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New study links climate change, land degradation and migration in Central Asia

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.

New study links climate change, land degradation and migration in Central Asia
UNCCD and the Republic of Korea usher in a new era of cooperation to advance 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: press@unccd.int 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/ 

UNCCD and the Republic of Korea usher in a new era of cooperation to advance Land Degradation Neutrality
Wet wonderlands: Making a case for wetland restoration 

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 

Wet wonderlands: Making a case for wetland restoration 
World Wetlands Day 2023: Statement by Ibrahim Thiaw

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.

World Wetlands Day 2023: Statement by Ibrahim Thiaw
UNCCD joins forces with a top US-based academic partner to advance global drought resilience agenda 

Drought is one of nature's costliest disasters – across the globe, more frequent and prolonged droughts are up nearly by a third since 2000. No country or region is immune to their impacts, which cost the global economy billions of dollars each year and range from the loss of life, livelihoods and biodiversity to water and food insecurity, disruption in the energy, transportation and tourism sectors, as well as forced migration, displacement and conflicts over scarce resources.  As the drought resilience and preparedness are taking the center stage in the global efforts to bolster the economies and communities against natural disasters, the new collaboration launched today between the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) and the National Drought Mitigation Center (NDMC) at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln is particularly timely.   According to the cooperation agreement signed by the UNCCD Executive Secretary Ibrahim Thiaw, the Vice Chancellor of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Michael Boehm and NDMC Director and Associate Professor Mark Svoboda, the NDMC will be tasked with recommending approaches to integrated drought risk management focused on drought-smart land-based solutions.   The Center will also serve as a think tank on emerging drought policy issues, convening independent scientific debate on drought resilience and providing methodological guidance on knowledge management related to SDG targets of building disaster resilience, mitigating water scarcity and achieving land degradation neutrality.   The UNCCD Executive Secretary Ibrahim Thiaw welcomed the new agreement by saying that it “will help to foster better collaboration between UNCCD, and local and national institutions, and to develop and share best practices on drought resilience and adaptation. Through this partnership, we will increase access to information and knowledge and will be able to provide technical guidance and support to countries and communities to build their capacity to manage drought risk and vulnerability.”  “This is the next step in formalizing the collaboration on drought risk management between the UNCCD and the NDMC," said Mark Svoboda, Director of the National Drought Mitigation Center. “We look forward to this next stage, building on the NDMC’s long track record with international drought planning.”  Today’s signing builds on the successful cooperation between NDMC and UNCCD over the past decade. The Center, whose mission is to reduce the effects of drought on people, the environment and the economy by researching the science of drought monitoring and the practice of drought planning, is an active participant in several drought-related initiatives spearheaded by the Convention, including the Intergovernmental Working Group on Drought, the UNCCD Science-Policy Interface and the UNCCD-led Drought Toolbox. These platforms are focused on supporting decision-makers and practitioners in adopting timely, proactive and coordinated approach to drought risk management.   “For more than 25 years, the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln has provided invaluable guidance to communities and other entities across the United States and around the world seeking to understand drought, plan for drought events and ultimately reduce the negative effects of such events,” said Mike Boehm, NU Vice President and Harlan Vice Chancellor for the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources at UNL. “It is an honor to work with the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification to offer these essential tools more broadly to combat drought and improve lives worldwide.”  The future collaboration between UNCCD and NDMC is envisioned as a working partnership that will utilize the latest science to help reduce the high human, social and economic costs of drought and water scarcity. The partnership will focus on recommending methods for integrated drought risk management that prioritize a strategic shift from emergency response to building long-term resilience through early warning, vulnerability assessment and risk mitigation.   Catalyzing political will and accelerating action to enable such a shift is the ambition of the International Drought Resilience Alliance (IDRA) launched last November at the UN Climate Summit that brings together 30 countries and over 20 entities.   At the forefront of these efforts is the drought-smart sustainable land management: adapted to the national and regional contexts, it has the potential to buffer ecosystems and communities against drought so that periods of water scarcity do not escalate to humanitarian or ecological disasters.   For more information, contact:  UNCCD: Ms. Xenya Scanlon  Chief, Communications, External Relations and Partnerships  T: +49 152 5454 0492  E: xscanlon@unccd.int   NDMC: Ms. Leah Campbell  Communications Specialist  National Drought Mitigation Center  University of Nebraska-Lincoln  T: +1 402 472 8121  E: lcampbell21@unl.edu  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 in order to provide food, water, shelter and economic opportunity to all people in an equitable and inclusive manner.  https://www.unccd.int/   The National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln helps people, organizations and institutions build resilience to drought. Our mission is to reduce the effects of drought on people, the environment and the economy by researching the science of drought monitoring and the practice of drought planning. We collaborate with and learn from decision-makers at all levels across the U.S. and around the world.   https://drought.unl.edu/  

UNCCD joins forces with a top US-based academic partner to advance global drought resilience agenda