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Annex III: Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC)

While well known for rainforests, Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) are actually about one-fourth desert and drylands (20,533,000 km2). The deserts of the Pacific coast stretch from southern Ecuador across the entire Peruvian shoreline to northern Chile. Further inland, at altitudes of 3,000-4,500 meters, the high plains, or Altiplano, of the Andean mountains cover large areas of Peru, Bolivia, Chile, and Argentina. To the east of the Andes, an arid region extends from Chaco‘s northern reaches in Paraguay to Patagonia in southern Argentina. In northeastern Brazil, the landscape is dominated by semi-arid zones and tropical savannahs.

Desertification and degradation of natural resources seriously affect nearly all countries of the LAC region. The region’s rural areas are home to 125 million people, including 60 percent of the poorest people in the region. These regions are particularly affected by land degradation, which is a factor in the vicious circle of land overexploitation, degradation, increased demands on production, greater poverty, food insecurity and migration.

The LAC region faces many challenges caused by land degradation. Severe droughts and land degradation have made the countries in Central America extremely vulnerable to natural disasters, delaying their sustainable development. Large parts of Colombia and Venezuela are highly degraded. In the arid zones of the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Haiti and Jamaica, erosion and water shortages are noticeably intensifying. Most of Mexico is arid and semi-arid, mainly in the north.

Poverty and pressure on natural resources are critical factors driving land degradation in much of Latin America and the Caribbean. In a region with 465 million inhabitants, around 110 million live below the poverty line. Land degradation threatens the subsistence of a large part of the population living in rural areas – making it more difficult for people to earn a living wage. These conditions often force inhabitants in degraded areas to migrate.

Latin America and the Caribbean: Regional cooperation

The Regional Annex for Latin America and the Caribbean strongly emphasizes the need for sustainable development. The Convention has strong political support in the region. Every country is a party to the Convention, and the issues of land degradation, desertification and drought are constantly integrated into the national agendas for sustainable development and poverty reduction.

National Action Programmes (NAPs) have been formulated by most countries, taking a bottom-up approach with involvement from all relevant stakeholders, including civil society organizations.

LAC countries have defined national voluntary land degradation neutrality (LDN) targets and the elements needed to implement this methodology at national level, as part of the process to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), in particular the SDG goal 15.3. Currently there are 22 LAC countries participating in the LDN Target Setting Programme (LDN TSP). Three of these - Costa Rica, Chile and Grenada – have been selected as pilot countries.

A regional coordination unit (RCU) is hosted by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) in Santiago de Chile.

Contact Regional Liaison Office for Latin America and the Caribbean (Annex III)

Mr. Jose Miguel Torrico

Programme Officer
Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC)
T: 0 562 2210 2017

Skype: jose.miguel.torrico

Offices N-27 and N-40, Northern Building, Division of CELADE
Dag Hammarskjöld 3477
Postal Code: 7630412
Vitacura, Santiago de Chile

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From potential to prosperity: the role of land restoration. UNCCD statement at LDC5

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.

From potential to prosperity: the role of land restoration. UNCCD statement at LDC5