Statement by UNCCD Executive Secretary Mr. Ibrahim Thiaw
Bureau members, distinguished delegates,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Let me first offer my warmest congratulations to you Madam Chair and Bureau members on your election at the helm of this Committee. You are carrying out your duties in difficult times.
Permit me at the outset, to formally introduce the report of the Secretary General contained in document A/76/225. Allow me to highlight four elements.
First: This planet is the only home there is for the 7.9 B people that we are. Building back better (or, even best, building forward better) from the pandemic will only succeed if we reset our relationships with nature. We live on land. Land provides us with the food we eat, the clothes that protect us, the feed needed for our animals, the air we breathe, and the water we drink.
Yet, we have already altered three-quarters of the ice-free land. Science warns us that unless we change gears, by 2050, only 10% of the land will be immune of scars caused by one species: Homo sapiens.
Desertification, land degradation are amongst the most serious wounds we are inflicting on ourselves. Droughts remain a major threat to the world economy and stability.
There is however a silver lining. Avoiding, reducing and restoring degraded land appears to be amongst the most pragmatic, economically affordable and socially acceptable nature-based solutions to the multiple challenges we face: combatting land degradation and climate change and reducing biodiversity loss.
Land restoration also increases food production. Improves water availability and water quality. Creates green jobs and increases social stability.
Restoring the ecosystems, we have degraded, the forests we have chopped, connecting land to the people, rich or poor, who live off land. Re-connecting land to our economies.
Our current production and consumption patterns require 1,7 planets. Our greed for natural resources, combined with our lifestyle, are affecting our health and wellbeing.
Second: Placed at the center of our sustainable development efforts, land offers, as I said before, an avenue for addressing multiple challenges. In this respect, achieving land degradation neutrality as envisaged in SDG.15, is key to achieving other SDGs. Land restoration offers a reliable platform to achieve multiple goals.
And here we speak of grasslands, drylands or rangelands which are ecosystems overlooked at a global level. Their sustainable management is the most concrete action that the international community can support and witness a quick impact on economies, and on livelihoods.
Third: Building back better in the aftermath of the pandemic will be very costly and the trajectory to achieve SDGs seriously disturbed. As greening the economies has been seen as a pathway to sustainability, land-based jobs can be a game-changer. Land restoration can underpin the future economy. It can be a formidable machine to create millions of decent green jobs, particularly for women and youth. It can lower the vulnerability index, particularlyin countries which are in special categories, especially the LDCs, SIDs and LLDCs.
Lastly, on droughts. Though droughts are not new phenomenon, their frequency and intensity have been amplified by the changing climate. With droughts, most economies are in yoyo. They take a heavy toll on GDPs, destabilize social fabrics. Droughts accelerate forced migrations, both within national boundaries and across borders. Droughts are associated with wildfires, food insecurity and human tragedies. It is time for the international community to take droughts for what they are: a global emergency. Global emergencies know no borders and are indifferent to political ideologies. Only international cooperation can address them in a meaningful way, as reflected in the report before you.
Permit me to say a few words on the High-level dialogue on desertification, land degradation and drought hosted by the President of the 75th session of the General Assembly. Which indeed was a resounding success. It contributed to raising the profile and the ambitions the global leadership is paying to restoring degraded lands. I take this opportunity to express the gratitude of the UNCCD to the General Assembly for this opportunity. I also want to thank H.E. Volkan BOZKIR, President of the 75th session of the General Assembly for his steadfast support.
Finally, let me take this opportunity to inform the Committee that the next Conference of the Parties to the UNCCD (COP 15) will be held in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire. Please note the dates: second and third weeks of May 2022. I wish to request to the delegation of Cote d’Ivoire to convey to the country’s leadership our vote of gratitude as the world prepares to travel to that beautiful country.
Thank you very much.