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UNCCD COP15 Ministerial level opening remarks by Ibrahim Thiaw

Excellency, President of UNCCD COP14, H. E. Patrick Achi, Prime Minister of the Republic of Côte d’Ivoire, Excellencies Ministers, High Level Officials Representatives of International Organisations, Representatives of Civil Society, Ladies and gentlemen, First, I would like to express our sincere appreciation to H.E. Patrick Achi, Prime Minister of Côte d’Ivoire, for honouring us with your presence today. Mr Prime Minister, may I kindly ask you to convey our deep gratitude to the people of Côte d’Ivoire, to President Alassane Ouattara and to the entire Government, for offering us such a warm welcome in this beautiful country. Ministers, Ladies and gentlemen, Every COP is important. Each has its characteristics. To my mind, this one is, however, particularly special. We are still reeling from the consequences of major disruptions that affect our food, energy, industry and economy. From the pandemic to major conflicts. From the climate crisis to nature and land loss. Never before in history, has humanity faced so many complex challenges. Never before, have so many humans depended on so little arable land. Never before, have our land and soils been so damaged. And – fortunately - never before, has a generation been in a such a powerful position to change the course of history for the better. To deploy so much science, knowledge and financial resources in making and implementing the right decisions. The findings of the Global Land Outlook published just over a week ago cannot be clearer: we can either shrink or grow our economy by half. If we continue with current production and consumption patterns, we will also continue to damage the global economy. Already, every second person on the planet is affected by land loss. Which is why, I think this is the most important COP in the history of the UNCCD. In terms of both the complexity and the urgency of the issues we need to address.   Indeed, there are less than 8 years and 3 or 4 COPs left to deliver the Sustainable Development Goals. But 20 million people in the Horn of Africa suffering from the most severe drought in over 40 years can’t wait that long. 700 million people would have no choice but to flee, as their productive land degrades. With women and girls still carrying most of the burden and few of the benefits. Let me be clear: this isn’t just the poor peoples’ problem. If global food prices are hurting from the war in Ukraine, how will they react to the US losing 40% of its maize crops to pests? If global health systems and businesses are hurting from the cost of the pandemic, how will they react to paying $2 trillion a year for more zoonotic diseases? And if the global economy is already faltering from pandemic and war, how will it react to output being halved because we mismanaged the natural capital supporting everything we eat and drink; the same land that produces the clothes we wear, and the air we breathe. Excellencies, While the diagnosis is frightening, procrastination and inaction scare me a lot more. The longer we wait, the more complex these issues will be, the more difficult and costly our actions will be, and the more terrifying the consequences will be too. That’s why one of the scenarios in the Global Outlook shows how we can increase global GDP up to 50% by 2050 if we take action now to restore and conserve 35% of our global land. It offers practical and pragmatic solutions to achieve this. For example, over the next 10 years, investing just a fifth of the finances currently spent on harmful subsidies could restore land the size of China - increasing the productivity of our soils and the quality of our food. In other words, investing tax-payers money to protect their assets, not to destroy their lives. Indeed, if we leverage the natural synergies between the Rio Conventions for land, biodiversity and climate change, we can not only reverse destructive trends, but also: accelerate progress across every single Sustainable Development Goal. and multiply opportunities for a sustainable post-pandemic recovery. Excellencies, This COP offers us a unique opportunity to share our combined experiences and renew our collective commitments to protect our planet. To protect ourselves. This High-Level Segment will facilitate open and honest discussions about land regeneration and stewardship, the futures of our young people and our consumption habits, and the path to both drought resilience and economic recovery. But I also need your support to ramp up the speed and ambition of all COP negotiations. The Abidjan COP is a generational opportunity to tackle desertification, degradation and drought. To deliver spill over benefits for biodiversity, security, equality and the economy before climate change tips them beyond our reach. To save lives. Millions of them. Now. And that, ladies and gentlemen is a chance we may never get back. Which is why, I say again, this is the most important COP in the history of the UNCCD. Thank you.

