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UN Secretary General: Governments need to adopt a target of no more land degradation by 2020

New York, USA, 22 September 2011 – A historic United Nations General Assembly meeting on desertification and drought, the first times heads of state and government have met to discuss the issue, concluded in New York yesterday. Closing the high-level meeting attended by over 100 heads of state and government, Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, President of the current session of the General Assembly said "unless desertification, land degradation and drought are addressed urgently wherever they occur, the three pillars of sustainable development would be corroded." In his summary, Al-Nasser said many leaders supported the establishment of an advisory panel to strengthen the scientific basis of the work. They also stressed making the UN Convention to Combat Desertification a global policy and monitoring framework to address the issues of soil and land degradation, building a land degradation neutral world and improving funding activities to recover degraded land. Speaking at the opening ceremony of the meeting, UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, said, "recent studies show that land degradation is occurring in humid, tropical areas at a faster rate than ever before. It is a phenomenon that now affects every region of the world. Let us resolve today to adopt a target of no more land degradation by the end of this decade. Let us make sustainable land-use a cornerstone of the green economy for poverty eradication and sustainable development." More than 100 Heads of State and Government and other high-ranking officials, attended the meeting three weeks before the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) at its tenth session (COP 10), to be held in Changwon, Republic of Korea, from 10 to 21 October 2011. The UNCCD Executive Secretary Luc Gnacadja said "to sustain life on Earth we must build a land degradation neutral world. If we do not take bold actions to protect, restore and manage land and soils sustainably, we will miss climate change, biodiversity, forests and MDG targets. We will not alleviate rural poverty and hunger, ensure long-term food security, build resilience to drought and water stress. This will lead to consequences including more political conflicts over scarce resources and continued forced migrations." "Our most significant non-renewable geo resource is fertile land and soil. Nevertheless each year, an estimated 24 billion tons of fertile soil are lost. Arable land loss is estimated at 30 to 35 times the historical rate. In the drylands, due to drought and desertification 12 million ha are transformed in new man-made deserts each year. The world has continued building towards 'a soil peak' which will have far-worse consequences than the current 'oil peak'," he said. Land degradation is a global phenomenon, with 78% of the degrading land taking place in the non-drylands. A recent report by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations shows states that 900 million hectares of degraded land still offer opportunities for restoration, which is an opportunity for investment. During the opening Plenary, the UNCCD COP President, on behalf of the G77 and China and the incoming UNCCD COP10 President, Republic of Korea, as well as the representatives of the African States, the European Union and the United States of America echoed urgent calls for greater international awareness of the issue and concerted action to address it. At the beginning of the event, Yann Arthus-Bertrand, French photographer and UNEP Goodwill Ambassador previewed his new film 'Desertification'. It shows the impact the world's people have on the planet. At the launch of an earlier film he remarked, "It's too late to be pessimistic." At the press conference, Hifikenye Pohambo, President of Namibia, said "land degradation is a global problem, thus it must be addressed through joint efforts and cooperation." About the 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. The Convention focuses on all the world's drylands, home to over 2 billion people, 50% of the world's livestock and accounting for 44% of all cultivated ecosystems. The Convention's 194 Parties are dedicated to combating land degradation and mitigating the effects of drought in the drylands by improving the living conditions of the affected populations and ecosystems. Contact UNCCD Secretariat: Wagaki Mwangi, +49 228 8152820, mobile +49 173 2687593, email: wmwangi@unccd.int Yukie Hori, +49 228 8152829, mobile +49 173 2687590, email: yhori@unccd.int  

UN Secretary General: Governments need to adopt a target of no more land degradation by 2020
Actions to reverse increasing loss of productive lands in world's dry regions the focus of UN high-level meeting

