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Mr. President, Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen, Let me first join previous speakers to express, on behalf of the secretariat of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, Land degradation and Drought (UNCCD), our deepest appreciation and gratitude to the Government of the State of Qatar for hosting the fifth UN Conference on Least Developed countries. The world over, we are seeing common challenges. Widespread land degradation. Biodiversity in decline. Natural disasters and extreme weather events, exacerbated by climate change. Everyone is starting to feel the sting, but there is no doubt that the 46 least-developed countries (LDCs) have been facing these challenges for far longer and at a far-greater intensity. Such events have a disproportionate impact on LDCs in terms of economic losses, deaths, disrupted livelihoods and damage to infrastructure. About a quarter of people in LDCs live on severely degraded lands. Over 34 per cent of crop and livestock production loss in LDCs is traced to drought. This cost to agriculture? USD 37 billion between 2008 and 2018. There are many ways that LDCs, with the support of the international community, can act. Today, I will focus on the critical role of the land: specifically, land restoration, drought resilience and agriculture that build on sustainable land management. Land restoration, sustainable agriculture and nature-based solutions are a smart investment, for many reasons. They create jobs quickly: on average, between 7 and 40 jobs per US$1 million invested. Planting trees or restoring floodplains, for example, are labour-intensive tasks that are well suited to public employment programs. Such employment options are important for LDCs, in which the youth population is expected to rise to 300 million by 2050, almost double 2010 figures. Land restoration, sustainable agriculture and nature-based solutions can reach other segments of the labour market. For instance, thousands of small and medium-sized enterprises are active in forest and land restoration efforts. They could contribute to job creation and economic growth, if supported. Encouragingly, we are seeing a growing movement for healthy land. Farmers and herders using sustainable land management practices are minimizing degradation, increasing drought resilience, and nursing degraded land back to health. There are many examples. More than five million hectares have been restored in Niger’s Zinder province, boosting food security for more than 2.5 million people. Malawi is dedicating 1.5 per cent of its domestic budget to its Youth Forest Restoration Program, employing thousands of young people to revitalize 50,000 hectares of land. In Ethiopia, large-scale land restoration of degraded watersheds over five years saw gross primary production in treated locations grew by 13.5 per cent on average in areas affected by severe droughts. A major limiting factor to wider action is domestic budgetary resources. So, we need bilateral and multilateral donors to step in. There are many ways to do this. For example, countries and donor institutions can explore opportunities linking debt forgiveness to investments in land restoration and other nature-based solutions. Backing healthy land in LDCs is a win-win solution. Employment creation would reduce poverty: building markets for products from developed countries and reducing forced migration. Increasing food production through sustainable land management in LDCs would enhance stability in the global food market. Sustainable land-use practices can also capture carbon, helping to stabilize the climate. Mr. President, distinguished delegates, Yes, LDCs are facing challenges. But LDCs, with the appropriate international support, can use their land, their biodiversity and their natural resources to overcome these challenges. To become thriving nature-positive economies. And to ensure that their people are healthy, happy and prosperous. Should LDCs prioritize their investments in restoring their degraded lands, in enhancing their resilience to droughts, when they meet at LDC6 in a decade, poverty and hunger will have substantially decreased, decent land-based jobs and exportation of agriculture produce will have thrived. This can accelerate the pace of transitioning from the LDCs to middle income group of countries. Thank you.