UNCCD COP15 Ministerial level opening remarks by Ibrahim Thiaw
UNCCD COP15 Great Green Wall Head of States Meeting: statement by Executive Secretary Ibrahim Thiaw

Excellencies, The Great Green Wall is an historic opportunity. An opportunity for the Sahel - and for each of the GGW states - to deliver something truly remarkable. A renaissance for land and the natural world.  And - just as important - true resilience and a renaissance for communities on the frontline of climate change and poverty. The GGW is an inspiration and a beacon of hope for humanity worldwide. At a time when people need inspiration and hope.  For that Excellencies, you are to be congratulated. However, projects of this ambition and magnitude do not materialize on inspiration and hope alone. They need financial support.  Good governance.  And coordinated action. The pledges made at the One Planet Summit in January 2021 totaled USD19 billion for the period until 2025.  So, while progress is there, we cannot congratulate ourselves. Hope is not yet turning into action at the scale or pace you aspire to.  Because collectively, we are struggling to turn those pledges into projects and investments.  Understandably, this is leading to frustrations. There are, indeed, lots of bottlenecks. To my mind though, two critical bottlenecks have emerged. Coordination at national level. The complexity of accessing financing – the donor system. Firstly, I am convinced genuine national ownership – led by you, your Excellencies - and a national coalition for action would make progress happen faster.  In each country, the GGW is a massive undertaking.  With the best will in the world, neither the national Agency of the GGW, as currently set up, nor a single line ministry can make all the necessary wheels turn.  At national level, a more joined-up “all of government” response is needed.  The Ministry of Planning and Development or Treasury have an important role to play.  Along with the Ministry of Environment, Agriculture, Infrastructure or Energy as technical focal points. Concerned local authorities, the private sector, civil society and research should be fully engaged.  But government – at all levels – can take steps to assume its responsibilities more effectively.  In the case of Senegal, we noted the creation of Presidential Council, led by his Excellency President Macky Sall, that is guiding and accelerating this work in Senegal.  Each country will need to establish their own institutional framework. We would however suggest you consider setting up a political oversight, close to you.   Secondly though, we would all acknowledge that the current system for accessing the pledged financing is complex and cumbersome at best. International partners are better coordinated than ever around a common results framework.  But to access the financing, currently, your officials must navigate the different processes and timelines of the ten international partners who have committed to support you.  Accessing much of the funds will take a great deal of upfront investment of staff resources and a considerable time.  With your bold and ambitious timeline, this business-as-usual approach will not work. As Heads of State and Government, you might consider requesting the simplification and streamlining of the way financing is channeled to you – potentially through a common window, joint assessment or more co-funding of projects. You may want to task your Ministries in charge of Planning or Economy to lead the Programmatic Coordination with donors. We may need to follow adequate, perhaps specific procedures. It is certainly recommended that each Government set up a robust programmatic team to unlock the financing.      Excellencies, a Sahelian renaissance awaits.  With the restoration of land and nature and the right investments for a resilient and vibrant future, we can capitalize on the inspiration and hope and the unique opportunity that the GGW offers.  Thank you.

UNCCD COP15 Great Green Wall Head of States Meeting: statement by Executive Secretary Ibrahim Thiaw
UNCCD COP15 Gender Caucus statement by Ibrahim Thiaw

