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AMCEN ministerial conference: Remarks by Ibrahim Thiaw

Excellencies,   Ministers, Colleagues, Ladies and gentlemen,   As we gather here in beautiful Dakar for the eighteenth session of the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment, large parts of the African continent are wilting.  The Greater Horn of Africa is suffering its longest drought in 40 years. 50 million people in the region are suffering from acute food security with many heading to famine. The dry spell is not sparing North Africa: Morocco, Algeria. Last year, it was Madagascar and parts of Southern Africa. The year before, the Sahel. There is hardly any year where floods, drought or loss of fertile land is not hitting the continent. Millions are left without shelter, food, water or barely enough firewood to cook their meal.   And yet, Africa is still not addressing the root causes of land degradation. Many governments still do not see desertification, land degradation and drought as a top priority. It seems  paradoxical to want to achieve food security, to combat poverty and to reduce vulnerabilities while at the same time neglecting its soils and productive land. Ministries in charge of land and drought are still largely under-resourced. Local authorities are not empowered to tackle the Herculean task of restoring degraded lands. Yet, Africa is arguably the most vulnerable region to drought, desertification and loss of productive land.   The continent has lost 65% of its productive land over the last seventy years. Meanwhile the population has grown by 600%. Climate change will further accelerate this disruption. In some parts of Africa, such as the Sahel and Somalia, we have already reached the tipping point.   Are we not tired of seeing children dying? Are we not tired of seeing people leave their lives behind? Are we not tired of the scramble for emergency aid? For sure, I am.  As a human being, as an international civil servant. But above all as a proud African. Many African nations have braced with droughts for decades. But are ready to confront another dry spell? Because there will be another drought.   And another.   And another.   Because the next drought will occur sooner than we thought.   In fact, the next drought may already be here.   Droughts are often followed by floods. Or vice versa.   Droughts and floods are twins.   Desertification is robbing our fertile land.   Drought and Land degradation are eroding our economy.   Deteriorating our well-being and quality of life.   Wreaking havoc on our social fabric, which is perhaps for Africa, the most valuable asset there is.   Excellence, mesdames et messieurs les ministres,   Chers délégués,   Mesdames et messieurs,   L’Afrique, plus que toute autre région du monde, fait face à des défis multiformes.   Pour autant, elle ne plie pas.   L’Afrique résiste.   Stoïquement.   L’Afrique a fait preuve de résilience face à des phénomènes historiques sans précédent. Dépeuplée, dépecée, cannibalisée, elle a, tel un rock, résisté.  Elle est debout.   Certes touchée, mais pas coulée.   Loin s’en faut.   Les événements contemporains ont montré qu’en dépit de la faiblesse de ses moyens matériels, l’Afrique sait faire preuve de résilience, y compris face aux grandes pandémies.   En matière de gestion des ressources naturelles et de lutte contre les changements climatiques, l’Afrique a peut-être une autre voie, une autre stratégie à adopter.   Un changement de narratif demande un changement d’approche.   Une aspiration d’émergence et de prospérité plutôt qu’une approche de lutte contre la pauvreté. Dépasser la borne de départ. Décoller du starting block.  Ouvrir les vannes du potentiel des ressources naturelles. A la fois les richesses sous-terre ou au fonds des mers, et celles à ciel ouvert.   