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Saudi Arabia joins the International Drought Resilience Alliance

UNCCD COP16 host raises water resilience issues on the global agenda Bonn/Riyadh, 23 May 2024—The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is the latest country to formally join the International Drought Resilience Alliance (IDRA), the global coalition mobilizing political, technical, and financial capital to prepare the world for harsher droughts. This addition brings the total membership of IDRA to 37 countries and 28 intergovernmental and research organizations, reflecting a growing commitment to address droughts in the face of climate change and unsustainable land management. Launched at UN Climate Summit COP27 by the leaders of Spain and Senegal, IDRA rallies world leaders against one of the world’s most deadly and costly natural disasters, acknowledging that we are only as resilient to drought and climate change as our land is. The IDRA secretariat is hosted by the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD). Eng. Abdulrahman Abdulmohsen Al Fadley, Saudi Minister of Environment, Water and Agriculture, said: “We see IDRA as an opportunity to protect our societies and economies in the face of drought.  As hosts of the largest-ever UN conference on land and drought this December, one of our priorities is to further the countries commitment to a drought-resilient future.” His Excellency Minister Al Fadley emphasized that Saudi Arabia's hosting of COP 16 reflects the commitment of its leadership to environmental protection at the national, regional, and international levels, and adds to pioneering efforts  like the Saudi Green Initiative and the Middle East Green Initiative. Al Fadley also highlighted the urgent need to build drought resilience globally, while combating land degradation and desertification to counter their environmental, economic, and social impacts. He expressed hope that the Alliance would foster effective collective action and intensify global efforts to address these issues, ensuring the sustainable management of natural resources for future generations. One-quarter of the world’s population is already affected by drought, and three out of four people are projected to face water scarcity by 2050. In the Middle East and North Africa, 100 percent of the population will live with extremely high water stress by 2050. Third Vice-President of the Government of Spain, Minister for Ecological Transition and Demographic Challenge and IDRA Co-Chair Ms. Teresa Ribera encouraged more countries to follow in the steps of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, noting that drought resilience yields returns of up to ten times the initial investment: “The Alliance is as strong as the knowledge, experiences, and networks contributed by its members. I invite world leaders to join IDRA to transform the way humanity tackles drought, building our collective defenses before crises strike.” UNCCD Executive Secretary Mr. Ibrahim Thiaw concluded: “Droughts are a natural phenomenon, but we are turbo-charging them by degrading our lands and disrupting the climate. In the lead up the UNCCD COP16, I urge countries to raise their ambitions for healthy lands and drought-resilient societies and economies.” A watershed year for land and drought UNCCD COP16, taking place in Riyadh from 2-13 December, will be the largest-ever meeting of UNCCD’s 197 Parties, the first to be held in the Middle East region, and the largest multilateral conference ever hosted by Saudi Arabia. The Kingdom will also host the 2024 World Environment Day global celebrations with a focus on land restoration, desertification, and drought resilience. On 17 June 2024, Desertification and Drought Day will mark the 30th anniversary of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), one of the three Rio Conventions alongside climate and biodiversity. *** Notes to editors For interviews and enquires please contact: press@unccd.int. X / Instagram: @unccd  About IDRA The International Drought Resilience Alliance (IDRA) is the first global coalition creating political momentum and mobilizing financial and technical resources for a drought-resilient future. As a growing platform of more than 30 countries and 20 institutions, IDRA draws on the collective strengths of its members to advance policies, actions, and capacity-building for drought preparedness, acknowledging we are only as resilient to drought and climate change as our land is. The work of IDRA is aligned with, and supportive of, the mandate of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), which hosts the IDRA Secretariat. For more information: https://idralliance.global. 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. https://www.unccd.int

Saudi Arabia joins the International Drought Resilience Alliance
‘Silent demise’ of vast rangelands threatens climate, food, wellbeing of billions: UNCCD

