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Remarks by Ibrahim Thiaw at the virtual meeting preparatory to the 8th session of the council of ministers

Honorable Ministers, colleagues, and friends. Firstly.  Thank you.  It is a great pleasure being here – even if virtually. The Sahel is seen as the crucible of existential challenges. Irregular migration, armed conflicts, non-state actors, terrorism and organized crime, as well as poverty and food insecurity. Yet amazing things can happen if we have the commitment and passion of political leaders. With faith and investment in the ingenuity of the people.  And with a bold and joint international response and actions. The Great Green Wall is such an example! True, in the back of our minds, we have always thought of the Great Green Wall as an impossible dream.    But that is no longer the case.  And we must adjust our mindsets. Slowly but surely, the Great Green Wall Initiative is regreening the Sahel; restoring degraded lands and providing decent livelihoods for its people; snaking the Sahel all the way from Senegal in the West to Djibouti in the East; restoring degraded lands and providing jobs and opportunities for millions of people in Africa. In January 2021, US$ 19 billion has been pledged at the One Planet Summit. This is a huge commitment from the international community. The partners committed themselves to work at an accelerated pace. We have collectively agreed to a harmonized results framework. National coalitions are being set up. There is a real sense of buzz about the Great Green Wall.  In Africa and around the world. And that is critical.  In a world that looks at the Sahel region and sees only despair, the Great Green Wall offers hope. In a world struggling to work out what “building back better”, or climate resilience or sustainable development or nature-based solution really looks like, the Great Green Wall makes tangible and practical sense. The concept of the GGW works because it addresses the loss of natural resources - as the root cause of a myriad of other challenges. But it also works because it is rewriting the narrative of the Sahel - restoring lost livelihoods and generating jobs and income for the people.  There is bold African leadership. There is a plan to harness the potential of the region and its people.  And the international community has rallied and is getting coordinated. The 11 GGW countries have a huge role to play, to make it happen. The good news is, it can be done. It must be done. It will be done. And today we are here to discuss how we will get it done – faster and most effectively. Pipelines of bankable projects are emerging, though I have to admit, projects are only slowly emerging. As your loyal and unwavering partner, the UNCCD is committed to help sweep away the many bottlenecks to action at the national level. More than a year has passed since the pledges were made. However, implementation remains scanty. There are multiple administrative hurdles that are slowing us down; bureaucratic issues are preventing people of the Sahel from having access to resources they badly need. These challenges must be overcome quickly, if we want to turn the tide on the vicious circle observed in the Sahel.  For long, we have been advising to bring together honorable environment with treasury and planning Ministers to unlock some of the challenges that have been observed. Indeed, we hope that countries will use an “all of government” approach to getting it done – faster and with more direct benefits to the people of the Region. Allow me to insist on the role of Ministers of Finance, Economy or Planning. The pledges made last year will be delivered with the full participation of fund authorization officers at the national level. Through an integrated approach where different sectoral departments will be brought together: from agriculture to the environment; from energy to livestock; from local authorities to civil society and research. The GGW belongs to all: youth; women; farmers and pastoralists. In short, the GGW will be achieved with the people of the Sahel. Or will never be. Thank you all for being here. Together, I am sure we can make it happen. Thank you.

Remarks by Ibrahim Thiaw at the virtual meeting preparatory to the 8th session of the council of ministers
Sustainable alternatives to tobacco growing for health and land

As the world continues to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic, one fact has never been more evident – our world, our planet and our lives are inextricably interconnected. There are very few issues that can be considered simply “health problems,” as nearly every aspect of life is connected to other societal, economic and environmental issues. While we recognize the negative impact of tobacco on our health, we tend to think less frequently about the economic impact of tobacco use on health costs and productivity losses. What is even less well known is how tremendously destructive tobacco cultivation and tobacco use is for the environment – on land, water and air.

Sustainable alternatives to tobacco growing for health and land
Brazil sets up a novel model to reverse desertification

Brazil has committed US$100 million dollars raised from domestic environmental fines to finance activities to reverse land degradation in an initiative known as the URAD model that combines social inclusion, local development and environmental sustainability. The results are amazing, with activities being completed well ahead of schedule and behaviour change in the communities evident long before reaping the expected long-term fruits.

Brazil sets up a novel model to reverse desertification