Le soleil et le vent, les cours d’eau, la houle et la géothermie seront, peut-être, bientôt cotés aux bourses des valeurs «écologiques».   Le monde se tourne vers l’hydrogène, cette énergie propre du futur.   Or, les quatre coins d’Afrique dégagent un potentiel excédentaire en hydrogène vert ; l’électrolyse se ferait en utilisant, comme source d’énergie, le soleil, le vent et l’eau.  Tous neutres en carbone.   Sortir l’Afrique de sa pauvreté énergétique, par la grande porte de la neutralité carbone.  Assurer le décollage industriel du continent, en suivant une autre voie que celle qui a conduit aux désastres cataclysmiques que le monde subit au quotidien.   Il s’agit pour l’Afrique, d’arrêter de « dormir sur la natte des autres », pour paraphraser l’inoubliable Joseph Ki Zerbo du Burkina Faso.  La richesse de l’Afrique en terres rares est un autre don de la Nature. En Afrique centrale et en Afrique australe notamment. Ces éléments si essentiels aux technologies vertes vendues à prix d’or sur le marché international.   Par ailleurs, la diversité extraordinaire des écosystèmes est une autre des dimensions de cette richesse: de la forêt dense humide à la savane, des grands espaces ouverts, aux luxuriantes steppes. La disponibilité de grands espaces offre une amplitude extraordinaire pour la restauration des terres à grande échelle.   Restaurer les terres, c’est rendre à celles-ci leur aptitude à produire pour nos besoins et les besoins de nos écosystèmes.   Restaurer les terres, c’est créer de la richesse, lutter contre les vulnérabilités en construisant la résilience des écosystèmes et des populations.   Restaurer les terres, c’est aussi réduire la quantité de carbone dans l’atmosphère, en stockant ce dernier dans le sol.   Bref, la restauration des terres, la gestion rationnelle des forêts, comme la production d’énergie propre ou l’exploitation rationnelle des terres rares sont autant de mesure d’atténuation aux changements climatiques.   L’atténuation aux changements climatiques doit donc être une priorité pour l’Afrique.  Autant que l’adaptation.   Un tel changement de narratif est vecteur d’investissements (publics et privés) dans des secteurs productifs tels que l’énergie, l’agro-foresterie ou encore l’éco-tourisme.    Il s’agit de promouvoir la prospérité tout en préservant la nature.   Il s’agit de promouvoir une croissance sobre en carbone.    Il s’agit tout simplement de promouvoir le développement durable.   L’Afrique, la presse n’en parle pas assez, joue un rôle pionnier dans la promotion des investissements  en matière de restauration des terres. Au Sahel, la Grande muraille verte a pu mobiliser 19 milliards de dollars. En Côte d’Ivoire, l’initiative d’Abidjan en est à 2,5 milliards de dollars. D’autres initiatives comme AFR100 du NEPAD, montre la voie. La toute nouvelle initiative de restauration des terres en Afrique australe (SADC), est plus que prometteuse. L’initiale de restauration des terres du Moyen Orient, concerne plusieurs pays d’Afrique. Elle promet plusieurs dizaines de milliards de dollars. La Earth Foundation de Bezos annonce un milliard de dollars pour la restauration des terres en Afrique. La liste n’est pas exhaustive. Elle est cependant une démonstration concrète du leadership africain dans ce domaine crucial. Leadership qu’il faut célébrer et renforcer. Les agendas des terres, du climat et de la biodiversité étant fortement interconnectés, une approche globale et intégrée est fortement recommandée. C’est ainsi qu’à UNCCD, nous appelons de tous nos vœux pour des résultats concrets à la COP27 du climat à Sharm-El-Sheikh, et à la COP15 de la biodiversité à Montréal.   Avec les résultats de la COP15 de UNCCD qui s’est déjà tenue en mai à Abidjan, la communauté internationale disposerait ainsi d’un corpus juridique cohérent.   Ensemble, nous réussirons.   Je vous remercie.  

