The global observance event in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, marked the first time that high-ranking officials drawn from Africa’s foreign affairs, environment and interior ministries have met to jointly address the growing challenge of rural youth unemployment.
The presidents of Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger, received the Call to Action, which, inter alia, calls for partnerships to create two million secure land-based jobs through the rehabilitation of 10 million hectares of degraded land.
UNCCD Executive Secretary Monique Barbut challenged stakeholders in the region to “create their own luck through preparation,” for instance by allocating 100,000 hectares of degraded land for restoration by young rural people to create jobs and increase food productivity.
17 June 2017: This year’s World Day to Combat Desertification (WDCD), which is celebrated globally on 17 June, highlighted opportunities to enhance the livelihoods of rural communities and especially young people, under the theme, ‘Our Land. Our Home. Our Future.’ The global observance event in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, marked the first time that high-ranking officials drawn from Africa’s foreign affairs, environment and interior ministries have met to jointly address Africa’s growing challenge of rural youth unemployment, which is contributing to increased migration and radicalization. In a show of solidarity, the Presidents of Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger participated in the celebrations.
Approximately 400 participants attended the global observance event, which was hosted by the Ministry of Environment, Green Economy and Climate Change of Burkina Faso on 15 June. As part of the observance event, a high-level symposium on ‘Sustainability, Stability, Security,’ examined the threats from conflicts linked to degrading natural resources. The Symposium was organized under the auspices of the Sustainability, Stability and Security (3S) Initiative, which was launched by African Heads of State and Government at the Marrakesh Climate Conference in 2016.
In her address, Monique Barbut, Executive Secretary of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), stressed the need to provide for a rapidly growing world population, with 1.3 billion rural dwellers who are particularly vulnerable given falling crop yields as a result of drought and land degradation. The Convention is spearheading efforts to enhance sustainable land management and achieve land degradation neutrality (LDN), one of the targets under the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 15 on life on land.
Barbut noted that, if given the chance, young people can help to bring degraded natural capital back into production, helping to develop markets for rural products and revitalize communities.
Barbut noted that, if given the chance, young people can help to bring degraded natural capital back into production, helping to develop markets for rural products and revitalize communities. She challenged stakeholders in the region to “create their own luck through preparation,” for instance by allocating 100,000 hectares of degraded land for restoration by young rural people to create jobs and increase food productivity.
In his WDCD message, Erik Solheim, Executive Director of UN Environment, highlighted the role of desertification and land degradation in driving human displacement through “threatening lives over the short term and making people’s livelihoods untenable over the long term, particularly the poorest and most vulnerable.” World Meteorological Organization Secretary-General Peter Taalas stressed the importance of providing state-of-the-art climate information for climate change adaptation in vital sectors such as agriculture, food security and social well-being.
At the close of the Symposium, various stakeholders presented commitments to enhance sustainable land management. The presidents of Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger, received the Call to Action, which, inter alia, calls for partnerships to create two million secure land-based jobs through the rehabilitation of 10 million hectares of degraded land, and the identification of sites where access to land rights can be secured and provided to vulnerable groups. On behalf of religious and faith organizations, Cardinal Philippe Ouedraogo of Burkina Faso expressed commitment to “collaborate urgently in the restoration of our environment, our common home, and for green jobs in land restoration to create employment, especially for young people.”
National and regional commemorations featured diverse awareness raising activities. Activities included: a workshop to strengthen understanding of the LDN concept among farmers in Nigeria; the opening of a training garden to promote adoption of sustainable agricultural techniques in Namibia; activities to promote children’s involvement in climate action and the defense of human rights in Guinea-Bissau; a workshop addressing water security and climate smart agriculture in Bangladesh; the launch of a student initiative in Cameroon that will promote the use of green coal as an alternative fuel to charcoal and wood in the Sahel; and tree planting and environmental awareness activities in Benin, Egypt and Kenya, among other countries. WDCD activities in China included a live broadcast on the social media platform Weibo that showcased land restoration efforts in Tengri Desert, the fourth largest desert in China.
In Argentina, Fundacion Agreste launched the first set of UNCCD capacity building courses in Spanish on 17 June, with the aim of providing Spanish-speaking countries with complete access to all the training courses developed by the UNCCD Secretariat. Commemorations in Mexico included the launch of a national process to establish development targets for “Earth Degradation Neutrality.” The event, which was organized by the National Forestry Commission of Mexico (CONAFOR) initiated an informed discussion on the components that should be included in a national strategy to implement concrete LDN measures in Mexico.
At a World Bank panel discussion titled ‘Land Degradation Neutrality and Landscape Restoration Opportunities,’ which took place on 13 June 2017 in Washington, DC, participants addressed the issue of how to translate SDG target 15.3 into action by exploring the links between LDN and restoration, and how to take advantage of the LDN Fund. In collaboration with the Governments of Iran and the Netherlands, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) convened the International Seminar on Drought and Agriculture on 19 June at FAO Headquarters in Rome, Italy. The seminar sought to contribute to agricultural resilience to drought by advocating more integrated and proactive approaches to drought planning, adaptation and management.
Similar to previous years, the WDCD global observance event unveiled winners of the annual Land for Life Award, which recognizes individuals, groups, organizations and businesses that have made outstanding contributions to conserving and protecting land resources. This year’s awardees are Watershed Organization Trust (India) and UN Environment and Practical Action Sudan (South Sudan). The awards also recognized Yingzhen Pan, Director-General of China’s National Bureau to Combat Desertification, for her achievement in combating desertification and restoring the Three North Regions Shelterbelts over the past three decades. Florencia Escudero Fonseca received a special mention for her inspiring leadership and dedicated support to communities to restore degraded land in Spain.
Commemorated annually on June 17, World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought seeks to promote public awareness of land degradation and to draw attention to the implementation of the UNCCD as a legally binding international agreement that links environment and development to sustainable land management. [UN Press Release on WDCD 2017] [UN Environment Press Release] [UNCCD Press Release on Global Observance Event] [WDCD 2017 Events Webpage] [UNCCD Press Release on 2017 Land for Life Award] [FAO International Seminar on Drought and Agriculture Webpage]