1 March 2023, Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire It is a pleasure to be back in the wonderful city of Abidjan, at the kind invitation of our President. I have always enjoyed visiting Abidjan, but this visit has a special significance, as it is the first since our memorable COP15. So there is now in my calendar a pre-CoP15 and a post-CoP15. Much progress has been made since we last met in Bonn (in October). I would say that our beating of the “drought and land restoration” drums seem to be bearing fruit. This is good news as we certainly need to do much more, at scale. Indeed, despite our past efforts, more land is being degraded, more rivers drying up, more wetlands and more forests destroyed. Simply put, the additional demand on natural resources imposed by our lifestyle is not commensurate with the capacity of our planet to regenerate itself. Our relative prosperity (if ever the extraordinary inequality in the world allows us to use the word prosperity) our prosperity, I said, is nothing but an ecological illusion. Land, water, ecosystems and natural environments are all showing signs of weakness, if not collapse. Never - since the industrial revolution - has the world been hit by such strong and violent gusts of drought (often followed by floods). Never have we destroyed as many forests, degraded as much fertile land or extracted as much water for our agricultural, industrial or basic human needs. On the positive side, we have never had access to so much science and knowledge about how to reduce the pressure on resources; how to live better in harmony with nature; how to ration water use for irrigation; how to regenerate soils and promote more respectful practices. It is in this way that the decisions adopted by our COPs serve as political reference; as a gauge of the willingness of the Parties to contribute to solutions; of the political will of the Parties to collaborate to mitigate the effects of land degradation and drought. It is also in this regard that we appreciate the decisions of the Group of 20 richest countries in the world to engage in land restoration, in collaboration with other interested Nations. We see this as an expression of political will. The first meeting of the Steering Committee of the G20 Land Restoration Initiative held in Saudi Arabia, is a clear signal of proactive cooperation in this area. At the recent COP of the Climate Change Convention in Egypt, the International Drought Resilience Alliance (IDRA) was created! Spurred on by the President of the Republic of Senegal and The Prime Minister of Spain, IDRA is a high-level global alliance, to promote international cooperation and collaboration to mitigate the effects of drought. The first meeting of the Alliance's Steering Committee is scheduled to take place in a few days in New York. The International Drought resilience Alliance, which brings together more than 30 countries, Development Banks and financial mechanisms, UN entities, inter-governmental and non-governmental organizations. IDRA signals world leaders’ commitment to making drought resilience a priority in national development and cooperation policy. It is a partnership to address the increased centrality of the land and drought agendas in the global multilateral agenda. It responds to your calls at COP15 that we need to shift from reactive to preventive – so it will help transition quickly from the current emergency response to build drought resilience. Very much in line with this, and as decided by our COP15, the Inter-Governmental Working Group on Drought had its first meeting also in November of last year; a second meeting is scheduled for 13 and 14 March in Yerevan – with many thanks to Armenia for hosting this important meeting. But several other important UNCCD processes have kick started since we last met. The Science Policy Interface held its first meeting this past December. The Midterm evaluation of the UNCCD Strategic Framework is underway. Its own Intergovernmental working group met from 13-15 February to agree on the set-up for this comprehensive review of the progress made since 2018. Another positive development to note is the National Reporting. A total of 115 UNCCD Parties (the vast majority) have already submitted their national reports. The team is busy compiling the data in time for the next session of the Committee of Review of Implementation. The next CRIC session, scheduled to take place in Samarkand (Uzbekistan) in October, will consider the results of these reports. Now turning to the Global Mechanism, COP 15 requested that the Global Mechanism develop a methodology and conduct a needs assessment to determine the financial requirements for the implementation of the Convention and develop a time-bound strategy to increase fund mobilization based on this needs assessment. We are pleased to report that the methodology will be tested and show-cased at CRIC with results made available at COP 16. Progress was also made on the LDN TSP 2.0 – your plan to improve LDN targets (to ensure they are more quantitative, specific, policy-coherent, linked to the integrated land use planning and gender responsiveness). Now let me turn to external developments which are helping boost our agenda. As you know, COP15 the Convention on Biological Diversity took place in December in Montreal, where Parties adopted the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework to galvanize halting and reversing biodiversity loss. Of particular relevance to UNCCD is the Goal which makes explicit reference to land restoration. Notably the ambition to achieve at least 30% of restoration of degraded areas by 2030. This is a good complement to the various land restoration projects across the world, including the Great Green Wall of the Sahel, the Middle East Green Initiative, the Dry Corridor of Latin America, the AFR100 in Africa to name just a few. Which brings me to The G20 Global Land Restoration Initiative. The Coordination office is now fully staffed. The Steering Committee (made up of G20 representatives, UNEP and FAO) held its first meeting in November in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and discussed the Initiative Strategy as well as the terms of Reference for the Committee. Now allow me to be a bit more forward looking. I recently returned from a trip to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia who will graciously host UNCD COP 16. You will have received a more detailed briefing in writing on the status of the organization of COP16, so I just wanted to stress how engaged our future host country is in receiving us in 2024. I am sure our Bureau member from Saudi Arabia will elaborate more on this. On my part, I came back from Riyadh convinced that we will have a great COP 16. I look forward to your deliberations and guidance on the different items of the draft agenda in front of you. Thank you.