AMCEN ministerial conference: Remarks by Ibrahim Thiaw
2nd intersessional meeting of the CST16 Bureau: Remarks by Ibrahim Thiaw

Dear colleagues, Alarmed again by the worldwide extreme heat-wave, drought and water scarcity, the world is at a critical moment. We are at the critical important moment to move forward from the COP commitments and decisions to actions.  Among them is the decision to further scientific guidance. But the major task of this Committee on Science and Technology (CST) Bureau meeting is the renewal of Science-Policy Interface (SPI). 217 applications received – symbolizes the raising awareness of the importance of Land and drought issues and the interlinkage between land, and climate change and food, water and energy of our daily life. This is a fundamental step to ensure highly competitive and qualified, full geographically represented and gender balanced expertise to join in the UNCCD’s science policy interface and to dedicate to Land and Drought agenda. So I have three key messages related to that: First, Keep addressing key bottlenecks that require focused science if we are to help countries address DLDD, achieve LDN, and enhance drought resistance Second, Consider innovation, because innovation starts with current science I see some young scientists around the table - I hope the promising young generation could also play a role to bring more innovative views in the process of science policy interfacing. Last but not least - Do all you can to achieve gender parity in the SPI membership. It will not be easy, but is absolutely necessary. To enable synchronization with and joint efforts of all relevant processes, we need to improve cooperation with relevant scientific bodies and panels including major reports of IPCC, IPBES, ITPS, IDMP and UNEP-IRP.  I am glad to know, there are also quite some female scientists. This a good basis for you to achieve gender parity in the SPI membership, which will not be easy, but is absolutely necessary. I am glad that the CST bureau will also discuss on the CST’s intersessional workplan, including improvement of the Role of CST and SPI in translating science into policy and communication messages to general public. We all know without involvement of public, there will be no transition to sustainable development. I am looking forward you discussion and guidance on how we can maximize participation of the Science Technology Correspondents (STCs) into the work of CST and CRIC.   The STCs are working on science on ground, who are understanding more on the social economic and ecological realities, scientific demand, and challenges in the communities. Their voice need be heard, their contributions are of valuable for transition on ground. I wish you a successful meeting.

2nd intersessional meeting of the CST16 Bureau: Remarks by Ibrahim Thiaw
G20 joint environment and climate ministers’ meeting: Remarks by Ibrahim Thiaw

Achieving environment objectives towards sustainable recovery: Addressing land degradation for the achievement of the SDG15 and as leverage for climate solutions  Excellencies,  Ministers  Colleagues,  G20 members, and many others, have made a multitude of commitments to restore planetary health. These include targets on climate change, on land degradation, on biodiversity loss. But many of us just need to look out of our windows to see where commitments have gotten us.   When I look out of my window in Bonn, I see the rocky riverbed emerging as the Rhine drops lower by the day. What do others see? Drought in Italy’s Po region devastating the country’s breadbasket. Wildfires raging through France, Spain and Portugal, destroying forests, killing cattle. The list goes on.  Water and heat stress are driving down Europe’s crop forecasts – at a time when there are  major disruptions to global cereal supplies.   Energy production has been hit as lower water levels reduce nuclear and hydropower capacity – a problem that is also affecting China, as parts of the Yangtze dry up.   Meanwhile, over 40 per cent of the United States faced drought conditions in early August. Flooding in Australia cost the insurance industry billions of dollars. The Horn of Africa is suffering its worst drought in over 40 years, plunging millions into severe hunger and projecting a human cost of a cataclysmic magnitude.  Agriculture and the textile industries are significantly affected across the world. Cotton production is seriously affected, including in top producing countries such as India, China, Brazil, the U.S. with dire effects on the economy.   Promises and commitments have not gotten us very far and we are in the midst of convergent crises. A crisis of climate change. A crisis of food insecurity. A crisis of water scarcity. A crisis of degraded land. A crisis of declining nature. A crisis of energy.  These crises will intensify if we do nothing.   By 2030, an estimated 700 million people will be at risk of being displaced by drought. By 2040, one in four children could live in areas with extreme water shortages. By 2050, droughts may affect over three-quarters of the world’s population.  We cannot let this future come to pass. We must start acting on commitments, now.  This is the focus of the UNCCD: turning commitments into action. This means achieving land-degradation neutrality – including restoring land and helping drought-prone countries put in place drought-smart strategies.   