In Pursuit of Gender Equality for Strong Land Stewardship S.E. Mme Dominique Ouattara, Première Dame de Côte d’Ivoire; merci de votre leadership et votre intérêt manifeste à ce Caucus Genre. S.E Dr Mariam Mint Mohamed Vadel Ould Dah, Première Dame de Mauritanie. Merci madame, d’être venue, particulièrement, pour cet événement,   S.E Mr Abdulla Shahid, President de l’Assemblée Générale des Nations Unies. Merci aussi, monsieur le Président, d’avoir tenu à participer à cet événement.      S.E. Mme Amina Mohamed, Vice-Secrétaire Générale des Nations-Unies. Merci madame, pour votre vision et votre courage.               Je salue également tous mes collègues ici présents: Chefs d’Agence des Nations-Unies et représentants d’Organisations Internationales. Distingués invités, Mesdames et messieurs, J’éprouve un immense plaisir à vous souhaiter la cordiale bienvenue à cet événement de haut-niveau sur le genre, organisé au premier jour de la Conférence des Parties de la Convention des Nations Unies sur la Lutte contre la Désertification (UNCCD). Je savoure d’autant plus ce plaisir que nous sommes de nouveau en mesure de nous retrouver dans cette salle, après une longue et difficile période de restrictions sanitaires. Permettez-moi avant tout, d’exprimer toute ma gratitude à nos généreux hôtes à savoir le peuple et le Gouvernement de Côte d’Ivoire. Nos remerciements s’adressent en particulier à vous, madame la Première Dame, Dominique Ouattara. L’enthousiasme avec lequel vous présidez à cet événement et votre soutien sans faille, sont notés avec une grande satisfaction. Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, The negotiations on land degradation and drought at this COP are the most important in the UNCCD’s history and they can only succeed if they are built on balanced foundations, which must include gender equality. The conclusions of the study we’re presenting today are sobering. The study demonstrates that women and girls are particularly vulnerable to impacts of land degradation and droughts.    For example, when drought hits a region, food and water become naturally scarce. This affects the way food is distributed within a family. Women, the study found, tend to eat smaller portions or skip meals. They give priority to members of their family, starting with young children.  In least developed countries, agriculture is the main livelihood for nearly 80% of employed women. Yet, more often than not, they do not own the land – only 23% in Central Asia and the Caucasus, and just 4% in the Middle East and North Africa. Think about it: if we bring 100 people from that region with land titles to this room, only 4 of them will be women. And limited rights mean limited access to loans, credits, services and training, stacking the odds against the very people working the land and perpetuating poverty. Nothing stable can be built  with half the foundation missing, so there will be no sustainable development if half of humanity and half of our producers are left on the sidelines. This vicious cycle of poverty must be turned into a virtuous one of prosperity by unleashing the transformative power of women and girls to heal land and soil. They are achieving many of the land restoration successes, often with little support or recognition. In West Africa for example, women are involved in major land restoration initiatives such as the Great Green Wall.   In the Middle East and North Africa, they undertake land conservation and restoration initiatives that bring food security. Where water is scarce, they find innovative or traditional solutions like as fog harvesting, which we have seen in Morocco. Examples are plentiful from around the world where women and girl exercise their leadership on land restoration. Unnoticed and unpaid. Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, Colleagues, Now is the time for action with inclusion and solidarity. To halt climate change and reverse biodiversity loss and land degradation we cannot ignore half of the population. This is a decisive decade, where we need to: ·      Change our mindsets ·      Invest heavily in education, training and access to sustainable technologies for millions of women and girls ·      Facilitate the inclusion of women into the financial system ·      Dismantle all barriers and eliminate laws and practices that prevent women and girls from accessing and using land Our UNCCD Convention is about the people and the planet. Healthy land for healthy people and healthy economies. All people. Not just half of them. With that in mind, I invite you to join « The Abidjan Declaration on Achieving Gender Equality for Successful Land Restoration". I also invite you to commit and act to improve the lives and dignity of women and girls facing the formidable daily challenges of drought, land degradation and desertification. Thank you.

UNCCD COP15 Gender Caucus statement by Ibrahim Thiaw
UNCCD COP15 welcome statement by the Executive Secretary Ibrahim Thiaw

