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Healthy land is an integral part of planetary well-being, which supports and sustains societies and ecosystems. Loss of healthy land threatens our health, security and prosperity, driving the interconnected crises of desertification, drought, biodiversity collapse and climate change. Land restoration offers a effective and efficient nature-based solution to address the world’s biggest challenges and achieve Sustainable Development Goals. The Changwon Initiative, launched at UNCCD COP10 in Changwon, the Republic of Korea, aims to assist countries in linking policy and action to protect and restore degraded lands. To celebrate the tenth anniversary of the Initiative, UNCCD and the Korea Forest Service are launching a global virtual choir competition to promote land and forest restoration. The application deadline is 17 April 2022. Winners will be announced at the anniversary ceremony of the Initiative in the sidelines of UNCCD COP15 in May 2022 in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire, and will receive cash and other prizes. Learn more: How to apply UNCCD COP15
As rich in culture, music and inspired people as the Sahel itself, the UNCCD event at Expo Dubai 2020 “Spotlight on Africa | Spotlighting the Sahel: Climate-Resilient Solutions towards achieving Food Security” marked a big step toward changing the world’s perception of the region. Rather than an area hindered by civil unrest and economic turmoil, the positive narrative of the Sahel’s showcases its potential: the abundance of natural resources, infinite deposits of renewable energy and the youngest population in the world. Along with a strong momentum for positive change, Sahel faces major development challenges, including the pressing need to adapt to changing climate and create opportunities for the new generation. In his opening remarks, the UNCCD Executive Secretary Ibrahim Thiaw highlighted that the potential of the Sahel to overcome these hurdles lies in the abundant resources including vast landscapes waiting to be restored to productivity. Sahel’s natural endowments offer immense potential for economic diversification, value-chain development and livelihoods. And its population is the youngest in the world – a challenge that can be turned into an opportunity. — UNCCD Executive Secretary Ibrahim Thiaw The event at Dubai Expo placed youth, women and smallholder farmers, herders and social entrepreneurs at the center of the conversation on the challenges and opportunities facing the Sahel. It featured initiatives that are accelerating socio-economic growth and enabling shared prosperity in the Sahel, such as Great Green Wall, to find solutions to address food security and climate change in the Sahel, including in implementing the Agenda 2030. Reflecting on the progress of the Great Green Wall Initiative, the participants agreed that it has far surpassed its initial vision of planting trees, becoming a platform that translates positive thinking into actions. The restoration of 20 million hectares of land in the Sahel, creation of 350,000 jobs, training of 10 million people on sustainable ways to manage the land and water and subsequent mobilization of nearly 20 billion hectares to move forward has inspired action at the local level. Harnessing indigenous knowledge and creating diversified value chains have been emphasized as essential to supporting the future progress of the initiative. The event showcased successful green entrepreneurs, many of them young women, who are convinced that in the Sahel, all the opportunities the youth needs exist at home. From agroforestry to producing eco-friendly coffee alternatives, the Sahel is awaiting young hands to revive the land, mine its “green gold,” drive climate action and achieve zero hunger. Performances of Sahelian visual and music artists, including the Malian singer and UNCCD Land Ambassador Inna Modja, have also made the event very memorable. Inna shared what motivated her to travel along the Great Green Wall and meet with communities engaged in land restoration: “I am awed by the ambition of the project and what it can achieve. The Great Green Wall is the future. We sow the seeds in this lifetime, so that the future generations can reap the harvest.” The event was co-organized by UNCCD and the African Union in association with the United Arab Emirates Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change. Learn more: Watch the recording Land and the Sustainable Development Goals Achieving Land Degradation Neutrality Great Green Wall Accelerator
Learning from Brazil’s innovative model to reverse desertification in Caatinga Brazil’s vast rainforest, rich in biodiversity, has captured the imagination of people around the world and attracted large-scale financing from donors committed to preserving this unique ecosystem. But what about the other, lesser-known or naturally endowed biomes? The Caatinga drylands occupy 11 percent of the country, an area about 100 million hectares in the northeast of Brazil. It is home to over 34 million people. Preserving the unique resources in this region is vital because drylands are highly susceptible to land degradation. In 2016, Brazil established the Recovery Units of Degraded Areas and Reduction of Climate Vulnerability (URAD) initiative to address the main drivers of land degradation in the Caatinga. The project, which in the long run will be financed from the moneys generated by domestic environmental fines, received a start-up funding of USD$1 million from Brazil’s Climate Fund and US$9 million from the international community. Under the program, a recovery area is defined by its watershed. The local communities are mobilized to restore their watershed. They get support in the form of resources and training needed. The start-up cost per family for carrying out a watershed recovery is estimated at US$ 8,000. About 30 to 40 families take part in each project. The first activities aim to produce highly tangible results, such as restoring a water source. Direct results are they key to keeping the enthusiasm among community members going and to motivating them to take further actions. The first URAD community-level interventions were completed in half the estimated time. In turn, local