The UNCCD supports, for instance, the Great Green Wall initiative, which aims to restore 100 million hectares of degraded land, sequester 250 million tonnes of carbon and create 10 million green jobs in the Sahel by 2030.   Likewise the Saudi-led Middle East Green Initiative, aims to back regional nature-based solutions and plant billions of trees. Most recently, the 2.5 billion dollar Abidjan Legacy Programme launched by President Outtara at our 15th Conference of the Parties held in Abidjan under the leadership of Côte D’Ivoire, will help future-proof supply chains while tackling deforestation and climate change.  Which brings me to the G20’s Global Initiative on Reducing Land Degradation and Enhancing Conservation of Terrestrial Habitats, which you launched two years ago. It is now up and running, hosted by the UNCCD Secretariat.   We have been working with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to operationalise the Global Initiative to support countries with their restoration efforts.  Friends,  Please allow me to dig a little deeper into how land restoration can serve as a climate solution, an energy solution, and indeed a solution to many challenges from boosting livelihoods to restoring nature.  Protecting and restoring land resources reduces emissions and sequesters carbon. It could provide over one-third of the cost-effective, land-based climate mitigation needed between now and 2030.   Ecosystem restoration is one of the quickest ways of boosting natural capital and carbon stocks.  Degraded farmlands abandoned worldwide are currently estimated at roughly 30 per cent of global cropland area. Options for bringing these lands back to productive life include rehabilitation for sustainable food and commodity production or rewilding for biodiversity and climate benefits.   Restoration is not the only route, however.   In Latin America, sub-Saharan Africa, and Southeast Asia, the biggest mitigation opportunities involve sustainable intensification practices that avoid ecosystem conversion.   Emissions can be reduced by improving the efficiency of inputs such as water, adopting sustainable soil and livestock management practices, shifting towards plant-based diets, and reducing food waste.  Food and commodity production systems that use diverse crops, animals and native biodiversity mimic natural processes that increase carbon storage.   Such efforts, and many more besides, will reduce emissions. They will also help communities adapt to climate impacts that are already locked in. They will deliver benefits across the whole sustainable development agenda.  This includes reducing competition between sectors for scarce water resources – which matters greatly for renewable energy.   As I mentioned earlier, rivers running dry spells bad news for hydropower and transport. Slowing climate change is one way to ensure that predictable rainfall feeds rivers and reservoirs, allowing power and agriculture to draw enough water.  But there are other ways to unite the nature and energy agendas, such as building renewal energy farms in agricultural landscapes.  There are many examples that already show the unification of the agendas in action.  In the US, The Silicon Ranch Corporation combines clean electricity generation with carbon sequestration, ecosystem restoration and rural economic revitalization. In 2020, a partnership between White Oak Pastures and Silicon Ranch began regenerative grazing and land management practices on 950 solar farm hectares in southwest Georgia.   In China, Astronergy/Chint Solar has transformed abandoned agricultural land into a solar park where crops are grown around solar panels. Over 25 years, the power generation is expected to be 4.9 billion kilowatts, meeting the electricity demands of 400,000 people.  In Namibia, a Rangeland Management Policy and Strategy is guiding the restoration of degraded rangelands by targeted bush thinning. Accumulated biomass from thinning is then processed into animal fodder, charcoal, biochar, building material, or wood chips. One assessment suggesting that bush control and biomass utilization could generate net benefits of around USD 3 billion over 25 years, and support 10,000 jobs annually.  Friends,  All of this goes to say that we don’t just have the commitments in place. We have the solutions at our fingertips. What has been lacking is the will to go beyond the commitment phase – beyond the ad hoc solution here and there,  to widespread systemic change.  So, today I challenge you to look out the window, or look at the news, and ask yourself a simple question: is this the kind of world I want to live in? The answer can only be “no”. The response can only be to summon up the will to act.  I urge you to begin sincerely implementing the G20 initiative’s target of a 50 per cent reduction in degraded land by 2040, but also to make plans to exceed it – both in terms of timeline and scope.  I urge you to invest in restoring land, so that it boosts water storage, reverses biodiversity loss and increases food production. To back sustainable agriculture that uses less land, water, and harmful inputs. To start changing society’s unhealthy relationships with food, fodder and fibre. I urge you, above all else, to act.  The present is not what we envisioned. But the future is still ours to shape. We must start shaping it now.  Thank you. 

