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Rio Conventions Pavilion Drought Day: Speech by Ibrahim Thiaw

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

Rio Conventions Pavilion Drought Day: Speech by Ibrahim Thiaw
UNCCD COP15 opening: Speech by Executive Secretary Ibrahim Thiaw

His Excellency Alassane Dramane Ouattara, President of the Republic of Côte d’Ivoire, H.E. Mr Alain-Richard Donwahi, President of the UNCCD COP15, Excellences, Ministers and Heads of Delegations, CEO of the Global Environment Facility, Dear Delegates, Representatives of International Organisations internationales et de la Société Civile, Chers collègues des Nations-Unies, Mesdames et messieurs les Ambassadeurs de la Terre de UNCCD Honorables invités, Mesdames et messieurs, First, let me offer, on behalf of the Secretariat, my warm congratulations to our new President of COP15, Mr Alain Donwahi after his brilliant election today. We are truly looking forward to working with you and benefiting from your wisdom. Jennifer Richard Jacobson, a Children’s author once said “Elephants love reunions; they recognize one another after years and years of separation and greet each other with wild, boisterous joy.” After a tough - more than - 2 years of separation and difficulty for the whole planet, allow me to greet you and welcome you to Abidjan - and to COP15 - with genuine joy. I mention elephants today because in addition to being magnificent animals and the symbol of our generous hosts - Cote d’Ivoire - they are also the national animal of our outgoing COP President India, whom I would like to thank for their inspirational leadership. Indeed, it is not just our past and current hosts. Many cultures around the world see the elephant as a symbol of strength, intelligence, determination, wisdom, and success.  All useful characteristics in the UNCCD process! Elephants resonate with UNCCD on many other levels too.  The elephant is the largest land animal.  Like humans, elephants need extensive land areas to survive and meet their ecological needs - food, water and space. On average, an elephant can feed up to 18 hours and consume a hundred kilograms of food and 100 litres of water in a single day.  So, like us, elephants rely on healthy and productive terrestrial ecosystems.  Like us, the elephant can survive only if the land survives. And like us, though led by a matriarch, elephants are organized into supportive, complex social structures. The elephant thrives when the herd is resilient and thrives.  Dear Parties, Since our last COP in India, the world has changed. COVID19 has been a major disruptor. Conflicts, disasters and economic crisis have created multiple consequences, including more land degradation in the world. However, the UNCCD family has proved to be remarkably resilient. While it is not the time to trumpet success, I am happy to note major progress achieved in different parts of the world, thanks to you, Parties to, and Partners of the UNCCD. First, we note a remarkable increase in visibility and interest on the issues of Land Degradation and Drought; the issue has risen on the political agenda. The world is looking at this COP15 is an epitome, and this is largely due to President Alassane Ouattara and his Government.  Second, the launch -under the Saudi Presidency- of the G20 Initiative on Reducing Land Degradation and Enhancing the Conservation of Terrestrial Ecosystems - to halve the amount of degraded land by 2040 - is an important milestone.  We are delighted to host the initiative coordination unit. Third: Large-scale land restoration programs are growing across the world, a clear recognition of their importance as providing multiple solutions to a world in crisis. Take the example of the Africa’s GGW. Last year, while the world was still looking for a vaccine to the COVID19, the Programme received a major political and financial support with USD 19 billion dollars pledged to 2025 at the One Planet Summit in Paris. Similar large-scale initiatives have also been launched in the Middle East, in India, China, Mongolia, Saudi Arabia, Central America and Pakistan, to name just a few. The Launch of the Abidjan Legacy Programme just two days ago comes as a timely addition to an already impressive list. Other potentially game-changing initiatives are being shaped. Fourth: The launch of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration is galvanizing partners around a common and revitalized agenda. We are happy to see UNEP and FAO playing a lead role. Countries and few companies seem to be making determined progress towards the achievement of a Land in balance, otherwise known in the UNCCD as Land Degradation Neutrality. Ladies and Gentlemen,   The case for land restoration made by the UNCCD report, the Global Land Outlook, is convincing. From rates of return on investments in restoration at between 7 and 30 USD to the unequivocal evidence on the relationship between land AND climate, biodiversity, food, energy, water, jobs and economy - the case of land has never been clearer. Partnerships with critical technical and financial partners are emerging or evolving to turn these voluntary commitments into action. I congratulate the GEF and its partners for the recent highly successful GEF8 replenishment.  But I also warmly welcome those partners increasingly committing to work with the Global Mechanism of the UNCCD. So, despite the challenges of the last 2 years, we have made incredible progress. I thank all of you, dear Parties and partners, for that.  But, of course, we there is still much left to do.  Excellence monsieur le Président de la République, Honorables délégués, L’autre sujet de grande préoccupation est la sécheresse. Au moment où se tient cette conférence, vingt millions de personnes font face à une sécheresse jamais enregistrée en 40 ans en Afrique de l’Est. Des États-Unis d’Amérique à l’Europe, de l’Afrique à l’Asie, du Moyen-Orient à l’Amérique Latine, les sécheresses entraînent pertes économiques et dommages écologiques, pertes de production et fissures sociales. Dans des cas extrêmes, sécheresse rime avec crise humanitaire, voire pertes en vies humaines. On estime à 650’000, le nombre de décès directement causés par la sécheresse au cours des 40 dernières années. En effet, dans un rapport que nous publions sur la sécheresse à l’occasion de la COP15, les conclusions sont sévères. Au cours des vingt dernières années, le nombre et la durée des sécheresses ont augmenté de 29%. Selon certaines estimations, les sécheresses pourraient affecter trois-quarts de la population mondiale d’ici la moitié du siècle courant. Ces phénomènes climatiques deviennent ainsi de plus en plus violents. Dans les pays plus vulnérables, les sécheresses sont à l’origine de catastrophes humanitaires majeures. Le Groupe de travail inter-gouvernemental que la COP14 avait constitué à produire un rapport, qui est soumis à votre attention. Je tiens à remercier les membres du Groupe de Travail qui, malgré le COVID, ont pu fournir à votre attention un rapport de qualité, destiné à soutenir les Parties dans leurs délibérations. Votre Secrétariat reste naturellement mobilisé pour continuer à faire le plaidoyer à sensibiliser les acteurs politiques et le grand public, sur les multiples conséquences de la sécheresse. Nous encourageons les Parties à développer et surtout mettre en œuvre, leurs plans nationaux de lutte contre la sécheresse. Cette année, dans le cadre de la célébration de la Journée internationale sur la Désertification et la Sécheresse prévue le 17 juin de chaque année, le thème central est justement la Sécheresse. Nous remercions l’Espagne pour avoir offert d’abriter les célébrations globales de la Journée. L’Espagne, à l’instar d’autres pays d’à travers le monde, devriendrait, le temps des célébrations, un «DroughtLand». Des passeports et des visas seront émis pour tous ceux qui souhaitent faire le voyage vers ces pays imaginaires. Merci à l’Espagne et à tous les pays qui offriront des passeports «DroughtLand» Je vous souhaite une très bonne Conférence. Merci.