Land degradation is one of the key triggers of migration in Central Asia, confirms a new study released by UNCCD this month. In the region where drought and desertification cause annual losses of about USD 6 billion, the number of people who migrate each year in search of work amounts to 2.5–4.3 million, or 10-15% of the economically active population. The findings of the study became the focus of an online discussion hosted by the convention, inviting authors and contributors from Central Asia, representatives of partner organizations and over 100 virtual attendees who could contribute to the discussion via an online chat. Remarking on the timeliness of the new study, the UNCCD Chief of Global Policy Advocacy and Regional Cooperation Unit Miriam Medel García emphasized that the project has been requested by the countries of Central Asia – Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan – to aid in the implementation of the Convention and to demonstrate how measures addressing desertification, land degradation and drought (DLDD) can support more positive and organized migration flows. Expressing sincere appreciation for the support of the Russian Federation in financing the study, Ms. Medel remarked that its conclusions and policy recommendations, while specifically targeted in Central Asia, are also applicable to any country seeking to overcome the challenges of DLDD by creating safely nets for vulnerable rural populations through land-based green growth and sustainable value chains. Welcoming the study, the representative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia Vladimir Uskov remarked on the key role of UNCCD as the leading international mechanism for addressing DLDD – the issue that affects the entire region and needs to be addressed at the regional level. He noted that the study helps better understand the complex relationships between many factors that contribute to land degradation, climate change and migration in Central Asia. He expressed hope that the study will also contribute to the work of the interregional group launched at UNCCD COP14 to facilitate the implementation of the Convention, and confirmed the willingness of the Russian Federation to further contribute support and scientific expertise. In their detailed presentations, the authors of the study called attention to land degradation as a “quiet” planetary crisis, whose effects are devastating and wide-spread. Using latest land degradation assessment tools authored by the UNCCD, they identified the main hot spots of land and water crises in the region. As climate change manifests itself through more frequent and prolonged droughts, combined with anthropogenic pressures, the resulting decrease in land productivity and loss of income leads to migration in search of livelihood. The study highlights that while the economies of both the source and receiving countries rely on migrant workers, the income of migrants remains highly vulnerable, as became evident during the COVID-19 pandemic. Moreover, money earned by migrants does not support future security – 98% of what migrants earn is spent on everyday expenses, with almost nothing into savings or investments, not to mention the practices of sustainable land use. Both representatives of the Central Asian countries and international organizations – IOM, FAO, UNDP and CAREC – that provided extensive inputs into the study, also stressed the need for further scientific collaboration for knowledge sharing on sustainable land management. The new study reveals that the widespread adoption of effective land use approaches that already exist across the region depends on creating financing opportunities for farmers and improving knowledge-sharing. Long-term investments are needed to fundamentally improve the state of agricultural land and to make agricultural work more attractive, particularly to youth, through development and implementation of sustainable land use models and land-based climate adaptation technologies that require advanced skills and higher levels of education. To ensure that the results of the study have a real impact, helping improve living standards and productivity in the agricultural sector while regulating migration, the authors proposed further research, where sustainable land management practices in the region would be assessed using a variety of efficiency indicators, such as the size of the restored land area, water and energy efficiency, social satisfaction, gender equity and improved living standards. The authors believe that the main criterion of resilience and effectiveness of each model of sustainable land use, especially under the conditions of climate change, should be the potential to achieve land degradation neutrality.
Bonn, Germany, 10 February 2023 – Today, the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) and the Korea Forest Service of the Republic of Korea signed a new Memorandum of Understanding to further support Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN). Welcoming the new agreement, UNCCD Executive Secretary Ibrahim Thiaw said: “I take this opportunity to thank Korea Forest Service and the Republic of Korea for their leadership and commitment to the work of the UNCCD in restoring balance with nature and advancing the global target of net zero land loss. Your continued political and financial support through the Changwon Initiative will be essential for consolidating partnerships and accelerating the achievement of a land-degradation neutral world.” Speaking at the signing ceremony, Sang Seop Lim, Deputy Minister of the Korea Forest Service, commented: “I hope that we will not only expand cooperation but also deliver greater results and that thereby we will be able to develop a strong partnership and best practices that will benefit the international community.” The Changwon Initiative, which was a major outcome of UNCCD COP10 that took place in the Republic of Korea in 2011, has inspired and catalyzed the global target of “a land-degradation neutral world” enshrined in the Sustainable Development Goals. Activities supported through the initiative turned the