G20 joint environment and climate ministers’ meeting: Remarks by Ibrahim Thiaw
UNCCD COP15 closing remarks by Ibrahim Thiaw

Excellence M. le Premier Ministre, Excellences, Distingués délégués, Chers collègues, Mesdames et Messieurs, Dans mon discours d’ouverture le 9 Mai, je disais que « la Côte d’Ivoire dispose de ce magnétisme extraordinaire, cette hospitalité exceptionnelle qui explique pourquoi ce pays attire autant de talents et de touristes ». Aujourd’hui, après plusieurs jours passés ici avec des milliers de délégués venus des quatre coins du monde, je suis en mesure de rapporter certains propos répétés des centaines de fois par des anonymes louant la générosité et l’accueil du peuple ivoirien. En tant que Secrétaire exécutif, je ne peux qu’exprimer mon entière satisfaction pour la tenue réussie de cette COP. Je suis fier de ce que je vois, de ce que j’entends, de ce que j’entrevois pour l’avenir de ce pays. Il va sans dire que le chemin a été parsemé d’embûches. Que d’obstacles franchis, que d’efforts déployés pour mettre tout le monde dans de bonnes conditions de travail et de sécurité. Y compris de sécurité sanitaire en pleine pandémie de COVID. Que de patience pour satisfaire aux multiples demandes du Secrétariat de UNCCD, aux exigences de nos partenaires et aux sollicitations de nos Parties. Que de patience pour écouter, comprendre, répondre et satisfaire à des exigences parfois contradictoires. Que n’a-t-il pas fallu faire pour tenir une COP de près de 7000 participants à Abidjan? Construire les salles temporaires, les viabiliser. Amadouer les équipements, dompter les infrastructures temporaires pour qu’elles ne cèdent pas sous la menace des orages tropicaux en pleine saison des pluies! Que dire des vendeuses de Treichville, de Marcory ou de Cocody, si gentilles et si accueillantes ? Qui leur a demandé de se paver de si belles couleurs dont l’Afrique est si fière ? Dear delegates, observers and staff, We made it! to the end of these two weeks and very intense journey – for many of you, a journey that started well before the 9th of May. I would like to thank President Ouattara for holding the High-level Summit, which brought a dozen Heads of State and Government to attend our COP. This was incredible. It shows the growing awareness and the dedication that Heads of State are giving to restoring degraded land. I would also like to thank the people of Abidjan for their incredible hospitality. For the smiles that we were met with each and every day. For the amazing music and beats that marked our tempo. For receiving us and making us feel at home. Since I have the floor, I would like to thank all those that made this COP possible: All colleagues from UN agencies: from UN security to UN conference services, the interpreters, technicians. My sincere appreciation to cleaners, food providers, and to our volunteers who spent this hectic time offering their services and knowledge.   A special thank you goes of course to the National Organizing Committee and its 11 national working groups. And to our COP15 President, Mr. Alain Richard Donwahi, for the incredible leadership, which you have already demonstrated. Perhaps the most amazing of all, is the dedication, patience and professionalism of the UNCCD Staff. We actually have less than 70 staff of UNCCD worldwide, for the Secretariat and the Global Mechanism combined. Inclusive of all sources of funding. They are the engine behind this COP.  Danke! Excellency Prime Minister, Dear Delegates, At this COP: You ran a Summit of Heads of States and Government Had a High-Level Gender Caucus 5 Ministerial meetings (Dialogues and round tables) You received, at least six weeks before the COP, all documents prepared by your Secretariat; 38 decisions are being submitted to this Plenary for its consideration; 127 side events brought together thousands of participants to share knowledge; Landmark reports were produced, including the Global Land Outlook, the Gender Report, a report on Drought, to name but a few; The Abidjan Legacy Programme which we were honored to contribute to its inception and look forward to continue supporting; In terms of media coverage, our monitoring system picked up over 4,000 articles from 80 countries in over 40 languages; An unprecedented number of interactions happened on social media. A staggering number of close to 170 million people were reached. I am informed that our issues were trending on the global tweetosphere for several hours during the High Level segment. This would not have been possible without your support, the generous financial support of our Parties, donors and supporters. I am aware of the challenges many of you faced. Although we tried to anticipate and address as many issues as possible, we were still confronted with some hiccups along the road. I can assure you that your Secretariat is determined to continue to drawing lessons learned from these experiences and build on them to improve all of our experiences for the upcoming COPs. So, COP 15 has been a great achievement, but it’s also a grave reminder that “much effort, much prosperity” must remain our mantra. Thank you!