UNCCD COP15 opening: Speech by Executive Secretary Ibrahim Thiaw
Drones help communities power economies and restoration in dry Sahel

Using drones, satellite images and computers, communities across the Sahel will plot the exact location and population of their Baobab trees using the global positioning system (GPS). The image of each tree growing in the 100 million hectares of land under restoration is collected by drone, converted into data that is transferred via satellite to a computer that is trained to automatically pick out the Baobabs.

Drones help communities power economies and restoration in dry Sahel
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
The time is now to future proof the land, world leaders say at the Abidjan Summit

Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, 9 May 2022 -- Heads of State and Government meeting at the United Nations’ global conference on land have called on the international community to take urgent action to stem the loss of life and livelihoods that communities all over the world are experiencing due to the increasing and devastating impacts of desertification, land degradation and drought. Speaking at the Heads of State Summit convened ahead of the opening of the 15th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP15) to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), Alassane Ouattara, President of Côte d’Ivoire, declared: “Our Summit must be one of hope, of the collective mobilization of States and development partners, in favour of land and forest restoration initiatives of our countries. We must use all the resources of our Conventions to meet the ever-increasing food needs and cope with the ever-increasing water stress of an ever-growing world population.” Amina Mohammed, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, said: “As we approach the halfway point of the Sustainable Development Goals, they remain our best hope to build a sustainable and inclusive future. The ground beneath our feet is the perfect foundation on which to build that future.” Abdulla Shahid, President of the United Nations General Assembly, said: “Productive land is critical to global food security and healthy ecosystems, as well as to the maintenance of stable livelihoods. It is a precondition for the success of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development; for progress on the Rio Conventions on biodiversity and climate change; and for tackling pollution on land and at sea.” Ibrahim Thiaw, Executive Secretary of the UNCCD, said: “Now is the time for action. There is no future for our children or the planet if we continue with ‘business as usual’ when it comes to managing our land. COP15 is our moment in history, as the international community, to put people and the planet on a new course; on the path to life, to COVID-19 recovery and to prosperity. The decisions countries take at COP15 must be transformational, not incremental, to achieve land restoration and drought resilience the world longs for.” The Summit concluded with the adoption of Abidjan Call, which urges giving the highest priority to the issue of drought and reinforces the commitment towards achieving land degradation neutrality by 2030. The leaders’ call to action comes in response to a stark warning by the UNCCD that up to 40% of all ice-free land is already degraded, with dire consequences for climate, biodiversity and livelihoods. Business as usual will, by 2050, result in degradation of 16 million square kilometers (almost the size of South America), with 69 gigatonnes of carbon emitted into the atmosphere. But land restoration would help reduce the estimated 700 million people at risk of being displaced by drought by 2030. During the Summit, President Ouattara also announced the ambitious Abidjan Legacy Programme to boost long-term environmental sustainability across major value chains in Côte d’Ivoire while protecting and restoring forests and lands and improving communities’ resilience to climate change, which will require mobilization of US$1.5 billion over the next five years. Initial pledges made during the Summit towards this goal include those by the African Development Bank, the European Union, the Green Growth Initiative, and the World Bank Group. At the top of the COP15 agenda are the restoration of one billion hectares of degraded land between now and 2030 and future-proofing people, their homes and lands against the impacts of disaster risks linked to climate change, such as droughts, and sand and dust storms. COP15 is also expected to agree on policy actions to provide an enabling environment for land restoration through stronger tenure rights, gender equality, land use planning and youth engagement to draw private sector investment to conservation, farming, and land uses and practices to improve the health of the land. During the Gender Caucus convened alongside the Heads of State Summit, the First Lady of Côte d’Ivoire Dominique Ouattara and the United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed launched a new study on the differentiated impacts of desertification, land degradation and drought on men and women. The study shines the spotlight on the disproportionate impacts women and girls are facing when land is degraded and how, if given the agency, they can be at the forefront of global land restoration efforts. Dominique Ouattara, First Lady of Côte d’Ivoire, said: “Women are the backbone of the rural economy, especially in developing countries. They represent almost half of the world's farmers. We must at all costs win together in our quest to empower women farmers through various measures including land tenure security and access to rural finance.” Amina Mohammed, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, added: "Women and girls are central to building a land restoration economy. But they continue to be marginalized, and to pay the heaviest price when it comes to land loss, climate change, COVID and conflict." Over 2000 participants, including a dozen Heads of State and Government, some 50 ministers and high-level delegates are expected at UNCCD COP15, which is taking place from 9-20 May in Abidjan. UNCCD COP15 is convening under the theme, ‘Land. Life. Legacy: From scarcity to prosperity', a call to action to ensure land, which is the lifeline on this planet, will also benefit present and future generations. UNCCD COP15 is the first of the three Rio Conventions meetings to be held in 2022, with Biodiversity COP15 and Climate change COP27 convening later on in Kunming, China and Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, respectively. The High-Level Segment continues on 10 May. The UNCCD COP15 formally opens on 11 May and is expected to adopt a set of decisions on these issues by the time it closes on 20 May. For more information contact: Xenya Scanlon, Chief of Communications, xscanlon@unccd.int Wagaki Wischnewski, Head of Press and Media, wwischnewski@unccd.int About The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification 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. 