Mesdames, messieurs, Bienvenue à la COP15 ! Avec la permission du Président Ouattara, je vous dis AKWABA. Bienvenue à Abidjan. De San Pedro à Korogho, de Man à Boundoukou, de Aboisso à Odienne : la Côte d’Ivoire dispose de ce magnétisme extraordinaire, cette hospitalité exceptionnelle qui explique pourquoi ce pays attire autant de talents et de touristes. AKWABA, au pays de la plus grande basilique au monde. Au pays des mystérieux ponts de liane dont on attribue la construction aux génies de la forêt. AKWABA, au pays des diversités culturelle et cultuelle, dans l’unicité. Au pays de l’inclusion dont on admire la tolérance et le vivre-ensemble, ancrés dans la culture de la parenté à plaisanterie. Peu importe qu’on l’appella Tu-pké, Sanakouya ou Rakiré, cette tradition, remontant pourtant à 1235, décrispe les tensions entre communautés et caractérise la tolérance, la diplomatie, et la réconciliation sociale. Monsieur le Président, Majesté, Excellences, Mesdames et messieurs, Nous sommes réunis dans le cadre de la Convention des Nations Unies sur la Lutte contre la Désertification, un traité universel, fort de 197 Parties. Au cœur des préoccupations de cet Accord de la génération de Rio, se posent les problématiques de la sécheresse et de la dégradation des terres. Les cycles de sécheresse sont observés depuis des siècles. Cependant, les fréquence et intensité notées ces dernières années ont une corrélation désormais avérée avec le changement climatique. La sécheresse a ceci de vicieux qu’elle érode l’économie et désagrège les sociétés. La sécheresse n’est pas seulement un déficit pluviométrique. La sécheresse porte un visage humain affectant les plus vulnérables, y compris les éleveurs, les petits producteurs, les femmes et les enfants. Lorsqu’elle se manifeste sous forme de feux de brousse ou de forêt, la sécheresse laisse des traces indélébiles : la nature est défigurée. Aucune région du monde, aucun pays n’est immunisé contre la sécheresse. Mais tous les pays ne sont pas logés à la même enseigne. On le sait trop bien désormais : lorsque survient une épidémie, les sujets immuno-déficitaires demeurent les plus vulnérables aux virus. Par analogie, les pays les plus démunis sont toujours les plus vulnérables aux sécheresses. Quant à la dégradation des terres, nos études les plus récentes ont révélé qu’un habitant sur deux dans le monde est affecté par la perte de la productivité des terres. Jusqu’à 40% de la superficie du globe connaît une forme de dégradation des milieux terrestres. Les risques économiques sont sévères : jusqu’à la moitié du PIB mondial pourrait être affecté. Au-delà, nos études ont aussi démontré que les pertes de terres fertiles entraînent des conséquences sur la santé humaine. La perte des terres productives amplifient les migrations ; elle provoque pauvreté, troubles sociaux et insécurité. La dégradation des terres émet du carbone, exacerbe le changement climatique et la perte de la biodiversité. Enfin, les pertes de terres productives exacerbent les inégalités : les petits producteurs étant étouffés économiquement et socialement. Les femmes rurales productrices sont généralement reléguées au bout de la chaîne ; elles sont souvent dépossédées des petits lopins de terre où elles étaient confinées. Nos études ont révélé que même en ce 21ème siècle, les femmes sont privées de l’héritage de leur époux décédé dans plus de cent de pays dans le monde. Majesté, Excellences, Il est maintenant établi qu’un leader qui perd ses terres productives est assimilable à un pilote qui connaît une soudaine perte d’altitude, voire une perte de contrôle de son aéronef. C’est à ce titre que nous saluons vivement la présence à cette Conférence, de Chefs d’Etat et de Gouvernement, qui saisissent toute la centralité de ces questions. La gestion des terres concerne autant l’agriculture que l’économie, la sécurité que l’environnement, la diplomatie que l’administration territoriale; autant la forêt que la recherche scientifique ; autant la société civile que les communes rurales. La terre nous nourrit. La terre nous vétit. Elle nous fournit l’eau que nous buvons, autant que l’air que nous respirons. De la santé de nos sols, dépend notre économie ainsi que notre propre santé. Mais il y a espoir. Et vous me permettrez de conclure par ce point. La dégradation des terres n’est pas une fatalité. La réparation est possible. En effet, la restauration des terres dégradées est réalisable à moindre coût. Investir dans la réparation des terres dégradées est donc économiquement rentable ; techniquement faisable ;  socialement souhaitable et bien entendu, écologiquement profitable. Chaque unité monétaire investie dans la restauration des terres peut générer jusqu’à 30 fois sa valeur. Au niveau mondial, jusqu’à 50 points de PIB pourraient ainsi être gagnés d’ici 2050. Pourvu qu’on prenne le virage maintenant. Et de manière décisive. Une sagesse africaine ne dit-elle pas : «quand la tête est là, le genou ne doit pas prétendre porter le chapeau».  Je vous remercie.

UNCCD COP15 welcome statement by the Executive Secretary Ibrahim Thiaw