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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
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
The weather alone cannot explain droughts and floods

Communities all over the world have suffered some of the most brutal effects of drought and flooding this year. Flash floods in western Europe, eastern and central Asia and southern African. And catastrophic drought in Australia, southern Africa, southern Asia, much of Latin America, western North America and Siberia are cases in point. The impacts extend well beyond the individual events. For example, the rise in food insecurity in the southern African region and unprecedented wildfires in North America, Europe and Central Asia.   What is going on? This is much more than bad weather in some cases, and is increasingly so. The UNCCD organized an event at COP26, the Climate Change Conference taking place in Glasgow, United Kingdom, to focus attention on the land-water-climate nexus. The science and policy responses discussed make it clear that human decisions exacerbated by climate change are significantly – and arguably, catastrophically – amplifying the impact of drought and floods.  The discussion encouraged more strategic land use decisions. Decisions that ensure what we do where, and in particular, what we plant where, mitigatesthe impacts of both extremes, be it too much or too little rainfall. It also shed light on how important it is to have healthy soils. Soils that are replete with organic matter will obtain “more crop per drop”, and reduce the risks associated with drought and flooding.  Extreme events, including both droughts and floods are on the rise. With more land projected to be get drier and more and more people living in drylandsin the future, the discussions centered on the shift more than 60 countries are making from “reactive” response to droughts and floods to “proactive” planning and risk management designed to build resilience. Participants from Malawi, Pakistan, Honduras, Grenada and Burkina Faso provided concrete examples of policy alignment and cross-sectorial approaches to implementation. Here is a quick overview of the highlights. Read more:  Land and drought

The weather alone cannot explain droughts and floods
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
Ramsar Convention on Wetlands turns 50

This year marks the fiftieth anniversary of the Ramsar Convention, the intergovernmental treaty which unites 171 countries to protect and use wisely the wetlands and the resources they provide. The Ramsar Convention is the oldest of the modern global intergovernmental environmental agreements. In the fifty years since it was founded, a lot more became known about the importance of wetlands for water security, disaster risk reduction, mitigating climate change, supporting biodiversity and providing livelihoods.  Across the world, wetlands are of great importance to humanity. All agricultural production depends on water which is transported and provided to humankind through wetlands. More than half of the world relies on wetland-grown produce for their staple diet, for example from rice paddies. Wetlands also provide more than a billion livelihoods across the world in an array of activities that also deliver food, water supplies, transport, and leisure. Wetlands loss contributes to poverty and food insecurity. During the months of August and September 2021, the anniversary website is featuring stories and messages on why wetlands are important and what can be done to ensure they are better protected and used. On October 7, the Ramsar secretariat will host an intergenerational dialogue between leaders past and future to create connections across generations to elevate the urgency to protect, conserve and restore wetlands. This anniversary-themed video presents the many benefits of wetlands and gives the overview of the convention's work.  

Ramsar Convention on Wetlands turns 50
World Water Day 2021

Statement by UNCCD Executive Secretary Ibrahim Thiaw: All of our planet’s inhabitants – humanity, and all wildlife species – require water to survive. We learn very young that life cannot exist without water. Yet over 2 billion people still lack access to safe water today. This year’s World Water Day celebrates the theme ‘Valuing water.’ This fundamental need has enormous and complex value for our societies, households, food, culture, health, education, economics and the sustainability of our environment. Global water use has increased sixfold over the past 100 years, driven by intensive agriculture and population growth. The demand for water just in food production may reach 13 trillion cubic metres annually by 2050 – 3.5 times greater than the total human use today. The importance of water for land is obvious: humanity’s relentless production and consumption relies heavily on water use and is a prime cause of desertification and land degradation. In a warming world beset by weather extremes, droughts will become more common, more intense, and more prolonged in many places – including places already at the margins of habitability. Drought and desertification are not just problems for the global South. We already see impacts, and land degradation, in highly productive and populated parts of the developed world – including California, Spain and Australia. Land degradation and desertification reduce evapotranspiration, disrupting regional rainfall patterns. In contrast, healthy land promotes consistent seasonal and annual rainfall and aids flood mitigation, soil health and aquifer recharge, helping to bring back landscapes from the brink. The UNCCD’s Drought Initiative is working globally to support our Parties to develop drought preparedness systems, spearheading regional efforts to reduce drought vulnerability and risk. Our Drought toolbox provides resources to support actions that aim to boost the resilience of people and ecosystems. Land restoration is a vital ally to World Water Day. As we celebrate today, let’s remember that we must value water and land equally as part of the same challenge – to build a better, more equal, healthier planet post COVID-19.

World Water Day 2021