Rangelands cover 54% of all land; as much as 50% are degraded, imperilling 1/6th of humanity’s food supply, 1/3rd of Earth’s carbon reservoir  UNCCD report points way to restore, better manage rangelands, urges protection of pastoralism Bonn/Ulaanbaatar – Degradation of Earth’s extensive, often immense natural pastures and other rangelands due to overuse, misuse, climate change and biodiversity loss poses a severe threat to humanity’s food supply and the wellbeing or survival of billions of people, the UN warns in a stark report today. Authors of the Global Land Outlook Thematic Report on Rangelands and Pastoralists, launched in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia by the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), say up to 50% of rangelands are degraded. Symptoms of the problem include diminished soil fertility and nutrients, erosion, salinization, alkalinization, and soil compaction inhibiting plant growth, all of which contribute to drought, precipitation fluctuations, and biodiversity loss both above and below the ground. The problem is driven largely by converting pastures to cropland and other land use changes due to population growth and urban expansion, rapidly rising food, fibre and fuel demands, excessive grazing, abandonment (end of maintenance by pastoralists), and policies that incentivise overexploitation. What are rangelands? The rangelands category of Earth’s land cover consists mostly of the natural grasslands used by livestock and wild animals to graze and forage. They also include savannas, shrublands, wetlands, tundra and deserts.  Added together, these lands constitute 54% of all land cover, account for one sixth of global food production and represent nearly one third of the planet’s carbon reservoir. “When we cut down a forest, when we see a 100-year-old tree fall, it rightly evokes an emotional response in many of us. The conversion of ancient rangelands, on the other hand, happens in ‘silence’ and generates little public reaction,” says UNCCD Executive Secretary Ibrahim Thiaw. “Sadly, these expansive landscapes and the pastoralists and livestock breeders who depend on them, are usually under-appreciated,” Mr. Thiaw adds. “Despite numbering an estimated half a billion individuals worldwide, pastoralist communities are frequently overlooked, lack a voice in policy-making that directly affects their livelihoods, marginalised, and even often seen as outsiders in their own lands.” Mongolia Environment Minister H.E. Bat-Erdene Bat-Ulzii says: “As custodian of the largest grasslands in Eurasia, Mongolia has always been cautious in transforming rangelands. Mongolian traditions are built on the appreciation of resource limits, which defined mobility as a strategy, established shared responsibilities over the land, and set limits in consumption. We hope this report helps focus attention on rangelands and their many enormous values – cultural, environmental, and economic –  which cannot be overstated. If these rangelands cannot support these massive numbers of people, what alternatives can they turn to?” Mongolia will host the 17th UNCCD Conference of the Parties meeting in 2026, the International Year of Rangelands and Pastoralists (IYRP), declared by the United Nations General Assembly on Mongolia’s initiative. Two billion people – small-scale herders, ranchers and farmers, often poor and marginalised – depend on healthy rangelands worldwide. Indeed, in many West African states, livestock production employs 80% of the population. In Central Asia and Mongolia, 60% of the land area is used as grazing rangelands, with livestock herding supporting nearly one third of the region’s population. Ironically, the report underlines, efforts to increase food security and productivity by converting rangelands to crop production in mostly arid regions have resulted in degraded land and lower agricultural yields. The report calls out “weak and ineffective governance,” “poorly implemented policies and regulations,” and “the lack of investment in rangeland communities and sustainable production models” for undermining rangelands. An innovative approach The new report’s 60+ expert contributors from over 40 countries agree that past estimates of degraded rangeland worldwide – roughly 25% – “significantly underestimates the actual loss of rangeland health and productivity” and could be as much as 50%. Rangelands are often poorly understood and a lack of reliable data undermines the sustainable management of their immense value in food provisioning and climate regulation, the report warns. The report details an innovative conceptual approach that would enable policy-makers to stabilise, restore and manage rangelands.  The new approach is backed by experience detailed in case studies from nearly every world region, drawing important lessons from successes and missteps of rangeland management. A core recommendation: protect pastoralism, a mobile way of life dating back millennia centred on the pasture-based production of sheep, goats, cattle, horses, camels, yaks, llamas or other domesticated herbivores, along with semi-domesticated species such as bison and reindeer.  Says Mr. Thiaw: “From the tropics to the Arctic, pastoralism is a desirable default – and often the most sustainable – option for that should be incorporated into rangeland use planning.” The economic engine of many countries Rangelands are an important economic engine in many countries and define cultures. Home to one quarter of the world’s languages, they also host numerous World Heritage Sites and have shaped the value systems, customs and identities of pastoralists for thousands of years. The report includes detailed analyses of individual countries and regions. For example, livestock production accounts for 19% of Ethiopia’s GDP, and 4% of India’s. In Brazil – which produces 16% of the world’s beef – fully one-third of agribusiness GDP is generated by cattle livestock. In Europe, many rangelands have given way to urbanisation, afforestation and renewable energy production. In the United States, large tracts of grassland have been converted to crops, while some Canadian grasslands have been made fragile by large-scale mining and infrastructure projects.  