Various Heads of UN institutions and other international organizations published messages to mark the 2015 World Day to Combat Desertification (WDCD) on 17 June, which was commemorated under the slogan, ‘No such thing as a free lunch: Invest in healthy soils.'
17 June 2015: Various Heads of UN institutions and other international organizations published messages to mark the 2015 World Day to Combat Desertification (WDCD) on 17 June, which was commemorated under the slogan, ‘No such thing as a free lunch: Invest in healthy soils.’
In his WDCD message, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon noted land is a renewable resource, “but only if investments are made in land degradation neutrality, which has been proposed as an element of the post-2015 development agenda.” He called for “a change of course” aimed at “securing every hectare of land that can provide food or freshwater,” further noting that rehabilitation of degraded land will help to accelerate the control of climate change.
UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) Executive Secretary Monique Barbut lamented that natural resources are treated like “disposable goods,” with one third of previously fertile farmland lying abandoned today. She emphasized that with world population expected to rise to 9.6 billion by 2050, continuing current land use practices would lead to the clearing of three million hectares of new land every year, on average, and warned that “we are heading towards a tipping point.”
Tarja Halonen, former President of Finland and UNCCD Drylands Ambassador, stressed the importance of women’s empowerment in providing sustainable land management (SLM) solutions. Noting that women constitute the bulk of the agricultural labor force and smallholder farmers and produce over half of the food grown globally, she called for measures to strengthen women’s rights over land and to enhance their equal access to financial resources and agricultural extension services.
Michel Jarraud, Secretary-General of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), highlighted WMO’s support for integrated management approaches to flood and drought issues, in collaboration with the UNCCD. Among other WMO programmes, he noted efforts to strengthen regional collaboration on drought management and early warning systems in Africa and South-Eastern Europe, and multi-stakeholder initiatives coordinated by National Meteorological Services in many countries aimed at promoting the use of weather and climate information by smallholder farmers and pastoralists.
The UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Director-General Irina Bokova highlighted UNESCO support to governments to build resilience to the impacts of desertification, through programmes such as the Man and the Biosphere Programme and the International Hydrological Programme.
Braulio F. de Souza Dias, Executive Secretary of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), highlighted various CBD targets aimed at slowing the rate of loss of natural habitats and restoring degraded ecosystems, saying they will help to reverse current negative trends of land degradation.
The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) underscored the importance of improved land tenure and governance in encouraging millions of smallholder farmers and pastoralists around the world to invest in the health and productivity of their land in the long term.
The Global Environment Facility (GEF) drew attention to a joint publication with the UNCCD titled ‘Transforming Land Management Globally – Q&A about Land in the 6th Replenishment Phase of the Global Environment Facility (GEF-6),’ and called on countries affected by land degradation “to access this important funding opportunity for sustainable land management efforts.”
WDCD is observed worldwide on 17 June every year. The 2015 Global Observance Event took place in Milan, Italy, as part of the ongoing UN EXPO Milano 2015. [UN Press Release] [UN Secretary-General’s Message] [UNCCD Executive-Secretary’s Message] [UNCCD Drylands Ambassador Message] [UNESCO Director-General’s Message] [WMO Secretary-General’s Message] [UNEP Press Release] [GEF Press Release] [WDCD Webpage] [UNCCD Press Release] [CBD Executive Secretary Message]