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Land Restoration: A Solution to West Africa’s Rural Exodus?

Rural communities in West Africa have historically used migration as a seasonal coping mechanism in times of poor harvests or extreme drought. Yet, in recent decades, seasonal migrations have been replaced by more permanent relocations, as devastating droughts, changes in the seasons, reduced rainfall and flashfloods have all taken a toll on local community livelihoods. No longer able to live off what the land produces due to the increased unpredictability of the weather, local communities in rural areas – particularly young men – are left with little other choice than to search for work in urban centres to support their families. The Global Mechanism is working with the International Organization for Migration, to explore in more depth the complex linkages between land degradation and migration through the Italian-funded project, ‘West Africa: Promoting Sustainable Land Management (SLM) in migration prone areas through innovative financing mechanisms”.  The objective is to provide policy recommendations to upscale best practices and boost long-term investments into land restoration as part of the solution to stemming migration from rural areas. On 18-19 May in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, the Global Mechanism organized a regional workshop together with the Konrad Adenauer Foundation (KAS) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM), to advance the dialogue on this topic in 3 main areas: How to use migration as a resilience strategy to tackle the intertwined challenges of desertification, land degradation, drought, climate change and migration Promoting investments in sustainable land management and adaptation to climate change to build resilience in migration-prone areas in West Africa, including through the direct investments of migrants through remittances Reducing vulnerability and insecurity caused by land degradation, in particular the negative effects of land degradation on population growth, migration and poverty and the increased risks of radicalization of young vulnerable people that might become a target for extremists groups The event, which took place under the auspices of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Government of Burkina Faso, was attended by more than 60 government officials from Burkina Faso, Niger and Senegal, as well as high-level representatives of ECOWAS and international experts specialized on environment, migration and security. Experts at the event agreed that land-based green jobs are a crucial part of the solution to stemming the migration exodus of rural communities in West Africa. The Global Mechanism looks forward to publishing the results of its on-going project in the near future, paving the way for further action in this area.

Land Restoration: A Solution to West Africa’s Rural Exodus?
UNCCD welcomes Canada’s statement about re-joining the convention

Ottawa, Ontario, June 17, 2016 – We welcome the joint statement by Stéphane Dion, Minister of Foreign Affairs, and the Honourable Marie-Claude Bibeau, Minister of International Development and La Francophonie, on the World Day to Combat Desertification, announcing that Canada intends to re-sign the UN Convention to Combat Desertification and Drought. Canada's renewed engagement and leadership signals the growing recognition of the role of healthy and productive land in fighting climate change and in delivering food and water security for people right around the world. The statement Reads: "Joint statement by ministers Dion and Bibeau on World Day to Combat Desertification June 17, 2016 – Ottawa, Ontario – Global Affairs Canada The Honourable Stéphane Dion, Minister of Foreign Affairs, and the Honourable Marie-Claude Bibeau, Minister of International Development and La Francophonie, today issued the following statement on World Day to Combat Desertification: On this day we recognize that desertification is linked to many of Canada’s development priorities, such as food security, agriculture, peace and security, access to water, livestock production and renewable energy.  We recognized the importance of these issues when Canada joined the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification [UNCCD] in 1995. In 2014, Canada was the only country in the world to withdraw from the UNCCD. Today we are taking positive steps to rejoin the global effort. ​ Canada recognizes not just the link between land degradation and climate change, but also the risks that desertification poses to realizing the Sustainable Development Goals. We are coordinating with our international partners to implement the 2030 Agenda and its ambitious objective to eradicate poverty, fight inequality and injustice, and tackle climate change.  Canada is committed to improving the resilience of developing countries to climate change, which disproportionately affects women and girls. Canada has also contributed more than $216 million to the most recent Global Environment Facility replenishment, the main funding channel of the UNCCD, making us the sixth-largest donor.  We are committed to joining world action on climate change, land degradation and desertification. That is why Canada intends to rejoin the UNCCD at the earliest opportunity, subject to Parliamentary approval in the fall." For more information see: http://news.gc.ca/web/article-en.do?nid=1086379

UNCCD welcomes Canada’s statement about re-joining the convention
China and the UNCCD launch initiative to curb desertification along the Silk Road