There are also many positive notes such as, for example, growing efforts in both countries to reintroduce bison – an animal of great cultural importance to indigenous peoples – to promote rangeland health and food security. World areas most acutely affected by rangelands degradation, ranked in descending order: Central Asia, China, Mongolia The replacement of government management and oversight with privatisation and agricultural industrialization left herders abandoned and dependent on insufficient natural resources causing widespread degradation. The gradual restoration of traditional and community-based pastoralism is leading to critical advances in sustainable rangeland management. North Africa and Near East The impact of climate change in one of the world’s driest regions is pushing pastoralists into poverty and degrading the rangelands on which they rely. Updated traditional institutions, such as Agdals – reservoirs of fodder used to feed animals in periods of critical need and allowing for the regeneration of natural resources – and incipient supportive policies are improving the way rangelands are managed. Sahel and West Africa Conflict, power balance and border issues have interrupted livestock mobility leading to rangelands degradation. Unified policies, recognition of pastoralists’ rights and cross-border agreements are reestablishing mobility for animal herders, crucial for landscape restoration. South America Climatic change, deforestation linked to industrialised agriculture and extractive activities, and land use conversion are South America’s main drivers of rangeland degradation. Multifunctionality and diversity of pastoralist systems hold the key for restoring some of the most interesting rangelands in the world, including the Pampa, the Cerrado and Caatinga savannahs, and the Puno Andean systems. East Africa Migration and forced displacement caused by competing uses of land (such as hunting, tourism, etc), are evicting pastoralists from their traditional lands, causing unanticipated degradation consequences. Women-led initiatives and improved land rights are securing pastoralists’ livelihoods, protecting biodiversity, and safeguarding the ecosystem services provided by rangelands. North America The degradation of ancient grasslands and dry rangelands threatens the biodiversity of iconic North American ecosystems such as the tall-grass prairies or the southern deserts. The incorporation of indigenous people to rangeland governance is a clear step to help recover these historic landscapes. Europe Policies favouring industrial farming over pastoralism and misguided incentives are causing rangelands and other open ecosystems to be abandoned and degraded. Political and economic support, including legal recognition and differentiation, can turn the tide and help address critical environmental crises such as the rising frequency and intensity of wildfires and climate change. South Africa and Australia Afforestation, mining, and the conversion of rangelands to other uses are causing the degradation and loss of rangelands. The co-creation of knowledge by producers and researchers, and respect for and use of traditional wisdom held by indigenous communities, open new paths for restoring and protecting rangelands. Paradigm shift Halting the deterioration requires a paradigm shift in management at every level – from grassroots to global, the report concludes. Pedro Maria Herrera Calvo, the report’s lead author, says: “The meaningful participation of all stakeholders is key to responsible rangeland governance, which fosters collective action, improves access to land and integrates traditional knowledge and practical skills”. Achieving “land degradation neutrality” (Sustainable Development Goal 15.3) – balancing the amount and quality of healthy land to support ecosystem services and food security – also requires cross-border cooperation.  Pastoralists with generations of experience in achieving life in balance with these ecosystems should help inform this process at every step, from planning to decision-making to governance, the report noted.  Solutions must be tailored to the characteristics and dynamics of rangelands, which vary widely from arid to sub-humid environments, as seen in West Africa, India or South America. The report notes that traditional assessment methods often undervalue the real economic contribution of rangelands and pastoralism, highlighting the need for the innovative approach recommended. Among key recommendations: Integrated climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies with sustainable rangeland management plans to increase carbon sequestration and storage while boosting the resilience of pastoralist and rangeland communities Avoid or reduce rangeland conversion and other land use changes that diminish the diversity and multifunctionality of rangelands, especially on indigenous and communal lands Design and adopt rangeland conservation measures, within and outside protected areas, that support biodiversity above and below ground while boosting