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#UNBonn25: Global action – local interaction

As part of the celebration for the 25th anniversary of the UN in Bonn, the City of Bonn and the Bonn International Non-Governmental Organizations (BINGO) organized a webinar “#UNBonn25: Global Action – Local Interaction” on 23 June, addressing the important linkages between landscapes, agriculture and fair consumption.

#UNBonn25: Global action – local interaction
Desertification and Drought Day celebrated at regional conference

The Desertification and Drought Day Regional virtual event of Annex IV, including the Northern Mediterranean Country Parties of the UNCCD, was held online on Wednesday, 16 June 2021. The event, which started at 1 p.m. (CET), was moderated by Mr. Erkan Güler (Turkey), Chair of Annex IV. The interventions during this session revolved around the theme of the 2021 Desertification and Drought Day: “Restoration. Land. Recovery”. As emphasized by Mr. Guler and UNCCD Deputy Executive Secretary Ms. Tina Birmpili in their opening statements, the main objective of the event was to send out a strong message about land-centered solutions to build forward better. Ms. Birmpili also underlined the relevance of land degradation neutrality, saying, “We need to integrate land degradation neutrality initiatives and drought plans into international processes such as the Paris Agreement and the post-2020 global biodiversity framework. We need global partnerships that allow us to share best practices, cutting-edge technologies and innovative business models”. During the event, representatives of six Annex IV Country Parties (Portugal, Slovenia, Israel, Italy, Hungary, and Turkey)shared their national experience on the fight against land degradation and drought. The session ended with the closing remarks of Mr. Peter Molnar, Vice-Chair of Annex IV. For more details, the presentations are available here: Hungary | Israel | Italy | Portugal | Slovenia | Turkey  

Desertification and Drought Day celebrated at regional conference
Costa Rica High-Level Forum for Desertification and Drought Day 2021