Beijing, China, 17 June 2016 – China and the UN Convention to Combat Desertification today launched the Joint Action Initiative to combat desertification, rehabilitate degraded land and mitigate the effects of drought (JAI). The initiative aims to make the whole region along the “Silk Road” environmentally sound and ecologically sustainable.  The countries expect to prepare adequately for drought, create ecosystem stability and protect desert, steppe, pasture and oasis biodiversity and developing infrastructure. Together, countries will monitor and evaluate sand and dust storms. They will rehabilitate new and emerging source areas and those affected by disaster. They will revegetate mining and industrial wastelands and create shelter belts to protect vital infrastructure.  JAI provides the framework for conducting joint research and technical exchanges and for sharing information and demonstration projects.  Ms. Pan Yingzhen (in the picture above), Director General of the National Bureau to Combat Desertification in the State Forestry Administration and the UNCCD National Focal Point of China, launched the initiative during the global observance of the World Day to Combat Desertification in Beijing, China.  The Silk Road Economic Belt starts from China and runs to the Persian Gulf and the Mediterranean via Central and West Asia, geographically linking the continents of Africa, Asia and Europe. Many of the countries along the Belt are affected seriously by desertification, land degradation and drought and traditional and new sources of financing will be needed to deliver on ambition. Ms Monique Barbut, UNCCD Executive Secretary, said that through solidarity and engagement China has brought millions of people out of poverty through massive scale land restoration efforts.  She encouraged China to spearhead work in achieving land degradation neutrality and ensure it becomes humanity's defining achievement in the 21st Century, noting, “it will mark China's legacy in green development.”  Globally, more than 2 billion hectares of the terrestrial ecosystems are degraded, with nearly 170 countries affected by land degradation and drought. Scientists are also increasingly concerned about human activities such as mining, infrastructure development and drying water beds that may be contributing to sands and dust storms.  UN Secretary-General Ban, in a video message to the high-level gathering that was attended by China’s Vice-Premier and 11 ministers and vice-ministers from Africa, Asia and Latin America, said “over the next 25 years, land degradation could reduce global food productivity by as much as 12 per cent, leading to a 30 per cent increase in world food prices.” “Without a long-term solution, desertification and land degradation will not only affect food supply but lead to increased migration and threaten the stability of many nations and regions. This is why world leaders made land degradation neutrality one of the targets of the Sustainable Development Goals. That means rehabilitating at least 12 million hectares of degraded land a year,” he said. Since the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals last September, more than ninety countries have signed up to set their voluntary national targets on land degradation neutrality. Ms Barbut said “actions to avoid, halt and reverse land degradation must begin now with everyone fully engaged. If we procrastinate the prospect of land degradation neutrality grows dimmer. But it shines brighter each time a person or country joins the campaign to restore degraded land or the battle against the degradation of new land.” During the event, the International Resource Panel of UNEP, released a report titled, Unlocking the Sustainable Potential of Land Resources: Evaluation systems, strategies and tools, offering tools that can help land users to assess their land potential in order to match it to the best uses. JAI is linked to the 2030 global target of achieving land degradation neutrality agreed under the Sustainable Development Goals. Through actions that promote healthy and productive land, the initiative also aims to alleviate poverty and improve the livelihoods of the people in the region. In line with this year’s theme for the World Day to Combat Desertification, a core principle of JAI is “people’s engagement at all levels, in particular land users at community level, in a participatory process.” With a rallying call to “Protect Earth. Restore Land. Engage People”, this year’s observance aims to raise public awareness about the urgency for land users to secure productive land by avoiding degrading more land, on the one hand, and rehabilitating and restoring all productive that can be recovered, on the other. World Day to Combat Desertification is observed every year on 17 June in all countries of the world.  For more information on the World Day to Combat Desertification: click here For interviews in Beijing contact: Ms Jenny Choo, jchoo@unccd.int For more information contact: Ms Wagaki Wischnewski, wwischnewski@unccd.int About UNCCD The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) is the sole legally binding international agreement on land issues. The Convention works, with partners, to promote good land stewardship. Its 195 Parties aim to achieve land degradation neutrality (LDN) through voluntary national targets. By achieving LDN, we will secure the health and productivity of the land, mitigate the effects of drought and make people and ecosystems more resilient to climate change.

China and the UNCCD launch initiative to curb desertification along the Silk Road
Protect Earth. Restore Land. Engage People: LDN Fund presented in Beijing

