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French | German Bern, Switzerland, 10 May 2023 – Today, the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) signed a new voluntary contribution agreement for 2023-2024. Switzerland has committed 400,000 Swiss Francs to further support sustainable land management and ensure that all stakeholders, especially those representing the most vulnerable populations, can be fully involved in global decision-making on land and drought issues. Welcoming the agreement, UNCCD Executive Secretary Ibrahim Thiaw said: “I commend Switzerland for its leadership and commitment to UNCCD’s efforts to ensure a sustainable future for our land. Switzerland’s generous support will be vital to improve land tenure systems and invest in solutions that put people—especially the most vulnerable—first.” During the signing ceremony, Ms. Patricia Danzi, Director General of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation said: “Soil is the foundation on which is based our food security and livelihoods. We are happy to collaborate with the UNCCD for global sustainable land management contributing to resilient food systems.” UNCCD was set up in 1994 in response to the global challenges of desertification, land degradation and drought and is one of the three global Conventions that emerged from the Rio Earth Summit, alongside climate and biodiversity treaties. UNCCD works with its 197 signatories to achieve land degradation neutrality by 2030, a global target enshrined in the Sustainable Development Goals. Up to 40 per cent of land worldwide is currently degraded, with dire consequences for our climate, biodiversity and livelihoods. Droughts are up 29 per cent since 2000, driven by both climate change and land degradation. One of the key areas of the new agreement is to support women’s involvement in land management, advancing legitimate and secure land tenure for all, and collecting gender-disaggregated data on the impacts of desertification, land degradation and drought. Women’s land rights is the focus of the 2023 Desertification and Drought Day marked worldwide on 17 June under the slogan “Her Land. Her Rights.” “Women are major actors in the global efforts to reduce and reverse land degradation. However, in the vast majority of countries, women have unequal and limited access to and control over land. We cannot achieve land degradation neutrality without gender equality, and we cannot exclude half the population from land management decisions because of their gender," UNCCD Executive Secretary Thiaw added. Switzerland joined UNCCD in 1996 and since then has provided long-standing support to UNCCD through core funding and voluntary contributions. For example, Switzerland’s support was essential to ensure the participation of least developed countries and civil society organizations (CSOs) during the 15th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP15) to the UNCCD held in 2022 in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire. The new agreement will support the implementation of the decisions adopted at the Conference and ensure a diversity of voices in future negotiations under the Convention. In addition, it will reinforce the synergies among the three Rio Conventions, including through nature-based solutions and target-setting at the national level for a more resilient, sustainable future for all. For more information, contact: UNCCD: Ms. Xenya Scanlon Chief, Communications, External Relations and Partnerships T: +49 152 5454 0492 E: email@example.com Notes to Editors The contribution from the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation for 2023-2024 has four objectives: helping advance the policy work of the Secretariat, in particular with regards to land tenure; fostering land-based opportunities through the CSO Panel; ensuring that technologies and information on sustainable land management practices are in line with the UNCCD 2018-2030 Strategic Framework, also with regards to drought and gender; and facilitating the participation of vulnerable groups at UNCCD meetings and processes —this includes least developed country parties, CSOs, women, youth and indigenous peoples’ groups. 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 to provide food, water, shelter and economic opportunity to all people in an equitable and inclusive manner.
Dear SPI Co-chairs, Members, Observers, and Early Career Fellows of the SPI, Dear Colleagues, I would like to extend a very warm welcome to all of you who have ventured from near and far to join us at the UN Campus in Bonn, and to some that have joined online. It is not only the distances involved. It is your time. Your effort. Your commitment. I cannot begin to tell you how much that means to this Convention. But I can assure you that every minute of your time and effort makes a difference. And the need could not be greater. Among other things, you are all working on an analysis of the IPCC Sixth Assessment Report contributions on climate change adaptation and mitigation with respect to UNCCD priorities. From this you will know that the IPCC concluded that: “…the pace and scale of what has been done so far, and current plans, are simply insufficient. This is why the choices made in the next few years will play a critical role in deciding our future and that of generations to come. Any further delay in concerted global action will miss a rapidly closing window to secure a liveable future. If land is part of the climate change solution – and the past work of the SPI and the IPCC make it very clear it must be – we therefore need to provide our Parties the policy options necessary to make it so. And indeed, these should be policy options that are firmly grounded in science. The urgency I am trying to convey does not stop with your IPCC AR6 analysis. Both