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  • Published on: 10 Oct 2011
  • Submitted by: United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD)
  • More information

Scientific and financial backing vital for fighting famine and drought, reversing land degradation and eradicating poverty
Changwon, Republic of Korea, 10 October 2011 - Major UN conference on desertification, land degradation and drought begins with high hopes to boost efforts and actions to restore land and soil in drylands and improve people?s lives.

To counter growing risks of land degradation and drought caused by desertification in drylands, home to more than two billion people, the tenth session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) opened today.

More than 12 million hectares of productive land are lost due to desertification every year, the equivalent of losing an area the size of South Africa every decade. While productive land becomes scarcer, providing food for the 9 billion people predicted to live on Earth in 2050 will require a 70 per cent increase in global food production. Despite the growing need for a diminishing natural resource, no agreed global scientific measures exist and funding to combat desertification remains limited.

?We now see increasing attention given to desertification and land degradation issues,?UNCCD Executive Secretary Luc Gnacadja said. ?There is a high expectation, especially from the scientific community, that the UNCCD could indeed become a global authority on scientific and technical knowledge pertaining to desertification, land degradation and drylands.?

Sound science is a prerequisite for good policy making and technological innovation. To better address desertification, one of the conference?s key objectives will be to strengthen the scientific understanding and measurement of land degradation. Representatives from 11 pilot countries will share their experiences on measuring poverty and land degradation to help gain consensus on developing standard globalstatistical indicators on land degradation.Conference officials are also expected to establish a global scientific platform to inform and advise countries on assessing and reversing land degradation.

Desertification is the loss of the capacity to grow crops or raise livestock in arid, semi-arid or dry sub-humid areas, so-called drylands, where some 2.3 billion people live in nearly 100 countries. By controlling and reversing desertification, curbing the effects of drought and restoring productive lands, there is an opportunity to make a direct positive contribution to reducing poverty, improving people?s lives and meeting the targets of the Millennium Development Goals. Addressing desertification ensures that reducing poverty and improving development are sustainable over the long term, especially with an expanding global population.

Forests in drylands are also prone to degradation, and healthy forests are key to combating desertification in drylands. The Government of the Republic of Korea, which is hosting the conference, along with UNCCD will propose the so-called Changwon Initiative, which is a series of action plans to foster reforestation efforts in drylands around the world.

Another aim of the conference will be to discuss sustainable development targets to combat desertification and land degradation towards a goal for zero net land degradation.

?This convention has now reached a stage where quantifiable medium and long term targets should be set, to foster implementation and equip decision makers with adequate tools to effectively monitor the action programmes process,? Mr. Gnacadja said.

During the conference?s second week, a first-ever forum for the private sector with business leaders from more than 100 companies, including Unilever, Nestle, Cargill and LG International,will be convened to raise awareness about desertification issues and stimulate investment. Also a high-level segment for Ministers and other senior representatives will feature a series of round table meetings on critical policy questions. The UNCCD hopes to receive greater financial commitments and resources from governments as well as the private sector to tackle the many solvable inter-related issues of land degradation, such as drought, poverty, child and maternal health, famine and food insecurity.

Mr. Gnacadja was joined at the conference opening by Mr. Lee Don Koo, Minister of the Korea Forest Service, Mr. Kim Du Kwan, Governor of Gyeongsangnam-do, and Mr. Yann Arthus-Bertrand, cinematographer and Goodwill Ambassador for the UN Environment Programme.

More than 5,000 participants are expected, including the 194 Parties to the UNCCD, as well as civil society organisations and media in the first conference of its kind held in Asia, which has more people affected by desertification, land degradation and drought than any other continent.

Key messages from the conference, particularly on how combating desertification can boost the green economy, will be shared for greater consideration and inclusion at the UN Conference on Sustainable Development, often referred to as Rio +20, to be held in Rio de Janeiro next year.

About the UNCCD
Desertification, along with climate change and the loss of biodiversity, were identified as the greatest challenges to sustainable development during the 1992 Rio Earth Summit. Established in 1994, UNCCD is the sole legally binding international agreement linking environment, development and the promotion of healthy soils. The Convention?s 194 signatory Parties work to alleviate poverty in the drylands, maintain and restore the land?s productivity, and mitigate the effects of drought.
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