the health, productivity, and resilience of extensive livestock production systems Adopt and support pastoralism-based strategies and practices that help mitigate harms to rangeland health, such as climate change, overgrazing, soil erosion, invasive species, drought, and wildfires Promote supportive policies, full people’s participation and flexible management and governance systems to boost the services that rangelands and pastoralists provide  to the whole society. ADDITIONAL KEY FIGURES 80 million sq. km: Area of the world’s terrestrial surface covered by rangelands (over 54%) 9.5 million sq. km: Protected rangelands worldwide (12%) 67 million sq. km (45% of Earth’s terrestrial surface): Rangelands’ area devoted to livestock production systems (84% of rangelands), almost half of which are in drylands.  Livestock provide food security and generate income for the majority of the 1.2 billion people in developing countries living under the poverty threshold 1 billion: animals across more than 100 countries maintained by pastoralists, supporting 200 million households while providing about 10% of world meat supply, as well as dairy, wool and leather products 33%: global biodiversity hotspots found in rangelands 24%: proportion of world languages found in rangelands 5,000 years ago: When pastoralism first emerged as a land-use system in sub-Saharan Africa REGIONAL FACTS & FIGURES Over 25% and 10%: Supply of world beef and milk, respectively, provided by Latin America’s cattle industry Over 25%: GDP of Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Chad attributed to livestock production Over 50%: land in the Middle East and North Africa regions deemed degraded (25% of arable land) 60%: area of Central Asia and Mongolia used as grazing rangelands, with livestock herding supporting nearly one third of the region’s population 40%: area of China covered by pastoral lands. (Notably, the country’s livestock population tripled between 1980 and 2010 to 441 million livestock units) 308 million hectares: area of the contiguous United States covered by rangelands, 31% of the country’s total land area, with ~55% of rangelands privately owned Additional comments “Imbalance between the supply of and demand for animal forage lands leads to overgrazing, invasive species, and the increased risk of drought and wildfires – all of which accelerate desertification and land degradation trends around the world.” “We must translate our shared aspirations into concrete actions - stopping indiscriminate conversion of rangelands into unsuitable land uses, advocating for policies that support sustainable land management, investing in research that enhances our understanding of rangelands and pastoralism, empowering pastoralist communities to preserve their sustainable practices while also gaining tools to thrive in a changing world, and supporting all stakeholders, especially pastoralists, to implement measures that effectively thwart further degradation and preserve our land, our communities, and our cultures.” -       Maryam Niamir-Fuller, Co-Chair, International Support Group for the UN’s International Year for Rangelands and Pastoralists – 2026 "For the sake of future generations and economic stability, we need to improve awareness of and safeguard the immense value of rangelands. Due to their dynamic nature, predicting the consequences of rangelands degradation on economics, ecology, and societies is challenging. Managers require authoritative insights into the response of rangelands to different disturbances and management approaches, including policy tools that better capture the broad social importance of rangelands." -       Carlos Manuel Rodríguez, CEO and Chairperson, Global Environment Facility  “More than half of the world’s land mass is rangeland – and yet these landscapes and the people who inhabit and manage them have been largely neglected. They are a main source of food and feed for humanity, and yet they are also the world economy’s dumping ground.  It is time to shift perspective – from ‘a rangeland problem’ to ‘a sustainable rangeland solution’.” -       UN International Year of Rangelands & Pastoralists (IYRP) Working Group “Pastoralists produce food in the world’s harshest environments, and pastoral production supports the livelihoods of rural populations on almost half of the world’s land. They have traditionally suffered from poor understanding, marginalisation, and exclusion from dialogue. We need to bring together pastoralists and the main actors working with them to join forces and create the synergies for dialogue and pastoralist development.” - UN Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO)   “To have any chance of meeting global biodiversity, climate and food security goals, we simply cannot afford to lose any more of our rangelands, grasslands and savannahs. Our planet suffers from their ongoing conversion, as do the pastoralists who depend on them for their livelihoods, and all those who rely on them for food, water and other vital ecosystem services. The Global Land Outlook reinforces that too little political attention or finance is invested in protecting and restoring these critical ecosystems. National and sub-national authorities must take place-based action to safeguard and improve the health and productivity of rangelands, grasslands and savannahs – to benefit people and planet.”  - Joao Campari, Global Food Practice Leader, WWF  "The rangelands of the world sustain two billion small-scale herders, ranchers and farmers. They are a source of food and feed to the world, and their ecology contributes to biodiversity and carbon sequestration. Resilient as they are, today pastoral communities face compounding challenges where land degradation, driven by climate variability, poses a serious threat to both production and economic growth. Solutions with the full participation of pastoralists and flexible management and governance systems to boost the services that rangelands and pastoralists provide will benefit everyone. This report underscores the need for ongoing dialogue and actionable measures that can propel resilience and prosperity for pastoral communities across the world."  - Midori Paxton, Nature Hub Director, United Nations Development Programme * * * * * About UNCCD The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) is an international agreement on good land stewardship. It helps people, communities and countries create wealth, grow economies and secure enough food, clean water and energy by ensuring land users an enabling environment for sustainable land management. Through partnerships, the Convention’s 197 parties set up robust systems to manage drought promptly and effectively. Good land stewardship based on sound policy and science helps integrate and accelerate achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, builds resilience to climate change and prevents biodiversity loss. https://unccd.int About the International Year of Rangelands and Pastoralists On the initiative of Mongolia, the United Nations General Assembly has designated 2026 the International Year of Rangelands and Pastoralists (IYRP 2026) to enhance rangeland management and the lives of pastoralists. With this declaration, UN Member States are called upon to invest in sustainable rangeland management, to restore degraded lands, to improve market access by pastoralists, to enhance livestock extension services, and to fill knowledge gaps on rangelands and pastoralism. The IYRP 2026 will coincide with the UNCCD COP17 to be hosted by Mongolia. https://iyrp.info Media contacts: Fragkiska Megaloudi, fmegaloudi@unccd.int; press@unccd.int Xenya Scanlon, Chief of Communications, xscanlon@unccd.int Terry Collins, +1-416-878-8712 (m), tc@tca.tc Photos: https://bit.ly/3UqU31m, video: https://bit.ly/3U8K9QI

‘Silent demise’ of vast rangelands threatens climate, food, wellbeing of billions: UNCCD
UNCCD Executive Secretary visit to Mauritania: A focus on desertification and cooperation

Mr Ibrahim Thiaw, UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), paid a three-day visit to Mauritania from 15 to 17 April. This strategic visit coincides with Mauritania's current role as Chair of the African Union and sets the stage for the upcoming 16th Conference of the Parties (COP 16) in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, later this year. During his stay, Mr Thiaw  held high-level talks with the Mauritanian authorities, focusing on strengthening cooperation between Mauritania and the UNCCD. These discussions are particularly important as they come at a time when Mauritania is not only leading the African Union, but also facing serious environmental challenges that are at the forefront of the international sustainable development agenda. Mauritania is facing severe environmental degradation, with 1.28 million of its total population of 4.3 million exposed to land degradation, covering 60 per cent of its total land area. The country has been severely affected by recurrent droughts since the late 1960s, making desertification control a national priority and a key concern of successive governments.  In 2021, Mauritania experienced the most severe drought in its history, resulting in 20 per cent of the population facing acute food insecurity. This  degradation has not only led to physical and economic impacts, but has also increased social vulnerability, particularly among low-income households and women who rely heavily on natural resources for their livelihoods. “Mauritania is a country severely affected by desertification, and it is crucial to rethink the country's development policies in the light of climate change. This includes adopting new and renewable energy sources, formulating more appropriate agricultural and fisheries policies, combating drought and implementing environmental programmes adapted to these arid conditions. The development of a tailor-made strategy is essential, with Mauritania charting its own course to address these complex issues”, said Ibrahim Thiaw. Mauritania is one of 22 countries participating in the Great Green Wall initiative. This ambitious project aims to restore 100 million hectares of currently degraded land, sequester 250 million tonnes of carbon and create 10 million green jobs by 2030. Through this initiative, Mauritania is seeking both environmental and economic benefits, demonstrating its commitment to both local and global sustainability efforts After ratifying the UNCCD in June 2001, Mauritania launched the National Action Plan to Combat Desertification (PAN-LCD), which takes an integrated, participatory approach. This plan has been instrumental in integrating poverty reduction into desertification control programmes, working with grassroots communities, local authorities and non-governmental organisations.  