of your scientific assessment objectives address critical bottlenecks. The first is guidance on pursuing Sustainable Land Use Systems. This will help our Parties optimize what they do where, with the aim of navigating the trade-offs among competing demands for land and achieving multiple benefits. The second is understanding aridity trends, projections and impacts. This will help Parties plan for a future where even more land and even more people may well be impacted by desertification and drought. Responding to the COP mandate for the SPI will require more urgency among all of you. With such tight timelines for delivering the work programme for the biennium 2022 to 2024, it may well require doing things differently. Doing things differently does not come easy for anyone, particularly after years of experience. Which is why I am so encouraged to see new and younger faces among the more senior scientists in the room! It’s going to be a two-way beneficial process – they will learn so much from the rest of you. And you, the experienced scientists will also benefit from new perspectives and fresh ideas. Bear in mind the IPCC focused on ensuring a liveable planet. Those of us closer to my age will not experience the worst of the projections. But all of us have children or other relatives who most certainly will. Which is why the perspectives of the younger generations must figure into our calculus and actions. It is also why I thought you might like to know the views of Ijad Madisch, one of Germany’s most innovative and influential young scientists on “the need to move fast and break things”. You may know him as the founder and CEO of ResearchGate, a tool many of you use to track scientific output and impact, or to network with other scientists. Two things you may not know: First, he is a Syrian refugee who has lived what far too many more will experience in the coming years. And, secondly, after a telephone request from then German Chancellor Angela Merkel, he joined the 10-member Digital Council of the Cabinet of Germany. At 38 years of age. Part of the reason Chancellor Merkel chose him was an Op Ed he wrote for the Scientific American calling for a revolution in scientific transparency and accessibility he dubbed the “Science in Real Time; For a Move Fast, Break Things and Talk about It Mentality”. You will be here for the next three intense days. Debating, drafting and redrafting. With your sleeves rolled up, I urge you to move fast, break things and talk about it. I urge you to make things happen in your work with a sense of urgency that will ultimately influence policy makers to take bold, necessary and evidence-based action. To get there on such tight timelines, you may wish to consider Ijad’s suggestion that you find a way to share your results, methods, questions, failures and everything in between as early as you can. Perhaps through some form of preprint that can lead to greater insights before things are finalized. As Ijad argues, whether or not it is right early on in the process is not the issue. Rather, failures are discoveries in disguise. Looking at everything that hasn’t worked will inevitably eventually lead to something that does. And maybe something far more relevant to policy makers since the feedback you may receive will become part of the results you obtain. In the domain of high tech start-ups, they say “Fail, and fail fast”. Failure is not a risk to be avoided. It is the basis for disruptive progress that could move your work from confirmational science to something that helps drive much needed change in the world. But this will only happen if you consider this work as a vital part of the solution, working with the same sense of urgency that the IPCC has requested of all of us. With this, I thank you again for stepping up to help us all bridge science and policy. And I wish you a disruptive but productive week! Thank you
Disruptive financial innovations and technologies can play a key role in advancing global efforts to address desertification, land degradation and drought while delivering greater opportunities for agricultural producers and national economies. Many financial solutions already exist, but they are often unevenly implemented or not widely available. Close to one-third of adults – 1.7 billion about half of whom were women – still did not have access to financial services in 2017, according to the latest Findex data. Financial inclusion is also instrumental to the secure disbursement of funds by donors as well as to the operation of civil society organizations, especially in remote rural areas. It is an enabler of eight of the seventeen Sustainable Development Goals and is a key tool for achieving gender equality and empowering women financially. A new report "Financial and digital inclusion for last mile payments: Trends, sustainable land use and disruptive financial service options," published by the Global Mechanism of UNCCD, explores the range of elements that make up financial inclusion and last-mile payments, and can significantly contribute to addressing the challenges of land degradation and drought while empowering the most vulnerable and underserved populations, specifically women and youth. Mobile banking and payments provide affordable and convenient access to financial services, especially in rural areas, while carbon credits can create incentives for landholders and farmers adopting sustainable land management practices to combat land degradation and desertification. The report provides successful examples of innovative financial solutions and technologies that can be scaled up to support new business models and generate economic benefits while restoring soil health, reducing land degradation, preventing forced migration, improving food security, protecting biodiversity and supporting climate resilience.
