint press release dispatched from the events, the CPF said the First Africa Drylands Week “demonstrated renewed solidarity and unity throughout the Circum-Saharan region. Scientific and operational partnership, based on comprehensive consultation and inclusive approaches and methodologies between the development and cooperation partners, countries and civil society will reinforce governance systems, including sustainable land management, land tenure and secure livelihoods. Under this framework, individual countries, or groups of countries will be able to develop their own initiatives that will together contribute to successful land management, combat effects of climate change, prevent and combat desertification, conserve biodiversity and mitigate the vulnerability of rural and urban societies and ensure food security for the tens of millions of families, across the Sahara and the Sahel.” The CPF’s 27 partners are among the largest international organizations that focus on forest issues. About UNCCD Established in 1994, the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) is the sole legally binding international agreement linking environment and development issues to the land agenda. It focuses on drylands, which cover 41% of the Earth and are in habited 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, eight of the world’s 25 biodiversity ‘hotspots’ are in the drylands and up to one fifth of the drylands have been steadily degraded since the 1980s. The Convention’s 193 Parties are dedicated to improving the living conditions of the world’s poorest 1.2 billion resident in the drylands, to maintaining and restoring the land’s productivity, and to mitigating the effects of drought.

Drylands must not be ‘deserts’ of investment, top UNCCD official urges
Qatar to champion food security issues in the drylands

Bonn, Germany, 9 June 2011 – A special event expected to establish a Global Drylands Land Alliance (GDLA) is planned for the eve of the UN High level meeting to be held on 20 September 2011. The special event, to be co-hosted by the Qatar National Food Security Programme (QNFSP) and the secretariat of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), was one of the outcomes of meetings held by the chief executives of the two institutions on 15-17 May 2011 in Doha, Qatar. During his meeting in Doha at the invitation of the QNFSP, Mr. Luc Gnacadja, UNCCD Executive Secretary, recalled that the Convention’s aim for the future is “to forge a global partnership to reverse and prevent desertification/land degradation and provide a global framework to support the development and implementation of national and regional policies, programmes and measures through scientific and technology excellence. The vision and mission of the GDLA would be to achieve food security and sustainable development in the world’s drylands at national, regional and global levels. Building a global alliance of governments, research and development institutions, NGOs and the private sector to partner in the sustainable development of the drylands and food security worldwide is a step in that direction.” Mr. Fahad Al-Attiya, Chairman of the QNFSP, with Mr Gnacadja, UNCCD. Mr. Fahad Al-Attiya, Chairman of the QNFSP, said the Global Drylands Land Alliance is a partnership “to catalyze the UNCCD process and implementation” and demonstrate the shared vision and mission of the Alliance and the Convention’s Ten-Year Strategy. He concurred that the alliance can constitute a tool to achieve the UNCCD vision and mission. Mr. Gnacadja and Mr. Al-Attiya committed to work hand-in-hand to ensure that drylands issues receive the required attention from the world leaders. Mr. Gnacadja also met with Mr. Ahmad Bin Abdullah Bin Z. Al-Mahmoud, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs of the State of Qatar. Mr. Gnacadja commended the leadership of the Government of Qatar in championing the dryland issues, including those related to food security. Minister Al-Mahmoud expressed Qatar’s commitment to play its role in these respects, stressing that the world has become a global village. Mr Al-Mahmoud and Mr. Gnacadja underscored the historic nature of the upcoming High level meeting on desertification and discussed the future role that Qatar could play in UNCCD processes. Minister Al-Mahmoud said his Government was committed to playing a leadership role on these matters. Mr. Gnacadja visited other Qatari institutions, particularly those involved in environment and energy resources, including the Qatar Foundation, where he held exchanges on the Qatar Sustainable Water and Energy Utilization Initiative (QWE), the Qatar Energy and Environment Research Institute (QEERI) and the Qatar Science and Technology Park (QSTP). He urged them to advance the agenda of the GDLA by taking advantage of the opportunities offered by five upcoming milestones, namely, the UN General Assembly’s High level meeting (20 September 2011), the UNCCD tenth session of the Conference of the Parties (Changwon, South Korea, 11-20 October 2011), the Rio Plus 20 Summit (Rio de Janeiro, 4-6 June 2012), the Food Security Summit (Doha, November 2012) and the eleventh session of the UNCCD COP (September 2013). In September 2010, the Office of the Heir Apparent of Qatar hosted a similar side event on the margins of the General Assembly meeting on the Millennium Development Goals. For more information on the UNGA High level meeting contact: Melchiade Bukuru UNCCD New York Liaison Office Email: bukuru@un.org Tel: +1 917 367 4081 For all other media-related inquiries, contact: Wagaki Mwangi UNCCD Secretariat Email: wmwangi@unccd.int Tel: +49 228 815 2820