UNCCD COP15 closing remarks by Ibrahim Thiaw
UNCCD CRIC20 opening speech by Ibrahim Thiaw

Chairman, Distinguished delegates, Distinguished representatives from the civil society and international organisations, I welcome you all to this important session of the Committee for the Review of the Implementation of the Convention. Leaning on an idea that the Secretary-General expressed in his recent speech to the General Assembly, I would like to remind everybody who has taken the time and made the effort to join us here in this beautiful country of Côte d’Ivoire, that: we come together at COP or any its subsidiary bodies on behalf of the people of this planet. Citing the charter of the United Nations, the Secretary-General reminded us that all our efforts, our activities and aspirations should be geared towards improving peoples’ lives, enhancing their opportunities for financial growth, but also improving their socio-economic situations at home. The road to this meeting has been long and sometimes bumpy, but together you have laid a solid foundation for our work. The 19th intersessional session of the CRIC, convened in March 2021, had to take place virtually due to the pandemic. Despite the challenges of meeting and exchanging ideas and knowledge online, you, the Parties, expressed appreciation for the fact that CRIC 19 enabled you to come together and prepare substantively for COP. I would like, again, to thank Mr. Andrew Bishop, CRIC Chair for his leadership and the excellent job done at CRIC 19. I would also like to thank the rapporteur of the CRIC, Mr. Hussein Nasrallah, for the excellent job in summarizing the debates which fed into the final report of CRIC 19, and which will be discussed during this session. Mr. Chair, distinguished delegates, Please allow me to briefly highlight the substantive agenda items before us today and in the coming days. We have a lot to cover to provide targeted recommendations to the COP. During this session, you will have the opportunity a to review information on the SDG process and how it links to the implementation of our Convention. We must be proud of that and be proud to have succeeded in directly linking our work with that of the SDG process through the land degradation neutrality target setting programme and national reporting. As of today, a total of 129 countries have committed to set land degradation neutrality targets, 106 of which have successfully completed this voluntary process. In 2019, an analysis of national reports submitted to the UNCCD conservatively estimated that on average 20% of the global land area is degraded to some extent; this is an area nearly the size of Africa. The Global Land Outlook, our flagship report which was launched just a couple of weeks ago, has confirmed that of the 70% of all land on Earth altered by humanity, 20 to 40% of it is degraded. This is daunting. It is thanks to your contribution that SDG indicator 15.3.1 “the proportion of land that is degraded over total land area” was upgraded to the tier 1 level in November 2019.  This means that there is confidence in the credibility of the data you provided for this indicator. This is a tremendous success! Without your input, your data or the submission of your reports, this would have not been possible.  I would like to thank you wholeheartedly for this and encourage you to contribute to the continuous success of this process by submitting updated information on this indicator throughout the 2022 reporting process. Moving forward in the agenda, you will be able to share experiences and knowledge about capacity building through a panel discussion which will help you identify how to best implement UNCCD’s mandate. During this session, you will also have an opportunity to continue discussing financial issues and review information provided by both the Global Environment Facility and the Global Mechanism on funding opportunities available to Parties for an effective implementation of the Convention. At the beginning of April, 29 countries agreed to pledge the record support of US 5.25 billion dollars for the GEF-8 replenishment period, a nearly 30 percent increase in funding compared to the previous period. The increase in GEF resources comes at a critical moment as many countries around the world are facing multiple challenges – from drought to conflicts, to the ongoing pandemic, all of which could turn policy attention away from sustainable development and land restoration as a vehicle to deliver multiple benefits.  