vision of LDN into a concrete concept known as the "net zero land loss” to stabilize the quantity and quality of land resources and the ecosystems it supports. The Changwon Initiative has been an important success factor for some of the most significant results achieved by the UNCCD over the past decade. The second phase of the Initiative focuses on enhancing the scientific process to support the Convention’s implementation, promoting partnerships at all levels to improve livelihoods of affected populations, addressing sub-regional and regional challenges through land restoration and reforestation, and promoting synergies with other relevant conventions and international organizations. The Changwon Initiative continued support for the LDN Target-Setting Programme is helping countries set their voluntary national LDN targets and define measures for achieving them. To date, some 130 countries have joined the programme and more than 100 of those have already committed themselves not to degrade more land than they restore. The Initiative’s contribution has also been essential to the secretariat’s work on sand and dust storms (SDS), with a number of knowledge and guidance products launched to date: the SDS Compendium and the Global SDS Source Base-Map. Connecting researchers and policymakers through the UNCCD Science-Policy Interface, the Initiative has been key to providing a strong scientific foundation to the development of policy decisions and ensuring that the latest knowledge on drought and land restoration are reflected in national policies. This expert guidance, packaged in the Global Land Outlook, as well as its regional and thematic editions, delivers relevant and current information to practitioners and policymakers, enabling UNCCD Parties to effectively plan, implement and monitor their commitments to healthy land. Showcasing good practices in sustainable land management is another key objective for the Changwon Initiative. For over ten years, the Land for Life Award has brought to light over 20 outstanding projects in more than a dozen countries worldwide, proving that land restoration can be an effective solution to climate change and biodiversity loss while contributing to job creation and food security. The ongoing support through the Changwon Initiative toward action-oriented UNCCD programmes will enable the Convention to continue and scale up its efforts to provide collaborative and evidence-based support to country Parties who strive to end land degradation and safeguard land resources. For more information, contact: UNCCD: Ms. Xenya Scanlon Chief, Communications, External Relations and Partnerships T: +49 152 5454 0492 E: email@example.com About 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. https://www.unccd.int/ The Korea Forest Service (KFS) is an independent agency specializing in forestry that is overseen by the Ministry for Food, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries of the Republic of Korea. The KFS has the overall responsibility for establishment and implementation of forest policies and laws and delivers projects based on rehabilitation technologies in collaboration between the government and the private sector. The agency is actively involved with all three UN Rio Conventions: UNCCD, CBD and UNFCCC, contributing to global environmental issues. To take the leading role in both bilateral and regional cooperation for mitigating desertification and drought, the KFS is promoting closer cooperation through bilateral forestry cooperation arrangements and establishment of the Northeast Asia Forest Network. https://www.forest.go.kr/
Gracing every continent of the Earth, wetlands are essential to the planet’s health, often compared to its vital organs, acting as arteries that carry water and as kidneys that filter harmful substances. Wetlands serve as the watchful sentinels of our wellbeing: they form protective barriers against tsunamis and sponge up the excess rainfall to reduce flood surges. During the dry season in arid climates, wetlands release the stored water which helps delay the onset of drought and reduce water shortages. They also store vast quantities of carbon, helping mitigate climate change. Home to some of the most diverse and fertile ecosystems, wetlands support livelihoods of 1 billion people. 40 percent of all plant and animal species live or breed in wetlands. World Wetlands Day is observed each year on 2 February to increase people’s understanding of the critical importance of wetlands and raise awareness of the urgent need to protect these fragile and threatened natural gems. “We at UNCCD are proud to join in this celebration and recognize the unique and valuable ecosystem services provided by wetlands. We are committed to doing our part to conserve and protect wetlands, and we are calling on all of you to join us in this vital cause,” said UNCCD Executive Secretary Ibrahim Thiaw. To date, nearly 90 percent of the world’s wetlands have been degraded or lost, with 35 percent in the last 50 years alone. That is why on this World Wetlands Day, UNCCD is joining the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands and other partners to highlight the examples of countries and communities making strides in wetland restoration. Indonesia: Creating green wildfire barriers Drained peatlands pose a high risk of fires that are devastating for people, nature and climate. In 2015, fires in Indonesia emitted more carbon dioxide a day than the entire US economy. More than half of these fires occurred in peatlands, causing an economic loss of US$ 16 billion. Rewetting and restoring peatlands can enhance drought resilience and lower the risk of wildfires. In the Sebangau National Park in Kalimantan, Indonesia — home to one-fifth of the world’s orangutan population — measures to restore the forests and rewet peatlands have helped prevent the spread of wildfires. Argentina: Rewilding jaguar habitats The Iberá wetlands in Argentina comprise the largest freshwater aquatic ecosystem in South America and are the focus of an ambitious rewilding endeavor across 7,000 square kilometers of northeast