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UNCCD joins the United Nations Global Initiative on Decent Jobs for Youth

Kigali, Rwanda, 24 May 2024. On the occasion of the Global conference on decent jobs for youth, the secretariat of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) joins the United Nations Global Initiative on Decent Jobs for Youth, committing to fostering youth engagement in the implementation of the Convention. “UNCCD strives to realize a future where youth and youth organizations have a strong voice in decision-making on land use, and are recognized as vital actors in combatting desertification, land degradation and drought. With this commitment, UNCCD aims to create a new generation of “landpreneurs” inspired to build a more equitable and sustainable future based on meaningful jobs and careers that restore a healthy relationship with nature,” said UNCCD Executive Secretary Ibrahim Thiaw. According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), involving youth in transforming food systems and land restoration activities can contribute to the creation of the estimated 600 million jobs required over the next 15 years to meet youth employment needs.[1] Decent Jobs for Youth was launched in 2016 as a joint effort of the United Nations system to address the youth employment challenge, which is a central element of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. It is a global multi-stakeholder initiative that brings together governments, social partners, the private sector, youth, and civil society organizations, among others. The UNCCD commitment will foster participation and partnerships, capacity building and networking to empower them to pursue meaningful and sustainable careers in sustainable land and water management. The first opportunity to do so will be this year’s Desertification and Drought Day, 17 June 2024, which focuses on intergenerational land stewardship under the theme of “United for Land. Our Legacy. Our Future.” The event will also mark the launch of the first UNCCD Youth Engagement Strategy, emphasizing the importance of youth voices at the negotiating table. 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/   For more information, please contact: Media office: press@unccd.int Global Initiative on Decent Jobs for Youth, ILO | decentjobsforyouth@ilo.org   [1] International Labour Organization. 2022. Investing in Transforming Futures for Young People X Global Employment Trends for Youth 2022.

UNCCD joins the United Nations Global Initiative on Decent Jobs for Youth
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
Her Land Anthem released by Goodwill Ambassadors Inna Modja and Ricky Kej

On 17 May, one month before the Desertification and Drought Day 2024, UNCCD Goodwill Ambassadors Ricky Kej and Inna Modja released the new Her Land anthem to support land rights for women across the world. They are among the key activists and influencers that work with UNCCD to spearhead the campaign #HerLand and mobilize support to secure land rights for women and girls across the world. When land is degraded women and girls are impacted first and most. They are disproportionately affected by poverty, hunger, displacement and violence. And they have minimal control over land itself or decisions about how to manage it. Although women produce half the world’s food, they own less than one-fifth of land worldwide and make up the majority of the world’s hungry.  But it doesn’t have to be this way. When land rights are secured, we have seen women and girls increase yields, restore land, and build resilience to drought. Listen to the song, get inspired and join our call to action for Her Land, Her Rights!  

Her Land Anthem released by Goodwill Ambassadors Inna Modja and Ricky Kej
UNCCD welcomes G7 decisive statement on land

The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) welcomes the G7 Climate, Energy and Environment Ministers Communiqué of 30 April 2024, which underlines the critical importance of addressing land degradation, desertification and soil health as fundamental elements of global sustainability efforts. UNCCD is particularly encouraged by the Italian G7 Presidency's launch of a voluntary Hub on Sustainable Land Use dedicated to promoting a collaborative and common approach to sustainable land use initiatives in Africa and in the Mediterranean Basin in support of achieving land degradation neutrality (LDN). The Hub will focus on sustainable livelihoods, enhancement of food security and promotion of land-based employment, with special regard to communities on the frontlines of land degradation, including Indigenous Peoples, youth and women. The UNCCD commends the G7 for its commitment to immediate and tangible action, such as proposals to increase funding for sustainable land management by 40 per cent over the next decade and to advance scientific research on soil health. These initiatives are critical to addressing these crises and underscore the need for global cooperation and leadership in this crucial decade. "Integrating land and soil health into broader economic and social systems provides a pathway to sustainable, inclusive growth that leaves no one behind. This approach is essential to building resilience to the impacts of climate change and ensuring the health and productivity of the land on which all life depends,” said UNCCD Executive Secretary Ibrahim Thiaw. “The G7's recognition of land degradation and desertification as both environmental and socio-economic challenges dovetails seamlessly with the goals of the UNCCD. Our collaborative approach is critical to scaling up efforts to significantly reduce land degradation, with the goal of a 50 per cent reduction by 2040, as outlined in the G20 Global Land Initiative,” he added. Furthermore, G7's strong emphasis on the interlinked crises of climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution, which have significant impacts on land and soil, is a decisive step forward ahead of the meetings of the Conferences of the Parties (COPs) to the three Rio Conventions later this year, notably UNCCD COP16 to be held in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia from 2-13 December. “Welcoming the G7's vision, the UNCCD calls on all nations to strengthen their commitment to land health as an integral part of their environment and development agendas. UNCCD looks forward to further collaboration with the G7 and other international partners. Together, we want to implement the ambitious agendas set out in this Communiqué and ensure that land remains a cornerstone of global efforts to combat environmental degradation and promote sustainable development,” Thiaw concluded.