The time is now to future proof the land, world leaders say at the Abidjan Summit
Abidjan declaration on achieving gender equality for successful land restoration

We, representatives of States, and institutions, civil society, forming a group of political, business and civil society leaders, committed to promoting gender equality as a means of accelerating land restoration, gather in Abidjan at the Gender Caucus of the fifteenth session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 15) of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) in 2022, Recognize that land provides a source of food, feed, fiber, shelter, income, and social identity, and reduces vulnerability to food and water insecurity, hunger, and poverty, particularly in rural areas, Acknowledge that land remains amongst the most fundamental asset for most of the women and men living in developing countries, essential to their life, livelihoods, and resilience, Recognize that securing women’s access to land and control over land, and access to finance for land-based economic activities are central components of women’s economic empowerment and women’s rights, generating opportunities for economic prosperity and autonomy, Acknowledge that the lack of secure land tenure contributes to land and forest degradation, and exacerbates poverty, social instability and conflict over land and natural resources, Recognize that equitable land governance and land tenure security are fundamental components to enable land degradation neutrality and land restoration efforts, We will strengthen our shared efforts to: Promote all necessary measures to identify and eliminate all forms of discrimination against women in the context of fighting against desertification/land degradation, and drought (DLDD), in relation to land tenure security and access to, ownership of, and control over land and natural resources, and other forms of property and inheritance, with particular attention on the rights of older women, widows, women with disabilities and young women. Foster measures to ensure the full, equal, meaningful and effective participation of women at all levels in land and natural resource governance at the regional, national and landscape levels through the inclusive national-level coordination and promotion of women’s leadership in planning and implementation activities. Strengthen and enforce legal frameworks for women’s access to land and control over land, including common lands, and equal land rights both under customary and statutory law, and continue efforts on advocacy for women’s land rights. Facilitate access to technology, services, and resources for women and groups in vulnerable situations for their effective participation in land restoration efforts, including through gender-transformative land use planning and management that addresses the root causes of gender inequality. Actively work to close the gender gap to move towards evidence-based interventions and responses, collecting, analyzing and disseminating data disaggregated by sex, age, disability, race/ethnicity, class, livelihood source and migrant status and other relevant factors to support the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of land-related interventions and policies. Appeal to development agencies, multilateral development banks, national banks and other financial institutions and mechanisms to lift structural barriers and increase funding that specifically target women’s rights organizations and movements, women entrepreneurs, women cooperatives and enterprises led by women and indigenous groups, and civil society organizations that design and implement programmes contributing to DLDD initiatives.  Commit to working towards the inclusion of gender equality criteria in the development – and granting – of finance for sustainable land management, land restoration and drought preparedness and resilience at the regional, national, subnational and local levels. Call upon the COP of the UNCCD to incorporate these commitments into their deliberations around the gendered aspects of DLDD, and into their policy decisions accordingly. Parties and other stakeholders who wish to join the Declaration may send an email at the following address external-relations@unccd.int

Abidjan declaration on  achieving gender equality for successful land restoration