Qatar to champion food security issues in the drylands
World Environment Day 2011: Message from UNCCD ES Luc Gnacadja

Bonn , Germany, 5 June 2011 – The arid zone forests are the quintessence of ‘Nature at Humanity’s Service’, the theme of this year’s World Environment Day. These forests are the “invisible” backbone of the humanity’s food security today. One in every three plants under cultivation originated here and now provides the globally-consumed crops like wheat, barley, sorghum, corn, cabbage, potatoes and olives. Half of the world’s livestock lives off the arid zone forests. And a significant proportion of the 2 billion people who live in the drylands directly depend on these forests for their day-to-day sustenance, energy and wood needs. The services rendered by the arid zone forests go beyond this food provisioning service. The arid zone forests play a critical ecosystem service. They are a key part of the climate regulating system and sustain valuable global biological diversity. They are inhabited by the world’s largest concentration of mammals, and over 50,000 plant and 1,500 bird species. And so, just as they have done for many generations in the past, the resources from the arid zone forests continue to sustain humanity. But for how long? Two policy failures, in particular, undermine the long-term sustainability of the arid zone forests. First, largely due to an underestimation of their value, the arid zone forests remain “invisible” to policy-makers. Consequently, the policy incentives required to sustainably conserve and use the arid zone forests are underdeveloped. Second, whereas the forest, land and water resources are naturally interdependent and function as a trilogy, the prevalent policy approach to their conservation is to focus on each resource singularly. The consequent policy imbalance in resource prioritization undermines the sustainability of all. For us to ensure that the future generations enjoy equal, if not better, utility of these resources, policy-makers and practitioners alike must think outside the box in the management of the drylands forests. This means, first, focusing on the causes, not symptoms, of their degradation. Second, it calls for a careful and coordinated calibration of the land, forest and water policies for the drylands. Third, it makes the payment for ecosystems in the drylands a requirement, not an option. Lastly, it underscores the need to mainstream soil improvement in all sustainable development frameworks. The 10-year Strategy of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (2008-2018) is designed with the kind of vision we are called to adopt today; where the nature in and from the drylands serves humanity now, and into perpetuity. One strategic objective is to improve the conditions of the drylands ecosystems affected by land degradation. Another is to improve the livelihoods of the populations in the drylands regions affected by land degradation or desertification, as the phenomenon is commonly referred to in respect of the drylands. As a measure of progress, the reports submitted during each second reporting cycle will quantify two aspects, starting in 2012. First, they will quantify the proportion of the population living above the poverty line, and second, the status of the land cover. The change in direction signals an increase or decrease of poverty or deforestation as the case may be. If the land cover is increasing, we can expect its forests and vegetation to continue servicing humanity. Similarly, if relatively more people are exiting poverty, then poverty as a cause of forest degradation is addressed, and the services provided by the drylands are more assured. In order for the real economic value of the services rendered by the drylands, including its arid zone forests to be correctly determined, the 2nd UNCCD Scientific Conference will be held in 2012, under the theme, ‘Economic assessment of desertification, sustainable land management and resilience of arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid areas’. Arid zone forests are the prototype of nature at humanity’s service, but are an incredibly taken for granted resource. Let this year’s World Environment Day be the year of an unequivocal commitment to the protection of the arid zone forest, land and water resources. Together we can improve the livelihoods of the communities affected by poverty, and eliminate a major cause of the degradation of the forest, water and land resources. Doing so, would enhance food security and secure the resources in the drylands for posterity. I applaud the United Nations Environment Programme for its unceasing quest for environmental sustainability, and congratulate India and UNEP, on this auspicious occasion, for reminding us that nature is not to be taken for granted. We abuse it at our peril.

World Environment Day 2011: Message from UNCCD ES Luc Gnacadja
Senegal to host the global observance event of the World Day to Combat Desertification and the first Africa Drylands Week