UNCCD welcomes G7 decisive statement on land
Land rights: The key to sustainable prosperity

Imagine a world where every farmer, indigenous community and local group has the power to improve their land and their lives. It's not just a dream. By securing land tenure – the right to use, control and transfer land – we can unlock sustainable development on a global scale. The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) are working together to make this vision a reality. Land tenure determines how people connect with the land. Worldwide, 2.5 billion people depend on communally managed territories, which often lack legal protection. This vulnerability undermines sustainability, escalates conflicts and damages the environment. Although more than 50 per cent of communal lands are used by indigenous peoples and local communities, only 10 per cent are legally recognised. These challenges led to the launch of the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure (VGGT) in 2012. A blueprint for fairness, the VGGT ensure that everyone – regardless of gender or social status – receives the same land rights. Incorporating principles of equity, transparency and sustainability into land governance is critical to creating secure and productive communities. These principles are not just theoretical; they are being successfully applied around the world, with transformative results. In Eritrea, the Serejeka sub-zone, part of the Great Green Wall initiative, introduced a new land tenure system called "xlmi" across 28 villages. This new system, which allows landholdings to be inherited as family property, replaced the previous seven-year lease system with redistribution among smallholders. The change has led to clear environmental and social benefits. It has significantly reduced deforestation and land conflicts, and provided farmers with secure, long-term benefits. This security has undoubtedly encouraged greater investment in sustainable land management practices, boosting household income. In the Senegal River Basin, a concerted effort to improve land governance has facilitated better management of vast agricultural resources, boosting food security and economic stability across the region. In Colombia, the government has launched a land regularisation programme with indigenous communities, employing the "Open Tenure" tool under the VGGT. This tool maps legitimate tenure rights, supporting a transparent process that helps stakeholders record and protect their rights. The programme also promotes joint land ownership for spouses, aiming to combat discriminatory inheritance practices. In many rural areas, land tenure security acts as a vital safety net for the poor, buffering them against uncertainties and securing their livelihoods. This security is more than just a piece of paper; it ensures that smallholder farmers can produce food and reduce poverty and inequality within their communities. The process of securing land rights – through formal recognition, proper documentation and robust dispute resolution – is critical not only to the well-being of farmers, but also to the promotion of sustainable agricultural practices. The challenge, however, is that in many developing countries land is often held under informal or undocumented arrangements. Simply formalising these arrangements doesn't automatically lead to true security and can even lead to 'elite capture', where only a few reap the benefits. The genuine recognition and enforcement of legitimate land rights – including access, use, management and ownership – is essential. This not only increases agricultural productivity, but also strengthens the rights and livelihoods of the most vulnerable, paving the way for a more equitable and sustainable future for rural communities. A major challenge in this area is the significant gender disparity in land governance, management and benefit-sharing, even under customary or informal tenure arrangements. Although women make up nearly half of the world's agricultural workforce, they own less than 20 per cent of the world's land. It is clear that investing in women's equal access to land and related assets is a direct investment in their future and the future of humanity. When women have secure land rights, they are more likely to invest in the land and participate actively in community life, leading to better outcomes for families and societies. When women's tenure security is improved, household spending on food and education increases by up to 30 per cent. The UNCCD and FAO are committed to continuing these efforts through national consultations and inclusive policy-making. By engaging a wide range of stakeholders, they aim to tailor land tenure reforms to local needs and open up new opportunities for cooperation and financing. These efforts will eventually reach more than 30 countries o have who have requested support on integrating secure tenure into their Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) programmes and restoration activities. Securing land rights and advocating for inclusive governance is a powerful tool for change. By protecting ecosystems and empowering millions of people around the world to have a say on how land and associated resources are managed, we are advancing multiple sustainable development objectives.

Land rights: The key to sustainable prosperity