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Sand and dust storms compendium launches at UNCCD COP15

Fueled by climate change, land degradation and drought, sand and dust storms (SDS) have dramatically increased in recent years, affecting communities thousands of miles away from the place of origin. In the areas where they originate, SDS can damage crops, kill livestock and strip topsoil, while distant areas are affected by atmospheric dust and surface dust deposits, which affect human health as well as disrupt transportation, supply chains and power networks. The urgent need to address the growing effects of SDS on our health, economy and environment has led UNCCD and its partners to develop a comprehensive Sand and dust storms compendium: Information and guidance on assessing and addressing risks, launched during the SDS Day at UNCCD COP15. Created with the help of over 50 experts, national focal points and UN agencies, the new compendium complements the UNCCD policy and advocacy framework for the effective management and understanding of the SDS issues. “It is critically important to bring more attention to SDS. Today is about understanding that SDS is a global phenomenon that has effect on our economies, health and environment, and not just in the drylands. SDS is directly related to land degradation and can be addressed through sustainable land management and by achieving land degradation neutrality.” -- UNCCD Deputy Executive Secretary Andrea Meza Murillo The Compendium is an in-depth reference source for SDS management, offering information on SDS modeling and forecasting, as well as on policies and practices to effectively manage SDS and reduce the harmful effects of SDS events. The compendium summary for decision makers is now available on the UNCCD website in six official UN languages, together with the full English version of the new publication. The next UNCCD key contribution to the SDS knowledge base will be the SDS toolbox. It is being developed in collaboration with the partners from the United Nations Coalition on Combating Sand and Dust Storms (SDS Coalition) launched at UNCCD COP14 in 2019. Depending on the needs of the user, the interactive toolbox will guide them to approaches and tools they can deploy to improve awareness of SDS hazards, effectively manage SDS impacts and design practical and proactive steps to successfully implement SDS-related projects.

Sand and dust storms compendium launches at UNCCD COP15
The 15th session of the Committee on Science and Technology convenes at UNCCD COP15 

Announced by the Chair of the CST, Mr. Masuku Bongani from Eswatini, the CST15 of the UNCCD opened on 11 May 2022 with UNCCD Executive Secretary Ibrahim Thiaw highlighting that science has a unique role in creating sustainable future of land resources by providing evidence, informing the decision makers and mobilizing action.  Mr. Thiaw recognized the commitment of the Bureau of the CST and the Science Policy Interface (SPI) members over the 2020-2021 biennium to enhance the scientific foundation for policy development, as evidenced in the assessments 1) on the role of integrated land use planning and landscape management in achieving Land Degradation Neutrality; 20 on approaches for monitoring and assessment of the resilience of the ecosystems and population to drought and 30 the comprehensive analysis on two IPCC reports. The future work programme of the SPI for 2022-2023 includes assessments on sustainable land use systems and historical regional and global aridity trends and future projections.  In the first plenary of the CST15, after the adoption of the agenda, the Committee on Science and Technology commenced its thematic dialogue with the SPI on the outcomes achieved in the biennium 2020-2021, starting with the evidence resulting from its two assessments on the integrated land use planning and landscape management, and the assessment on resilience of ecosystems and population to drought. To continue work on these two key topics, the CST contact group was established and held its first meeting to discuss the draft decision text to be submitted to the COP for consideration.   On 12 May, the second plenary of the CST continued a thematic dialogue on the SPI’s comprehensive analysis on the IPCC reports. A follow-up plenary discussion reconvened on the issue of science-policy-interfacing modalities, accessibility to and dissemination of the best practices and the proposed SPI future work programme.   The afternoon session of the fourth plenary of the CST15 addressed the joint report by the CST and the CRIC on reporting modalities on land degradation and drought for implementation of the UNCCD Strategic Framework 2018-2030, which guides parties in the next cycle of national reporting. The second topic of the 4th plenary is the procedural matters on the programme work of the CST16. The CST-CRIC joint contact group meeting continues its work on 13 May until completion of all draft decisions. Then the CST contact group will continue its negotiation.  The last plenary of the CST15 is scheduled in the afternoon of 13 May to adopt the report to the COP including the CST draft decisions and the vice chairs of the CST16.  The chair of the CST will be elected at the final meeting of the COP15.  To promote the key role of scientific evidence-based policy-oriented recommendations in UNCCD implementation, drought resilience and sustainable land management, the Science-Policy Interface will be hosting a Science-Day at the UNCCD COP5 Rio Conventions Pavilion on Saturday 14 May.   

The 15th session of the Committee on Science and Technology convenes at UNCCD COP15 
Dr. Muralee Thummarukudy appointed G20 Initiative Coordination Office Director

Dr. Muralee Thummarukudy of India has been appointed as the Director of the Coordination Office of the G20 Global Initiative on Reducing Land Degradation and Enhancing Conservation of Terrestrial Habitats based at UNCCD headquarters in Bonn, Germany. Dr. Thummarukudy brings to this position over three decades of progressive senior management experience and technical expertise in land restoration issues. He has most recently served as the acting Head of the Disasters and Conflicts Programme at the United Nations Environment Programme, where he implemented a portfolio of over 100 million USD, focusing on ecosystem-based disaster reduction and partnership development. An internationally renowned expert in disaster response, he played a key role in addressing the environmental aftermath of many major conflicts and disasters, implementing projects in over 35 countries. Prior to joining the United Nations, Dr. Thummarukudy served as Environmental Advisor to Shell Group in Southeast Asia and the Middle East. He has a Ph.D. in Environmental Engineering from Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur. He was also a Beahr’s fellow at the University of California, Berkeley. Dr. Thummarukudy is also a well-known author in his native Malayalam language.

Dr. Muralee Thummarukudy appointed G20 Initiative Coordination Office Director
Experts meet to discuss solutions for Central Asia

The final conference on the results of a Joint initiative to develop regional strategies to combat drought, sand and dust storms (SDS) in Central Asia took place on 21 October. Representatives of the UNCCD Secretariat, national institutions and CAREC, government representatives, experts, as well as regional and international partners gathered to discuss joint strategies for drought and SDS management.  The drought that gripped the Central Asian countries last summer resulted in massive losses of livestock and crops, affecting local communities and economies. The risk of drought in the region is of particular concern because of its dependence on agriculture and shared water resources. Studies also show that global dust emissions have increased by 25-50 per cent since 1900 as a result of land use and climate change.  "The strategies presented today advance the agenda on drought and SDS, consolidating common concerns and priorities. Since prolonged drought often triggers sand and dust storms, the SDS mitigation requires drought-smart solutions," said UNCCD Deputy Executive Secretary Tina Birmpili.  The conference participants emphasized that achieving a neutral balance of land degradation to slow down desertification, land degradation and drought is an integral part of the initiative. To date, five Central Asian countries have joined the UNCCD Land Degradation Neutrality programme, striving to reach no net loss of healthy and productive land. At the end of the conference, the Central Asian countries reaffirmed their commitment to address drought and SDS and called on the international community to support the implementation of the proposed strategies. The outcomes of the initiative will be presented at the upcoming UNCCD COP 15 in May 2022. Read more: Regional approaches to combat drought, sand and dust storms in Central Asia About sand and dust storms

Experts meet to discuss solutions for Central Asia
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