More than two billion people are affected by desertification, which leads to poverty, drought, famine, demographic pressures New York, United States, 19 September 2011 – The United Nations will convene a high-level meeting on Tuesday, 20 September to focus on actions to protect the drylands, home to two billion people. Productive lands in dry regions around the world are under increasing threat due to poor land management practices and climate change. More than 12 million hectares of productive land are lost due to desertification every year, the equivalent of losing an area the size of South Africa every decade. While productive land becomes scarcer, providing food for the 9 billion people predicted to live on Earth in 2050 will require a 70 per cent increase in global food production. The UN high-level meeting aims to spur actions to reverse desertification. To develop better policies for sustainable land management with a firmer scientific basis, one of the meeting's main discussion points will be the establishment of a global scientific panel to foster stronger connections between the scientific community and the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD). More than 100 Heads of State and Government, or Heads of Delegation, will participate in the high-level meeting, which will open with a 9:30am plenary, followed by interactive panels and a closing plenary at 5:45pm. A short film, "Desertification", by Yann Arthus-Bertrand, cinematographer and Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Environment Programme, will be screened at the meeting. "The people who live in the arid lands, which occupy more than 40 per cent of our planet's land area, are among the world's poorest and most vulnerable to hunger," UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said. "Frequently, they depend on land that is degraded and where productivity has shrunk to below subsistence levels." While the term desertification often conjures up visions of land turning into barren tracts of sand, it actually refers to a less dramatic but equally destructive process - the loss of the capacity to grow crops or raise livestock in arid, semi-arid or dry sub-humid areas, so-called drylands, where some 2.3 billion people live in nearly 100 countries. "This high-level meeting will provide a unique opportunity to raise awareness on the global land degradation threat and the urgent need for stronger action," UNCCD Executive Secretary Luc Gnacadja said. "We are all at risk. Just 6-10 inches of top soil stand between us and extinction." By controlling and reversing desertification, curbing the effects of drought and restoring productive lands, there is an opportunity to make a direct positive contribution to reducing poverty, improving people's lives and meeting the targets of the Millennium Development Goals. Addressing desertification ensures that reducing poverty and improving development are sustainable over the long term, especially with an expanding global population. After the meeting's conclusion, the President of the General Assembly will present a summary of the discussions to the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification at its tenth session (COP 10), to be held in Changwon, Republic of Korea, from 10 to 21 October 2011, and to the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, often referred to as Rio +20, to be held in Rio de Janeiro from 4 to 6 June 2012. About the UNCCD Desertification, along with climate change and the loss of biodiversity, were identified as the greatest challenges to sustainable development during the 1992 Rio Earth Summit. Established in 1994, UNCCD is the sole legally binding international agreement linking environment, development and the promotion of healthy soils. The Convention's 194 signatory countries, or Parties, work to alleviate poverty in the drylands, maintain and restore the land's productivity, and mitigate the effects of drought. More information on the UN General Assembly High-level Meeting: /meetings/global/unga/menu.php For media information, contact: UN Department of Public Information: Dan Shepard, 1 212 9639495, shepard@un.org Wynne Boelt 1 212 9638264, boelt@un.org UNCCD Secretariat: Wagaki Mwangi, +49 228 8152820, wmwangi@unccd.int Issued by the UN Department of Public Information and UNCCD

Actions to reverse increasing loss of productive lands in world's dry regions the focus of UN high-level meeting
UNCCD Executive Secretary: Governments need to set a goal of a land degradation neutral world if Millennium Development Goals are to be met

