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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 UNCCD, IUCN, WWF and ICRAF held a regional dialogue on 2 November 2021 for Asia-Pacific UNCCD country Parties on “Advancing global actions for native grassland and rangeland restoration.” This is the second in a regional dialogue series that began with the first one in July for Northern Mediterranean and Central and Eastern Europe. The main objective of the dialogue was to raise awareness on rangeland restoration, identify the challenges and opportunities in implementation and explore how national commitments to rangeland restoration can be strengthened through the UNCCD process. During the meeting, the participants shared the national status of rangelands and grasslands, current initiatives, policies and best practices as well as the challenges and opportunities their countries are facing. Among others, capacity building on data collection, knowledge sharing, monitoring systems, policy coordination and collaboration, land tenure and governance were highlighted in the discussion. This meeting built on the results from the multi-actor dialogue on rangeland restoration held in December 2020, organized by IUCN, WWF and UNCCD and the information provided the first Global Rangelands Atlas launched in May 2021. According to the Global Rangelands Atlas, rangelands that cover 54 per cent of global terrestrial surface, are home to billions of people and hold many economic, ecological, social and cultural values, and a wealth of biodiversity. However, they have been neglected, receiving much less attention, investment, and advocacy than other ecosystems. The conversation to recognize the importance of rangeland restoration will continue through upcoming regional dialogues and other activities to support the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, the UNCCD COP15 in May 2022 and the International Year on Rangelands and Pastoralism in 2026.
Protecting and restoring nature can help drive a green recovery and prevent future pandemics. Investing in nature-based solutions, specifically land restoration, will allow us to build forward better, greener, healthier, stronger, and more sustainably. COVID-19 has revealed how vulnerable our societies and economies are to global, systemic risk. Its root causes - land degradation, biodiversity loss, and climate change – are interlinked. Furthermore, they are planetary crises in themselves. The pandemic, rooted as it is in exploitation of the environment, has been a devastating but timely wake-up call. It has shown that if we continue to abuse nature, waves of crises will cascade across our economies and societies. On the other hand, it has also shown that we can respond decisively when political will, collective action and sustained investment are aligned. Today, more than ever, societies are ready for change; there is broad consensus that it is not only desirable but possible to build forward better, towards sustainable development anchored in multilateralism and global solidarity. Land restoration is an essential component of any building-forward strategy. In preparation for the UN PGA High-level event on desertification, land degradation and drought, the UNCCD secretariat prepared a brief that presents land-centered solutions for green recovery post COVID-19. Read more: High-level dialogue on desertification, land degradation and drought Role of land in COVID response
Statement by UNCCD Executive Secretary Ibrahim Thiaw: This year’s International Day of Forests theme of ‘Forest restoration: a path to recovery and well-being’ emphasizes the role forests must play in building a better, heathier and more equitable world as we recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. We need forests to absorb our emitted carbon dioxide, to stabilize rainfall patterns, lower temperatures, and to hold back desertification. Yet, we continue to destroy them: an alarming fifty million hectares of forests have been lost between 2015 and 2020. Research suggests tree mortality in some forests has doubled in recent decades as a result of a drying climate and chronic anthropogenic disturbance. Ensuring that forests don’t just survive but thrive is a cornerstone of the UNCCD’s mandate to achieve land degradation neutrality. The seedlings and saplings we plant today will support our well-being for generations to come. Africa’s Great Green Wall across the Sahel has the potential to transform the lives of millions of humanity’s most vulnerable people. By creating a mosaic of green and productive landscapes, it can provide stability, livelihoods and a path out of poverty. We’ll create green jobs, harnessing the Sahel’s abundant solar energy to power a future for those most at risk. We are not just planting trees –we are planting hope for the most vulnerable – women and youth. We can restore forests and restore hope, in tandem. We can turn the economic catastrophe of the COVID-19 pandemic into a better, heathier and more equitable world. Forests are also threatened by human conflict. In politically unstable situations, the management of natural resources is challenging. Rapid reconstruction often neglects sustainable management of natural resources, undermining future peace. The Peace Forest Initiative, launched at UNCCD COP 14, aims to nurture collective efforts for cross-border cooperation on ecosystem restoration including forests, linking stability and peace to land degradation neutrality. This year, let us reaffirm our will to act. Seeing our forests renewed will help humanity recover better, become more resilient, and restore our planet’s health – for all our futures. Read more Forests at the heart of land degradation neutrality Great Green Wall of Africa Peace Forest Initiative