On 17 June, the Land Degradation Neutrality Fund Project was presented in Beijing on the occasion of the official celebration of the World Day to Combat Desertification. The event was organized by the government of the People’s Republic of China, hosted by the State Forestry Administration (SFA). Mr. Wang Yang, Vice Premier of China chaired the opening of the ceremony at the People’s Congress Hall. Ms. Monique Barbut, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) emphasized the importance of China in spearheading work to achieve land degradation neutrality and ensuring that it becomes humanity’s defining achievement of the 21st Century. The keynote addresses and dialogue sessions were held by high-level speakers and attended by nine Ministers and Vice Ministers from seven countries, along with 400 participants. The event also included an afternoon session which addressed thematic dialogues such as the launch of the Joint Action Initiative, the report titled “Unlocking the Sustainable Potential of Land Resources: Evaluation Systems, Strategies and Tools”, which was produced by the International Resource Panel of UNEP, and an award ceremony. This year’s event theme emphasized the importance of coordination and cooperation to restore and rehabilitate land, while significantly contributing to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. Land Degradation Neutrality became a global headline in 2015. The same year, the achievement of LDN by year 2030 was officially set under target 15.3 of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. The LDN Fund project was presented by Mr. Simone Quatrini, Coordinator and Team Leader of the UNCCD Global Mechanism, as an introduction to Thematic Dialogue 2, entitled “Role of Innovative Investment for Technical Cooperation”. The session was moderated by Mr. Wu Zhimin, Director General of International Forestry Cooperation Center, State Forestry Administration (SFA). The session panelists included Mr. Byong Hyon Kwon, UNCCD Drylands Ambassador and Founder of Korea Future Forest, Mr.Chen Peng, Deputy Director General, China Green Foundation (CGF), Mr. Frank Radstake, Principle Environment Specialist, Asian Development Bank, Mr. Xi Shusen, Director, Inner Mongolia Society of Ecology and Entrepreneurs, Mr. Romano De Vivo, Head Environmental Policy Representative, Syngenta, and Mr. Zhao Yong, Executive Secretary of Kubuqi Desert Forum, Elion Group. Mr. Quatrini presented the emerging features of the LDN Fund, including the investment strategy and investment opportunities identified to date. This stimulated a rich debate on the potential of blended finance to scale up successful business cases in land restoration and sustainable land management in China and the whole Asian region. A number of promising initiatives that contribute to LDN and could potentially attract foreign investments were showcased in the ensuing session, entitled “Unlocking the Sustainable Potential of Land Resources: Evaluation Systems, Strategies and Tools”.   For more information:  Nevena Bakalar Rakocija The Global Mechanism Tel. +49 228 815 2841 nrakocija (at) unccd.int

Protect Earth. Restore Land. Engage People: LDN Fund presented in Beijing
A Real ‘Base’ for Senegalese Citizens Living in Italy

The Global Mechanism is seeking ways to identify, explore and promote sources of funding that are most relevant and innovative for the rehabilitation of land through the Great Green Wall, and contribute significantly to the restoration of 12 million hectares of land globally that are degraded each year. The opening of ‘BASE’ the Support Office for Senegalese citizens Abroad, in Milan, Italy, on 30 May  2016, is a potential contribution towards investments in sustainable land management. The establishment of the office is an important step for the Senegalese government in supporting its citizens living in Italy. It is also a good example of  international cooperation between Italy and Senegal, involving all the following stakeholders: the diaspora associations, international organizations, local authorities, civil society and the private sector. The objectives of 'BASE' are: Inform Senegalese citizens in Italy on the investment opportunities in their countries of origin, with a particular focus on sustainable agriculture and land rehabilitation; Assess the economic integration problems of the Diaspora and point them to the relevant structures to facilitate the administrative procedures for the creation of enterprises in Senegal The opening of ‘BASE’ is supported by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), through the Italian Cooperation project: "Promoting sustainable land management in areas prone to migration through innovative financing mechanisms ", as well by the municipal council of Milan and the Government of Senegal. On 29 May, the day before the inauguration of 'BASE', the Diaspora met all government structures that support initiatives for Senegalese citizens abroad to discuss current opportunities. This platform has provided important information to Senegalese citizens abroad, indicating the most productive investments and presenting the services available to them (financial or otherwise) to implement their investment projects. It is estimated that there are  between two and three million Senegalese citizens living abroad worldwide, nearly a quarter of the population of Senegal. Because of their number and involvement in the development of the country, they have an important economic and social role to play in the stability of Senegal. The diaspora is particularly important in Italy, where 26.2% of the Senegalese diaspora lives, according to a survey "Migration and Remittances to Senegal by the World Bank" conducted by the Consortium for the Economic and Social Research of Senegal in 2009. According to the same source, Senegalese households received nearly 588.4 billion FCFA in 2011, making remittances one of the most promising innovative sources of finance, with a potentially crucial role in promoting sustainable land management and land rehabilitation.   Read more about the Great Green Wall

A Real ‘Base’ for Senegalese Citizens Living in Italy
Transforming Lives with Africa’s Great Green Wall: A Photo Series

The Great Green Wall is a long-held African dream, currently taking root on the edge of the world’s largest hot desert: the Sahara. Dubbed the "next wonder of the world", the ongoing project will eventually see the growth of an 8,000km ‘green wall’ made from trees and plants across the entire African continent, from Senegal in the West to Djibouti in the East. The aim? To transform the lives of some of the planet’s poorest people. Refinery29 - the youth-oriented lifestyle website -  has created a powerful photo series, which shows how this modern wonder of the world is taking shape across the African Continent.

Transforming Lives with Africa’s Great Green Wall: A Photo Series