All 16 countries in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) have committed to accelerating multi-sectoral transformation through a regional initiative inspired by the Great Green Wall in the Sahel, or SADC Great Green Wall Initiative (GGWI). The SADC Initiative aims to create productive landscapes in the Southern Africa region that contribute to regional socially inclusive economic prosperity and environmental sustainability. Together with countries and key partners the goal is to initiate multisectoral partnerships and to acquire pledges of an indicative US$ 27 billion by 2025. In a leap forward in the implementation of the SADC GGWI, the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), its Global Mechanism and the African Union Development Agency (AUDA-NEPAD), in collaboration with the SADC Secretariat, the African Union Commission (AUC) and the Commonwealth Secretariat brought together more than 50 key regional and international partners in Cape Town, South Africa in March 2023. The partners worked together to identify concrete next steps and recommendations to mobilize financing and coordinate action on the ground. Building on the momentum, the World Bank together with the SADC Secretariat, the UNCCD, the AUC, AUDA-NEPAD and the Commonwealth Secretariat convened the SADC Ministers of Finance on 12 April 2023, during the World Bank Spring Meetings in Washington DC. The SADC Ministers of Finance welcomed the progress made to date on the SADC GGWI and highlighted the importance of the initiative to address the challenges facing the region. They also stressed the need for an economic analysis of the cost of inaction and ‘business as usual’. Covering a total land area of 10 million km2, Southern Africa faces immediate effects of desertification, land degradation and drought, as well as challenges driven by climate change, biodiversity loss, and unsustainable development practices in agriculture, energy and infrastructure sectors. In his welcome remarks, Floribert Ngaruko, World Bank Group Executive Director Africa Group 1, said the Spring Meetings were identified as a critical gathering to engage and discuss the SADC Great Green Wall Initiative, noting it demonstrates Member States’ commitments toward deeper regional integration as articulated by the SADC Treaty, SADC Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan (RISDP) 2020-2030 and other regional policies and strategies. “Our collective efforts should help us achieve a green and resilient future for the SADC region,” stated H.E. Elias M. Magosi, SADC Executive Secretary. He further reiterated the need for capacity building for resource mobilization, as well as for the implementation of the Initiative across the 16 SADC nations. Resource mobilization is key for the success of the SADC GGWI. The financing and development partners expressed their commitment to leverage opportunities and to work together to mobilize financing for the region, in line with the SADC GGWI Strategy. “The Great Green Wall is an initiative that brings different actors together and we are excited about the multisectoral nature of this initiative. This initiative is part of a broader economic and development plan – if we restore land but are not able to reap the benefits of that healthy and restored land due to lack of access to renewable energy and infrastructure, hindering access to markets and livelihoods, then we are only halfway there with our vision,” said Louise Baker, Managing Director of the UNCCD Global Mechanism. With support from countries and partners in the region, the scale and impact of the SADC GGWI is expected to grow exponentially in the next two years. While there is much work ahead, the message from the countries and the partners is clear: the political support is already there – embedded in existing structures and frameworks of the SADC – what is needed is better coordination and collaboration across sectors and actors.
As one of the pilot countries to set up the land restoration targets under the UNCCD Land Degradation Neutrality target-setting programme, Armenia has been strategically placed to welcome the members of the UNCCD International Working Group on Drought (IWG) to share national successes in harnessing the adaptation potential of restored natural landscapes. In the words of the UNCCD COP15 President Alain Richard Donwahi, in the challenging times of uncertainty, geopolitical tensions and conflict, the meeting of IWG on Drought demonstrates that the coming-together of countries to protect the environment has the power to eclipse national interests and conflicting agendas to improve lives. One of the least forested countries in the Caucasus Region, with just over ten per cent of forest cover still intact, Armenia is stongly motivated to invest major efforts in projects such as the restoration on natural and agricultural landscapes around the closed stone mines in Artik. The IWG members who gathered in Yerevan earlier this month had an opportunity to meet the activists from the local youth eco-club who presented the positive impact of the project for local communities. Restoring land cover, reinforcing river slopes and planting pioneer tree species on the site of the abandoned stone quarry created a natural barrier against weather extremes, providing residents with a park and a recreation area, and introducing new habitats for a more diverse flora and fauna. Over the course of the project, water pipelines have also been restored and an automated early warning system installed at a local weather station to improve protection against environmental hazards. The total number of beneficiaries of the project is estimated at over 15 000 people, 60 per cent of whom are women. While thanking the government Armenia for hosting the IWG meeting, UNCCD Executive Secretary Ibrahim Thiaw called the attention of participants to the importance of united efforts and a strong political commitment to increase the resilience of nations and communities to extreme weather events, reduce human suffering and promote sustainable development. The IWG on Drought was established by the UNCCD COP 15 to identify and evaluate the full spectrum of options, including global policy instruments, regional policy frameworks and national plans to effectively manage drought under the Convention and support a shift from reactive to proactive drought management. In his remarks the Minister of Environment of the Republic of Armenia Hakob Simidyan stressed that the problem of combating land degradation has become of strategic importance to the country. With about 70 per cent of the territory affected by desertification, and 30 per cent severely degraded, mitigating and preventing the effects of drought becomes all-important for the stable and sustainable national development. The attendees also received a training in skill development for multilateral negotiations, delivered in English and Russian, since many participants came from the Central and Eastern Europe, Central Asia and the Caucasus region. The acquired skill set will serve as an important asset for national delegates at the upcoming UNCCD CRIC21 in October 2023 and the COP16 in 2024.