UN launches efforts to tackle desertification

August 16, 2010 12:00 am

, FORTALEZA, Brazil, Aug 16 – The United Nations is launching the Decade for Deserts and the Fight against Desertification (2010-2020) on Monday, an 11-year long effort to raise awareness and action to improve the protection and management of the world’s drylands, home to a third of the world’s population and which face serious economic and environmental threats.

“Continued land degradation – whether from climate change, unsustainable agriculture or poor management of water resources – is a threat to food security, leading to starvation among the most acutely affected communities and robbing the world of productive land,” said UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in a statement announcing the launch.

“As we begin the Decade on Deserts and the Fight against Desertification, let us pledge to intensify our efforts to nurture the land we need for achieving the Millennium Development Goals and guaranteeing human well-being,” he added.

On a global scale, desertification – land degradation in drylands – affects 3.6 billion hectares, which accounts for 25 percent of the Earth’s terrestrial land mass. It threatens the livelihoods of more than 1 billion people in some 100 countries.

Against this backdrop, member states of the United Nations addressed growing desertification and land degradation by adopting a resolution to dedicate the next decade to combating desertification and improving the protection and management of the world’s drylands in 2007.

The global launch took place in Fortaleza, Brazil, in the State of Ceara, Brazil’s semi-arid region, during the Second International Conference: Climate, Sustainability and Development in Semi-arid Regions.  Also today, the regional launch for Africa was held in Nairobi, Kenya, at the headquarters of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). Other regional launches are scheduled to take place in New York, in September, for the North American Region, in the Republic of Korea in October, for the Asian Region, and in November for the European region.

While concerns about desertification are growing, it is not all doom and gloom. Efforts have been made to address land degradation and while there have been positive outcomes, more action is needed to arrest and reverse land degradation and creeping desertification worldwide.

Luc Gnacadja, Executive Secretary of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification warned that the international community is at a crossroads, and must decide between a business-as-usual approach that will be characterised by severe and prolonged droughts, flooding and water shortages or an alternative path, that “channels our collective action towards sustainability”.

He added that the Decade’s message stresses that land is life, “so, we must ensure the drylands, remain productive and working” and that the vision for the Decade is to “forge a global partnership to reverse and prevent desertification and land degradation and to mitigate the effects of drought in affected areas in order to support poverty reduction and environmental sustainability”.


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