people started to have confidence in government projects. The interest to get involved and enthusiasm in the projects grew and spread throughout other communities. But the watershed recovery project is rooted in more than providing direct benefits to communities. The participation of local communities is a guiding principle. Studies show that environmental actions that reduce the population's climate vulnerability are more likely to succeed when they involve local communities in decision-making to create sustainable value chains, generate employment and improve the quality of life. The URAD watershed recovery initiative is also founded and fully integrated in a sustainability model. The environmental, social and economic interventions are taken seriously with specific results targeted. For URAD, environmental actions aim to conserve soil, recover spring water, preserve biodiversity and improve the conditions for food production. Social actions focus on meeting the water, energy and sanitary security of the communities. Beekeeping and integrated crop-livestock-forest systems are examples of the sustainable activities being encouraged to meet livelihood needs – the economic side. The project is also designed to generate short-, medium and long-term needs. This is essential in project planning because political leaders, who are the main decision-makers, often mostly care about and invest depending on the short-term political gains or losses of what they do. Communities, on the other hand, are more willing to invest in actions that change their lives for the long haul. URAD’s short term goals were to recover water sources, contain soil erosion, reduce land degradation, mitigate the effects of drought and cut down soil and water pollution. In the medium-term, the productive capacity of the soil would recover, and help Brazil to fulfil its commitment to achieve land degradation neutrality. The conservation of the Caatinga is expected to improve the quality of life for the local people year by year, and reduce forced migration to urban areas. In the long-term term, the communities and their lands, plants, animals and natural resources are expected to adapt or become resilient to climate-change and it’s impacts. Brazil invests in the drylands because the URAD strategy has the potential to transform the reality for thousands of rural communities. With community-owned successes at the core of each intervention, the new model to reverse desertification has every chance to succeed. Learn More: Brazil sets up a novel model to reverse desertification
‘Land. Life. Legacy: From scarcity to prosperity' is the theme of UNCCD COP15 to be held from 9-20 May 2022 in Abidjan Abidjan/Bonn, 9 February 2022 – Côte d’Ivoire has unveiled the logo and announced the theme of a major United Nations conference on the future of land management that the country is hosting from 9 to 20 May 2022 in Abidjan. Releasing the brand for the 15th session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD COP15) 90 days to the start of the in-person event, Mr. Abou Bamba, head of the COP15 Organizing Committee said the theme, ‘Land. Life. Legacy: From scarcity to prosperity', is a call to action to ensure land, the lifeline on this planet, continues to benefit present and future generations. The statements delivered by the speakers at the launch event in Abidjan reflect the host country’s commitment to host a COP with tangible impact, with interactions expected at a Heads of State level, concrete initiatives agreed for women and youth and, for the country, the Abidjan Legacy Programme that will drive job creation and the sustainable development of the economic, social and environment sectors. Ibrahim Thiaw, Executive Secretary of the UNCCD, welcomed the announcement, and said stakes for the global event in Abidjan couldn’t be higher. "Caring for land is more than a conservation issue, it’s an existential one. Ensuring the land stays healthy, productive and available sustains life." — UNCCD Executive Secretary Mr. Ibrahim Thiaw “Caring for land is more than a conservation issue, it’s an existential one. Ensuring the land stays healthy, productive and available sustains life. Recent droughts signal a precarious future world. The food and water shortages, along with the wildfires caused by severe drought we have seen since 2015, have occurred in places or on a scale never witnessed before,” Thiaw said. “COP15 is a pivotal moment to rally and unite the world around the vision of a land-degradation neutral world. In this vision, natural land is preserved, degrading land is recovered and put to sustainable use, and ecosystems and biodiversity are made resilient to the coming effects of climate change. The window for reversing climate-related and other human-induced threats is closing rapidly,” Thiaw cautioned. About 70 percent of all ice-free land has been altered globally. Two billion hectares of land are degraded, according to World Resources Institute. The international community has pledged to restore one billion hectares of degraded land by 2030, according to the Global Potential for Land Restoration: Scenarios for the Global Land Outlook 2, with half of the global commitments made by Parties to the Convention. COP15 is expected to agree on actions to increase investment for land restoration and tackle the growing impacts of drought. UNCCD conferences of the parties are held every two years. COP14 was held in New Delhi, India, in September 2019. COP15 was re-scheduled from late 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Convention is the global voice for land helping to rally commitments for sustainable land and water management worldwide for a resilient future, with healthy land as a solid foundation for all life. It is ratified by 197 countries, including Côte d’Ivoire, which did so in 1997. Read more: UNCCD COP15 Land Degradation Neutrality Role of land in COVID response
Since its inception, the UNCCD has held a firm mandate on the involvement of women in policy planning and decision-making at the local, national, and regional levels. The Convention stresses the importance of ensuring the full participation of both men and women at all levels in programs to combat desertification and to mitigate the effects of drought.