UNCCD Executive Secretary visit to Mauritania: A focus on desertification and cooperation
Land issues high on UN Environment Assembly agenda

Nairobi, 1 March 2024 – Healthy land’s contribution to addressing global challenges of climate change, biodiversity loss and sustainable development was the focus of the sixth session of the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA 6), which concluded today in Nairobi. The week-long meeting saw the adoption of the first-ever UNEA resolution on land degradation as well as the announcement of the logo and slogan for the 16th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD COP16), to be held in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia from 2 to13 December 2024. Speaking at the high-level event on combating land degradation for climate and biodiversity, UNEA 6 President and Minister of Energy Transition and Sustainable Development for the Kingdom of Morocco, Leila Benali, noted: “Land is the only common denominator among the three Rio conventions, and it is only through land restoration that we can achieve their objectives. We need to build on what unites us rather than what divides us and start with working and credible solutions when it comes to land and soil health”. Announcing the slogan for COP16, “Our Land. Our Future.”, UNCCD Executive Secretary Ibrahim Thiaw said: “COP16 will be a moonshot moment for land, the Paris equivalent for UNCCD. It is crucial that there is convergence and synergy among the three COPs – biodiversity, climate change, and desertification, all taking place this year". For the first time, UNEA adopted a resolution calling for strengthening international efforts to combat desertification and land degradation, restore degraded lands, promote land conservation and sustainable land management, contribute to land degradation neutrality and enhance drought resilience. These issues will be front and center at UNCCD COP16. On behalf of the COP16 Presidency, Osama Ibrahim Faqeeha, Deputy Minister of Environment, Water and Agriculture of Saudi Arabia, said: "Land is not only important for human life but also crucial for biodiversity and maintaining the delicate balance of our environment. We have to recognize the importance of land and other natural elements of our planet, as 24 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions are associated with various land use schemes." Through the Saudi Green Initiative, the Saudi government aims to plant 10 billion trees and protect 30 per cent of the Kingdom’s land. Additional quotes: Aziz Abdukhakimov, Minister of Ecology, Environmental Protection and Climate Change of the Republic of Uzbekistan, which hosted the meeting to review progress in UNCCD implementation last November, said: "Every minute Uzbekistan loses nine square meters of fertile land, and this is a big problem for any country facing land degradation. It is important to bring together political will, science, and finance to address the challenges of climate change, land degradation, and biodiversity loss". Maria Helena Semedo, Deputy Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) said: “Land is where food begins, and without land, we cannot produce food or feed the planet. We need a holistic approach, avoiding fragmentation, and investing in sustainable transformations of our agri-food systems to ensure food security and address climate change and biodiversity loss”. Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim, President of the Association for Indigenous Women and Peoples of Chad (AFPAT), said: “Indigenous peoples, who make up 5 per cent of the world's population, protect 80 per cent of the world's biodiversity. They are the guardians of ecosystems and masters of restoring land using traditional knowledge. Direct access to finance, policy coordination, and inclusive decision-making are essential to empowering communities and implementing successful land restoration projects”. UNCCD Land Hero Patricia Kombo from Kenya, who moderated the high-level event at UNEA 6, concluded: “Land degradation is a global challenge that requires concerted action at all levels. It is only by working together that we can restore our land ecosystems, ensure food security, and mitigate the effects of climate change”. For more information: UNCCD Press Office, press@unccd.int, +49 228 815 2820, https://www.unccd.int/, @unccd Recording and photos available: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S_oSZoVZJF8 https://drive.google.com/drive/u/1/folders/1QhHqfX_pOFWBuot0ET5hGTogyrWDsq6Q For more information about UNEA 6 and UNCCD COP16 visit: https://www.unep.org/environmentassembly/unea6 and https://www.unccd.int/cop16 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.