Bonn, Germany, 13 September 2011 – Speaking at a Press Briefing in Bonn ahead of the special UN High-level meeting in New York on 20 September, UNCCD Executive Secretary Luc Gnacadja said world leaders must put a cap on land degradation. He said every year some 12 million hectares of land are degraded. 'We should work towards a land degradation neutral world through a target of zero net land degradation. The first priority is to prevent degradation. Where the land has already been degraded, we should reclaim and rehabilitate an equivalent area of land as an offset.' The historic meeting to take place at the UN Headquarters next week will provide an opportunity for world leaders to provide political impetus and guidance for a sustained global response to the world's desertification/land degradation challenges. It will provide a unique opportunity to raise awareness on the global land degradation threat and the urgent need for stronger action to implement the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD). 'There is a vaccine for the disease of land degradation. It has already been tried and tested. Now we need to roll it out worldwide. We need to invest heavily in sustainable land management globally.' 'The vaccine is being used in parts of south east Asia through agroforestry schemes, in Queensland, Australia through drought management programmes, and in Africa where Evergreen Agricultural systems have been adopted on more than six million hectares. However in many areas it is not happening fast enough.' 'We are only four years away from the Millennium Development Goal to eradicate poverty. But poverty persists in areas affected by desertification. More than a billion people are the victims of this. But it is not just the billion directly affected. We are all at risk. Yet there is gross underinvestment in these regions largely due to misperception. The remote location of drylands, political marginalization and associated lack of infrastructure have partly led to a limited access to markets, education and health facilities.' UN General Assembly Resolution 65/160 expressed concern over the increasing vulnerability of poor communities in Latin America, Caribbean, Asia, Northern Mediterranean, and Central and Eastern European Regions. He said governments need to raise this as a priority national policy issue. "Just 6-10 inches of top soil stand between us and extinction," he said. 'Productive land is a finite resource like our oceans and forests.' Looking ahead to the tenth Session of the Parties to the Convention which begins on 10 October in Changwon, the Republic of Korea, he urged Parties to continue rapid progress on strengthening the scientific basis of the Convention. He also called for major progress towards meeting the objectives of the UNCCD 10 year strategy (2008-2018) and a clear plan to rapidly integrate National Action Programmes into national policies for poverty alleviation and sustainable development. About the UNCCD Established in 1994, the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) is the sole legally binding international agreement linking environment, development and the promotion of healthy soils. The UNCCD focuses on the drylands, which cover 41% of the Earth and are inhabited 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, up to one fifth of the surface area is steadily degrading. The Convention's 194 signatory countries, or Parties, work to alleviate poverty in the drylands, maintain and restore the land's productivity, and mitigate the effects of drought.

UNCCD Executive Secretary: Governments need to set a goal of a land degradation neutral world if Millennium Development Goals are to be met
High-level consultation on the UNCCD issues a call for urgent action on the Convention

Geneva, Switzerland, 6 September  2011 – A high-level consultative meeting held in Geneva over the weekend has issued the UNCCD Geneva Call for Urgent Action on The Implementation of The Convention to be transmitted to both the high-level meeting of the UN General Assembly on the theme, “Addressing desertification, land degradation and drought in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication,” which will be held on September 20, and to the UNCCD tenth session of the Conference of the Parties to be held from 10-21 October 2011 in Changwon, Republic of Korea. The Call was issued by the past Presidents of the UNCCD Conferences of the Parties, along with the forthcoming COP10 host nation, Republic of Korea. The communiqué calls on the Parties to undertake actions to support the implementation of the Convention through building effective partnerships between national and international actors and deepening actions towards improving the conditions of the affected populations and ecosystems and generating global benefits. It also calls for synergies at the country-level among the three conventions on biodiversity, climate change and desertification, including through taking advantage of the UN Decade on Biodiversity and the UN Decade for Deserts and the Fight against Desertification. The Call also emphasizes the need to strengthen the UNCCD to become a global authority on scientific and technical knowledge on the issues of desertification, land degradation and drought and to align national actions with the 10-year strategy for 2008-2018 aimed at concretizing the implementation of the Convention. In his opening remarks, Mr. Luc Gnacadja, Executive Secretary, UNCCD, noted the challenges facing UNCCD and said an “important achievement would be turning the UNCCD into a global authority on scientific and technical knowledge pertaining to desertification, land degradation and mitigation of the effects of drought.” He said the full engagement of investments in drylands is the UNCCD’s supreme challenge. Mr. Gnacadja said “by working together, the COP Presidents can turn out to be a recognized group and could play an instrumental role in the UNCCD process, thus delivering strategic advice for the consideration of the Parties and the international community.” For more information on the consultation contact: secretariat@unccd.int

High-level consultation on the UNCCD issues a call for urgent action on the Convention