Argentina’s Corrientes Province. A jaguar reintroduction program started in 2015 first bore fruit in 2018 when two new wild jaguar cubs were born in the newly formed Iberá Park, the first in decades. Reintroductions of the red and green macaw started in 2015 with just 15 birds, and by 2020 they had successfully raised wild chicks for the first time in 150 years.352 353 Formerly extinct throughout Argentina, the return of this charismatic species – an important seed disperser for many plant species – is a further mark of the program’s success. Nigeria: Growing the Great Green Wall In Nigeria, the national Great Green Wall (GGW) program is being implemented across 11 frontline states, with a population of over 40 million people and comprising 43% of the country’s land. Nigeria is threatened by recurrent droughts, persistent land degradation, and encroaching desertification spreading across grasslands and wetlands. One of the key components of the national GGW program is the establishment of a contiguous 1,400-kilometer shelterbelt (windbreak) from Kebbi state in the northwest to Borno state in the northeast, to ward off Harmattan winds from the Sahara. Iran: Replenishing a biosphere reserve In Iran, a clear signal of vanishing wetlands is the increased frequency and intensity of dust storms, heralding the advance of desertification. The basin of Lake Urmia is home to 6.4 million people and 200 species of birds. Agricultural expansion and population growth over the past decades led to the over-exploitation of lake’s resources, causing land degradation. To remedy the situation, Iran has launched a sustainable management project for the lake, working with local communities. Engineering works have helped to unblock and un-silt the feeder rivers, and there has been a deliberate release of water from dams in the surrounding areas. China: Reviving Himalayan wildlife Situated at the headwaters of the Yellow River, the sedge-dominated peatlands in the Ruoergai plateau in China store water and supply it to downstream areas. They are also home to endemic and endangered Himalayan wildlife species. In the 1960-70s, these peatlands, which had been drained for agriculture, began to be badly damaged by overgrazing, with over 70 percent severely degraded as a result. A peatland restoration project implemented on almost 5,000 ha over six years included blocking the canals and cultivating vegetation to raise the water table. Rewetting targeted areas resulted in enhanced carbon sequestration and reduced emissions. Restored sites also recreated habitats for endemic amphibians and birds, while water stored in previously dry canals provides water for livestock, supporting local communities Belarus: Bringing peatlands back to life In Belarus, massive peat excavation resulted in about 300,000 ha drained to harvest peat deposits for fuel. Since 2018, a peatland restoration project, supported by UNCCD, is centered on around the application of rewetting techniques and improvements in monitoring, forecasting and early warning of peatland fires. Rewetting and re-naturalization of peatlands provides vast ecosystem benefits: the increased level of ground water reduces drought risks while preventing further mineralization of peats locks the soil carbon in the rewetted areas, removing it from the atmosphere. Rewetted peatlands also have a larger potential to sustain biodiversity and supply additional income-generating opportunities for local populations, such as cranberry harvesting. As emphasized by the UNCCD Executive Secretary Ibrahim Thiaw, successful wetland restoration requires a concerted effort from governments, civil society and the private sector. Investments in science for technology innovation, infrastructure for effective management and financial mechanisms for project implementation can turn the tide toward a better future for wetlands. Photo credit: @UNDP_Belarus
I grew up thinking that wetlands can only be used for livelihoods. I caught fish, practiced recession agriculture and collected firewood and herbs from floodplains. Wetlands were also part of my playground. As a professional, I took part in a Ramsar COP in Canada, which exposed me to the idea of wetlands being drained and misused for human activities. The concept of wise use of wetlands was born as a compromise and a bridge between the need to make use of this essential resource for millions and the absolute necessity of protecting these vital ecosystems. Wetlands are sometimes called “nature's kidneys” because of how critical they are for the overall health of our planet. Wetlands in drylands have the double characteristic of being critically important for life and being extremely vulnerable. Indeed, drylands, experience prolonged periods of drought and water scarcity. As such, they are being critically threatened by human activities and environmental change. Celebrated this year under the theme “iIt's time for wetland restoration,” World Wetlands Day is particularly appealing to the UN Convention to Combat Desertification. We must invest in wetland restoration and regeneration. This requires a concerted effort from governments, civil society, and the private sector. Invest in science and technology for innovation, infrastructure for effective management, and financial mechanisms to support wetland restoration. We must protect and manage wetlands in a way that considers the needs of local communities and the rights of Indigenous peoples. We must remember that wetlands are not just important for us, but they are part of our shared heritage. They are a source of beauty and wonder and they are a reminder of our interconnectedness with nature. They are the main source of livelihoods for millions around the world. We at UNCCD are proud to join in this celebration and recognize the unique and valuable ecosystem services provided by wetlands. We are committed to doing our part to conserve and protect wetlands, and we are calling on all of you to join us in this vital cause. On this World Wetlands Day, let us come together in a unified voice to revive and restore these essential habitats. Together, we can make a difference.