Land issues high on UN Environment Assembly agenda
UNEA-6 Multilateral Environmental Agreements Day: Keynote by Ibrahim Thiaw

Madame President, Dear UNEP Executive Director, Excellencies, Presidents and chairs of COPs Ministers, Dear colleagues Executive Secretaries of MEAs, Honorable Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen, I would like to start by thanking the President of UNEA (my sister Leila Ben Ali) and the Executive Director of UNEP (my other sister Inger Andersen) for dedicating an entire day of UNEA6 to the Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs). This is a real credit to UNEP. UNEA is one of the important platforms to discuss these issues. Thirty years after the signing of the Rio conventions, and more than fifty years after the creation of some of the MEAs represented here, we must face the facts: the implementation of these treaties cannot be done in silos. We cannot be effective if the left hand does not know what the right hand is doing. Even less so if all the work done by the national focal point for one convention is ignored, or worse, brushed aside by another focal point. Putting things in order therefore begins at home, at the national level. International partners and development agencies, where appropriate, should play their part. MEA secretariats should help engineer cooperation and technical support. In this respect, institutions such as UNEP and Assemblies such as UNEA have a historic responsibility and a critical role to play in harmonizing the work and focus of the various MEAs as we face a multitude of interconnected crises. About the triple planetary crisis, indeed we face a climate crisis, a pollution crisis and a nature crisis. I would be remiss, as head of the UNCCD, not to insist that the nature crisis includes the immense crisis of land and drought, which is currently affecting more than 3 billion people, causing food insecurity, water scarcity and forced displacements. Action on the land is a powerful force for unity. The health of the land determines the food we eat, the water we drink, the quality of the air we breathe, the clothes we wear and many other services that contribute to our well-being. But the damage we inflict on our land poses a serious threat to world peace, and to the global economy. Similarly, the links between land and pollution are obvious. Air pollution is amplified by sand and dust storms. While plastic pollution affects rivers, lakes and oceans, the bulk of the stock stays in land affecting food production, people and the earth system as a whole. The good news is that there are solutions to these serious problems. They are well within our reach and this is literally in our hands. Make no mistake: the best solutions are those that tackle several challenges at once. We must slow down and adapt to climate change, protect and restore nature and biodiversity, reverse land degradation and desertification, and end pollution and waste. We don’t have the luxury of dedicating Monday to climate or pollution, Tuesday to biodiversity and only think that we can wait until Wednesday to tackle Land degradation. These issues are like communicating vessels and we have to address all these challenges at once! The scientific community is increasingly moving from sounding the alarm to signposting solutions that require concerted efforts. However, progress on turning commitments into transformative action must accelerate. Rapidly. Coherently. Consistently. Excellencies, Ladies and gentlemen, 2024 represents a new opportunity for us all: The three Rio conventions will hold their COPs consecutively at the end of this year. We already had a successful CMS COP a few days ago. At the UNCCD COP16 in Saudi Arabia - in December – we will embark on a unique journey – one that brings all communities of policy and practice to join forces towards a common goal: that of making land healthy again. Parties assembled in Riyadh at UNCCD COP16 will present a groundbreaking action agenda for all MEAs to reverse degradation and to accelerate efforts to restore 1.5 billion hectares of land by 2030. Healthy and productive land is the operational link between climate action and biodiversity conservation. Linking up action on land will allow us to take advantage of the synergies that build resilience, mitigate the impacts of climate change, safeguard biodiversity, provide food security for billions around the world, and transform the way we manage the environment and consume its bounty. And this is everyone’s effort. We must ensure that the work on each MEA commitment dovetails with and amplifies the work of the others. By forging synergies with UN entities and conventions, we can amplify our impact, leverage resources, and foster greater coherence in our collective response to global environmental challenges. For example: aligning land degradation neutrality targets with nationally determined contributions and the new biodiversity targets can maximize the impact of nature-positive investments and significantly diminish the huge gap between commitment and action. After all, we are facing one single global challenge – the sustainability of the planet and striving for an environment of peace and prosperity. Martin Luther King Jr once said: “We may have all come on different ships, but we're in the same boat now”. So, while MEAs have individual mandates, they ultimately have the same ambition: protecting the people and the planet. Let us make 2024 a pivotal year for environmental multilateralism. The science is clear and sobering. Long-term planning and cooperation are of the essence. But urgent action is needed. Recent years have proven that environmental multilateralism is working. It remains our best shot at tackling the complex and interconnected environmental challenges. Let’s take it! Thank you.

UNEA-6 Multilateral Environmental Agreements Day: Keynote by Ibrahim Thiaw