Speech by the UNCCD Executive Secretary Mr. Ibrahim Thiaw: First, I wish to express my deep gratitude to you, President Carlos Alvarado Quesada, and to Costa Rica, for hosting the global manifestations of the 2021 Desertification and Drought Day. This year, COVID-19 has given our global celebrations a different taste. The pandemic has reminded us how much we depend on nature. And how much we depend on each other. How much we should care about nature, as the destruction of natural habitats can affect our health. Our wealth. Land is one the most precious asset there is. As humans, we live on land. Land feeds us. Land provides us with the water we drink. Whether rich or poor, we share the same aspirations : healthy food ; clean air, clean water ; and a decent life. As the world battles with the pandemic and its severe consequences on our economy, some people may wonder why we care about land! Why is it a priority, amid all the challenges the world is facing? Actually, land is part of the solution. Which is why the theme of this year’s Desertification and Drought Day is: Restoration. Land. Recovery. Think about the millions of farmers, indigenous peoples, and small holders whose only asset is land. For them, land loss means economic loss. A loss of their capital. A loss of their life as they have always known it. A dislocation of their society and their way of life. In the Latin America and the Caribbean region, and indeed in Costa Rica, as is the case elsewhere in the world, land degradation causes economic losses, impacting food security and the livelihoods of millions. These are losses Latin America, and The Caribbean can ill afford, as one-third of the population lives in poverty and about one in six people live in extreme poverty. Land degradation has multiple other consequences, including: Forced migration. Be it in the Sahel, in Haiti, in the Central American dry corridor, or in Afghanistan. What is left to a young person to do, when they can no longer feed their family from their land? They flee. Land degradation is a direct cause of conflicts: competition over access to scarce land and water. Hardly a day passes without media reporting new casualties or incidents. Mainly between farmers and transhumant pastoralists. In Africa, in the Middle East. Or in Central Asia… It is known: land degradation exacerbates food insecurity. In some regions of the world, direct and indirect links have been established between land loss and terrorism as well as all sorts of trafficking. Furthermore, with climate change, scientists record more frequent and more severe droughts. When droughts strike, most farmers and pastoralists lose their livelihoods. National economies are severely affected. In many countries, the primary sector plays such an important role that years of drought generally correspond to years of economic downturn. Compounded with the loss of biodiversity, which affects productivity and the resilience of communities… It is a vicious cycle. The good news, yes there is good news. It is not all doom and gloom. Yes, we have tools to avert further damage. Yes, we can reverse these losses and lift people out of poverty. Costa Rica is one the countries that has applied these tools. Successfully so. Which is one of the reasons why we are excited that you offered to host the global celebrations of the Desertification and Drought Day. More than 1500 technologies have been successfully tried and tested from around the world. So, technically, we know how to restore degraded land. Though, unfortunately, we still have to overcome some institutional barriers. Here again, I want to use the example of Costa Rica. The first country to create a commission for the implementation of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification. This commission unites government, civil society, and academia in the fight against land degradation. It is a step in the right direction. Friends, Allow me to share some insights from the latest research from the UNCCD. Indeed, protecting and restoring nature can help drive a green recovery while preventing future epidemics or pandemics. Investing in nature-based solutions, specifically land restoration, can allow us to build forward better a greener, healthier, stronger and a more sustainable world. Restoring land will accelerate progress in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals. Through the creation of millions of green jobs. Through food security. Women empowerment. Climate action. Vibrant biodiversity. Water conservation. Human health. Therefore, building on the high-level dialogue organised just a couple of days ago under the aegis of the President of the UN General Assembly, the message of this forum, should be clear. We need concerted and collaborative efforts to regenerate our natural capital, transform our food systems, and rethink our infrastructure and cities. Work with nature, not against Nature. Listening to the millions of voices from around the world, leaders must build ambition towards land stewardship, as we move into the UN Decade for Ecosystem Restoration. Already, 127 countries have committed to targets and measures to restore the land. In total, one billion hectares of land are targeted with restoration commitments. That is the size of Canada. This is a strong start. But to deliver, and increase ambition, we need to get the financing right – starting with the post-pandemic stimulus packages. In that respect, we appreciate the Global Initiative on Land Restoration adopted by the G20, aiming at halving the amount of degraded land by 2040. The Great Green Wall of the Africa’s Sahel is a good example of regional cooperation, with 11 countries across Africa joining forces to restore land. Similar initiatives exist in Latin America, in The Middle East and elsewhere. So, there is momentum. People are starting to understand that investing in land-based solutions to sustain post-pandemic recovery efforts is a smart economic decision. Indeed, every dollar spent on ecosystem restoration generates up to thirty dollars to the economy.   With all its hardship, the pandemic has given us an opportunity to rethink about our future. An opportunity to secure a future of healthier people and nature, secure livelihoods and greater equality and opportunity for all. There are still major barriers. But we have the tools to succeed. Though, as we all know, tools are only useful when they are used aptly, with determination and a strategic vision. We must pick up our tools and use them to build the future we want to leave to the next generations. This, dear friends, is our collective task. Thank you.

Costa Rica High-Level Forum for Desertification and Drought Day 2021
Launch of the GAR Special Report on Drought 2021