Governments and international organizations to address the challenges of desertification and biodiversity loss in the region Bonn, Germany/Rome, Italy, 3 June 2011 – Over 100 scientists, and representatives of government, international and civil society organizations from around the world will converge in Dakar, Senegal, from 10 to 17 June 2011, to develop an integrated approach to address the Region’s abiding challenges of desertification and biodiversity loss, and the new climate change threat. The First Africa Drylands Week will be held back-to-back with the global observance event on 17 June to mark this year’s World Day to Combat Desertification. The speakers at the events will include Luc Gnacadja, UNCCD Executive Secretary, representatives of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Professor Jeffery Sachs, Earth Institute of Columbia University, Dennis Garrity, ICRAF Director-General, and Godwin Kowero, Executive Secretary of the African Forest Forum and other dignitaries. Djibo Leity Ka, Senegal’s Minister of State, Ministry of Environment and Nature Protection, will preside over the World Day to Combat Desertification. Several heads of UN agencies and international organizations have already sent messages in observance of the events. They are Jacques Diouf, Director General, FAO, Monique Barbut, Chief Executive, Global Environment Facility, Kanayo Nwanze, President, International Fund for Agricultural Development, Ahmed Djoglaf, Executive Secretary, Convention on Biological Diversity, Christina Figueres, Executive Secretary, UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, Christian Mersmann, Managing Director, Global Mechanism of the UNCCD, and Ambassador Kwon Byong Hyon, the SLM Champion of the UNCCD. “Land degradation often begins with deforestation, but leads to many other ills that we then try to address independent of each other. The spirit and mindset of the first African Drylands Week shows a paradigm shift that is emblematic of what the international community, as a whole, must do to surmount the grave environmental challenges facing us. Shedding our individual environmental blinders, will lead us to a holistic view of our environment, and a better identification of the sources, not symptoms, of such global environmental diseases,” says Luc Gnacadja, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD). The First Africa Drylands Weeks and this year’s World Day to Combat Desertification are also part of 2011 International Year of Forests celebrating forests for people. The arid zone forests support the livelihoods of a large proportion of its two billion people inhabitants of the drylands. Overall deforestation has declined globally, but persists in Africa and South America, according to the FAO’s 2010 Global Forests Resource Assessment. The pressure on arid zone forests and the rangelands that protect them may increase, especially in the tropical and sub-tropical regions, from two opposing forces. There is a global campaign to conserve the moist tropical forests for carbon sequestration, on the one hand, and the need open up new land for agriculture to meet a growing global demand for biofuels, food and poverty eradication on the other. Increasingly, this pressure is being eased by reverting to the drylands. Field visits, high-level panel discussions and workshops will provide the platform for dialoguing and sharing knowledge around these issues, and the implementation of the biodiversity, climate change and desertification conventions. A way forward and a joint plan to enhancing collaboration among different organizations and partners will be defined and next steps to upscale good practices will be discussed. An information kit on the drylands will be launched during the Week in addition to other activities. The First Africa Drylands Week and World Day to Combat Desertification are organized by the Government of Senegal, in collaboration with the African Union Commission, the National Great Green Wall Agency of Senegal, the Earth Institute of Columbia University, African Forest Forum, FAO, the UNCCD secretariat, the Global Mechanism of the UNCCD, the World Agroforestry Organization (ICRAF), the Permanent Inter-State Committee for Drought Control in the Sahel (CILSS), the Sahara and Sahel Observatory (OSS) and Wallonie-Bruxelles International (WBI), and co-funded by the European Commission. Notes to Editors: From 10 to 12 June, two media tours will be organized for members wishing to participate. Due to the timing of the two itineraries, media can choose to participate in one media tour only. The first itinerary will take the participants to the regions of Kébemer, Louga and Linguere to visit various projects, including the dune fixation project and its management for tourism which is being implemented by the forest service, in partnership with NGOs and private sector organizations and the Acacia Operation Project which implemented by FAO with partners in Senegal (Forest Service, women local groups, the private sector, local communities). The itinerary will also include visits to various Acacia project sites, following the gum market chain from the forest to end product. The visits will also take us to the project sites of  the Millenium Villages Projects as well as to some Great Green Wall  initiative sites where interventions were implemented by the Agence Nationale de la grande Muraille Verte in Senegal in collaboration with local actors. The second itinerary will be organized in the region of Kaolak where visits will include sites showcasing desertification issues and the best practices piloted in the region for combating desertification. One of the sites for example is the site of Keur Bam, showcasing how degraded land can be restored through sustainable forest management, keeping desertification pressure away in order to aid the process of natural regeneration. Another site is the forest of Koutal which was totally restored thanks to the commitment and hard work of a local women’s group. For information on the first Africa Drylands Week contact: Serigne Mbodji/Agence Nationale de la Grande Muraille Verte (Senegal) email: serigne.mbodji@gmail.com Nora Berrahmouni/FAO email: nora.berrahmouni@fao.org Hervé Bisseleua/Earth Institute email: hbissel@gmail.com For information on the World Day to Combat Desertification, contact: Yukie Hori/UNCCD Secretariat email: yhori@unccd.int tel: +49 228 815 2829 Boubacar Cisse/UNCCD Secretariat tel: +216-7110 2311 ​​​​​​​email: b.cisse@afdb.org For information media-related inquiries, contact: Wagaki Mwangi, UNCCD Secretariat email: wmwangi@unccd.int tel: +49 (0)228 815 2820 cell: +49-173-268 7593. For information on media tour, contact: Serigne Mbodji/Agence Nationale de la Grande Muraille Verte (Senegal). email: serigne.mbodji@gmail.com

Senegal to host the global observance event of the World Day to Combat Desertification and the first Africa Drylands Week