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UNCCD Executive Secretary welcomes Simon Stiell’s appointment to lead UN Climate Change Convention

Bonn, 15 August 2022 – Ibrahim Thiaw, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), welcomed the announcement of Grenada’s former minister for climate resilience and the environment Simon Stiell as the next Executive Secretary to lead the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Stiell’s appointment was announced earlier today by the United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres following the endorsement by the UNFCCC Bureau. Ibrahim Thiaw, who in addition to his ongoing functions as UNCCD Executive Secretary has also served as UNFCCC Acting Executive Secretary since 17 July 2022 and was a member of the team that pre-selected Simon Stiell, said: “I warmly congratulate Simon Stiell on his appointment and look forward to his leadership in the years ahead and to working closely with him in preparing for the crucial UN Climate Change Conference in Sharm El-Sheikh this November. As someone who hails from a vulnerable Caribbean island nation, Simon Stiell knows first-hand the profound and immediate impacts of climate change on finite land and water resources. At a time when we are seeing record-breaking heatwaves, severe droughts and devastating wildfires across many parts of the world, we must more than ever unite our efforts to build resilience and protect people and planet.”. “Land and climate are inextricably linked. Sustainable land management can be a big part of the climate solution that can help keep global warming to below 1.5 degrees—we cannot afford to miss this chance. Every fraction of a degree of temperature rise is a matter of life and death to millions, especially the most vulnerable people. Yet, no nation is immune, and all nations can work together to restore land and boost resilience to drought,” Mr Thiaw added. For more information, contact: UNCCD Press Office, Tel.: +49-228-815-2820 or E-mail: press@unccd.int About UNCCD The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) is the global vision and voice for land. We unite governments, scientists, policymakers, private sector and communities around a shared vision and global action to restore and manage the world’s land for the sustainability of humanity and the planet. Much more than an international treaty signed by 197 parties, UNCCD is a multilateral commitment to mitigating today’s impacts of land degradation and advancing tomorrow’s land stewardship in order to provide food, water, shelter and economic opportunity to all people in an equitable and inclusive manner.

UNCCD Executive Secretary welcomes Simon Stiell’s appointment to lead UN Climate Change Convention
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
Sparking global land restoration in communities

Learning from Brazil’s innovative model to reverse desertification in Caatinga Brazil’s vast rainforest, rich in biodiversity, has captured the imagination of people around the world and attracted large-scale financing from donors committed to preserving this unique ecosystem. But what about the other, lesser-known or naturally endowed biomes?  The Caatinga drylands occupy 11 percent of the country, an area about 100 million hectares in the northeast of Brazil. It is home to over 34 million people. Preserving the unique resources in this region is vital because drylands are highly susceptible to land degradation. In 2016, Brazil established the Recovery Units of Degraded Areas and Reduction of Climate Vulnerability (URAD) initiative to address the main drivers of land degradation in the Caatinga. The project, which in the long run will be financed from the moneys generated by domestic environmental fines, received a start-up funding of USD$1 million from Brazil’s Climate Fund and US$9 million from the international community. Under the program, a recovery area is defined by its watershed. The local communities are mobilized to restore their watershed. They get support in the form of resources and training needed. The start-up cost per family for carrying out a watershed recovery is estimated at US$ 8,000. About 30 to 40 families take part in each project. The first activities aim to produce highly tangible results, such as restoring a water source. Direct results are they key to keeping the enthusiasm among community members going and to motivating them to take further actions. The first URAD community-level interventions were completed in half the estimated time. In turn, local people started to have confidence in government projects. The interest to get involved and enthusiasm in the projects grew and spread throughout other communities. But the watershed recovery project is rooted in more than providing direct benefits to communities. The participation of local communities is a guiding principle. Studies show that environmental actions that reduce the population's climate vulnerability are more likely to succeed when they involve local communities in decision-making to create sustainable value chains, generate employment and improve the quality of life. The URAD watershed recovery initiative is also founded and fully integrated in a sustainability model. The environmental, social and economic interventions are taken seriously with specific results targeted. For URAD, environmental actions aim to conserve soil, recover spring water, preserve biodiversity and improve the conditions for food production. Social actions focus on meeting the water, energy and sanitary security of the communities. Beekeeping and integrated crop-livestock-forest systems are examples of the sustainable activities being encouraged to meet livelihood needs – the economic side. The project is also designed to generate short-, medium and long-term needs. This is essential in project planning because political leaders, who are the main decision-makers, often mostly care about and invest depending on the short-term political gains or losses of what they do. Communities, on the other hand, are more willing to invest in actions that change their lives for the long haul. URAD’s short term goals were to recover water sources, contain soil erosion, reduce land degradation, mitigate the effects of drought and cut down soil and water pollution. In the medium-term, the productive capacity of the soil would recover, and help Brazil to fulfil its commitment to achieve land degradation neutrality. The conservation of the Caatinga is expected to improve the quality of life for the local people year by year, and reduce forced migration to urban areas. In the long-term term, the communities and their lands, plants, animals and natural resources are expected to adapt or become resilient to climate-change and it’s impacts. Brazil invests in the drylands because the URAD strategy has the potential to transform the reality for thousands of rural communities. With community-owned successes at the core of each intervention, the new model to reverse desertification has every chance to succeed. Learn More: Brazil sets up a novel model to reverse desertification

Sparking global land restoration in communities
UNCCD-led Drought Toolbox

Requested in The COP 13 as part of the Drought Initiative, the toolbox is being designed to provide drought stakeholders with easy access to tools, case studies and other resources to support the design of National Drought Policy Plan with the aim to boost the resilience of people and ecosystems to drought. The Drought Toolbox is currently being developed as part of the Drought Initiative through the close partnership among UNCCD, WMO, FAO, GWP, the Joint Research Centre of the European Union, the National Drought Mitigation Center (NDMC) of the University of Nebraska, and UNEP-DHI.      

UNCCD-led Drought Toolbox