Speech by the UNCCD Executive Secretary Ibrahim Thiaw:  Thank you to Ms. Mami Mizutori, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction, for her opening remarks. Thank you for putting together this special report on drought. My take from the report is that we must act now to prevent future droughts from destroying development gains. As we speak, at least one million people are facing starvation because of drought. At least 24 countries are hit by drought in 2021 only. From 1998 to 2017, droughts have affected at least 1.5 billion people, and led to economic losses of USD 124 billion across the globe . Within the next 80 years, 129 countries will experience an increase in drought exposure. Droughts are growing due to climate change and other human-driven factors. When I say 1.7 billion people are already faced with water stress, you may take it as statistics. But beyond these numbers, we have human beings that are suffering. I personally witnessed the effects of drought. So for me, this is not theory. I am not reading statistics. I did not watch it on Television. Droughts destroy life. They have the ability to demolish social fabric.   You see with your very eyes.  You watch and seer your assets vanishing. Live. This affects you for the rest of your life. It has on you the effect of a Permanent Marker. It’s Indelible. This is why I am happy to say that Parties to the UNCCD take droughts very seriously. At the last COP, they established an Inter-Governmental Working Group on Drought. Discussions are ongoing. Helping prepare negotiations at COP 15 next year. Is it by coincidence that in most countries, years of drought are listed as years of economic downturn? Most countries have their economies essentially dependent on the Primary Sector. Which means they depend on a thin layer of soil and a few millimeters of rain. When the rain does not come on time and in good quantity, the water stress induces a major disruption. When at the same time the soil is degraded, the crisis can turn into a catastrophe. This is why, the threats caused by droughts should unite us. We need to join forces, to mitigate the effects. On people. On nature. On the economy. We don’t have to wait until the disruption turns into a disaster,  before we respond. Emergency measures are more costly to deploy. Less efficient as more often than not, they arrive late, despite heroic efforts by rescue teams. Dear friends, No country is immune to drought. Rich or poor. Yes, the impacts of drought hit the poorest countries hardest. But high-income countries are also feeling the impacts – as we have seen in the United States. We must deal with drought, using every tool we can. So what are these tools? As the theme of today’s Day to Combat Desertification and Drought is Restoration, Land, Recovery, let us start there. Trillions of dollars are put into pandemic recovery. Meanwhile, restoration commitments covering almost one billion hectares are in place as we head out on the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration. This presents us with a chance to build back better with healthy land. Land restoration is simple, inexpensive and accessible to all. It removes carbon from the atmosphere, slowing the climate change that drives droughts. It helps vulnerable communities adapt to droughts by, for example, increasing water storage. It increases agricultural production. All of this would reduce the estimated 700 million people at risk of being displaced by drought and land degradation, by 2030. Restoration is not enough, however. We need to protect and manage the land, through sustainable consumption and production. On the agriculture side, this means sustainable and efficient management techniques that grow more food with less land and water. On the consumption side, this means changing our relationships with food and clothing. We must also understand that drought is complex, with a range of causes and impacts. These should not be considered in isolation. We need coordination, communication and cooperation. With proactive national drought policies and a joined-up approach to managing natural resources, we can mitigate the effects of drought.   Some 66 countries are participating in the UNCCD’s global drought initiative. This initiative supports Parties to shift from a reactive approach to drought to a proactive and risk-based approach. We are attacking the problem from many other angles – from addressing gender concerns to strengthening land tenure. Friends, we must all act now to ensure that droughts do not set humanity back on its great endeavour to build a sustainable future. I urge you all to implement the findings in this report. Existing tools and resources may not be enough. But they can get us far, if we make a better use of the existing tools: Early Warning- Preparedness- Response.  We will be more much more efficient if we develop and implement integrated plans.   Working together, we can ensure that the people of drought-hit regions have the chance of a better life. Thank you.

Launch of the GAR Special Report on Drought 2021
The Group on Earth Observations LDN Initiative

The UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Indicator 15.3.1, for which the UNCCD is the custodian agency, utilizes three sub-indicators: land cover, land productivity and carbon stock. These can be calculated from Earth Observation (EO) and other geospatial information in accordance with the Good Practice Guidance for SDG Indicator 15.3.1. After three years and the recent finalization of the GEO-LDN technology competition, GEO-LDN is: Ready to support countries reporting to the 15.3.1. SDG indicator using an innovative and user-oriented approach Ready to make land use planning more sustainable, evidence-based and transparent GEO-LDN involves all relevant stakeholders (data providers and data users) and welcomes active engagement from new stakeholders in an inclusive and open process Learn more about the Initiative GEO LDN home GEO LDN Initiative YouTube playlist

The Group on Earth Observations LDN Initiative