With the 2022 reporting process currently ongoing, the issue of national reporting is also high on the agenda of this session. By combining cutting-edge geospatial information, technology and services, our new reporting platform, PRAIS 4, sets the foundations for future innovation in reporting and, more broadly, for a UNCCD data driven transformation in line with the Secretary-General’s Data Strategy. The use of Earth Observation data and tools in support of decision-making and monitoring at the national and global level will not only allow the Convention to continue contributing to the SDG reporting and review process, but it will also aid prioritization of interventions, increase visibility and transparency of progress in the implementation of the Convention, and enhance our credibility at the international level. Last but not least, you will jump start the discussion on the multi-year work plan for the next 4 years which will be taken up by the budget contact group later in this COP Indeed important agenda items that will lead us to take decisions that should prioritize people and ecosystems. The CRIC is central to this important process and I do hope you will be able to seize this opportunity in this beautiful city of Abidjan to do exactly that. Personally, it fills me with pride to see this plenary full of people willing to discuss these important issues, to reach  a common approach of how we want to create a better place for people to live and in a sustainable and productive manner. I look forward to your lively debates and fruitful exchanges. Thank you

UNCCD CRIC20 opening speech by Ibrahim Thiaw
Rio Conventions Pavilion Drought Day: Speech by Ibrahim Thiaw

Excellencies, Distinguished delegates, Colleagues and friends. Welcome to Drought Day – an important moment to discuss how to increase action on drought prevention and resilience. An important moment to showcase effective policies and projects from across the globe. An important moment to send a message to Parties that we need a strong decision on drought at this UNCCD COP. I have vivid memories of the devastation that a drought caused in my hometown in Mauritania in the 1970s. First, our water supply drained. Then our crops failed. Finally, our livestock perished. The risk of famine loomed over our village for months. These memories still haunt me. But for hundreds of millions of people today, these are not memories. They are a brutal reality, and a consequence of the climate and environmental crises. The land is drying up. Fertile grounds are turning to dust. Drought prevails. Friends, If we stay on our current course, more of us will live with extreme water shortages – including an estimated one in four children by 2040. We must act decisively to prevent this future. We must deal with drought, using every tool at our disposal. We know what these tools are. Land restoration is one. A simple and easily accessible one. It removes carbon from the atmosphere, slowing the climate change that drives droughts. It helps vulnerable communities adapt. It increases agricultural production. Land restoration commitments covering almost one billion hectares are in place for the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration. We must deliver on these commitments. But restoration is not enough. We need to protect and manage the land. We need sustainable and efficient management techniques that grow more food with less land and water. We need to change our relationships with food, fodder and fibre – by diversifying our diets and reducing waste, among other measures. We also need coordination, communication and cooperation to deal with the complex causes and impacts of drought. With proactive national drought policies and a joined-up approach to managing natural resources, we can mitigate the effects of drought. We should set up effective early warning systems that work across boundaries. New technologies – such as satellite monitoring and artificial intelligence – offer guidance for early warning and precision for informed decisions. We should also mobilize sustainable finance to improve resilience at the local level. Because investing in soil health makes business sense.  According to recent economic analyses, every dollar invested in land restoration can generate up to 30 dollars in ecosystem services. Friends, We are moving forward. 128 countries have expressed political will to achieve or exceed Land Degradation Neutrality. 66 countries have taken part in the recently completed UNCCD’s Drought initiative to shift to a proactive and risk-based approach to drought. But we need to do more. And we will only succeed if we work together. We must commit to pursuing concerted policy and partnerships at all levels. We need to mobilize farmers, local communities, small and medium sized enterprises, consumers, green investors, green entrepreneurs and young people. Today, and at this COP, we have a real chance to drive increased action. So, I ask you to build on the growing momentum. To come out of this COP with a robust and actionable decision on drought. Such a decision – implemented with ingenuity, commitment and solidarity – would take us a long way. It would motivate action towards sustainable practices in land and water management. It would build our resilience to drought and slow climate change. It would allow current and future generations to thrive, instead of just survive. And that, dear friends, is why we are here today. Thank you.

Rio Conventions Pavilion Drought Day: Speech by Ibrahim Thiaw