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  • Published on: 17 Oct 2011
  • Submitted by: United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD)
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Korean Prime Minister, Prince Charles, UN Secretary-General and others talk about the importance of restoring productive lands to address many major global challenges
Reversing land degradation considered necessary cornerstone for sustainable development and key topic to tackle in lead up to and during Rio+20

Changwon, Republic of Korea, 17 October 2011?The high-level segment of the tenth session of the Conference of the Parties (COP10) to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) opened today with a series of statements reinforcing the conference?s core point that global challenges, like poverty, health and environmental concerns, cannot be solved without restoring productive lands.

?Land is a valuable asset that supports life and its diversity,? Mr. Kim Hwang-sik, Prime Minister of the Republic of Korea, said, while welcoming conference participants. ?We all know the destructive power of desertification, land degradation and drought. While the world has been fighting against it, 12 million hectares of land, even larger than the size of the Republic of Korea, is being degraded every year. It is our responsibility to protect the environment and refrain from unsustainable land use practices.?

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.

In a video address to the conference, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said, ?If we protect, restore and manage land and soils we can tackle many challenges simultaneously, such as poverty, food and energy insecurity, biodiversity loss, climate change, forced migration and geopolitical instability. These issues are linked. The stakes are high, let us therefore work together to make intelligent land use a cornerstone of sustainable development.?

With the need growing for a diminishing natural resource, food prices must be stabilised and known solutions to reverse land degradation need to be scaled up globally.

His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, Prince Charles, also via a video message, stressed the importance of linkages between issues that could be addressed through combating desertification and restoring degraded land, and urged action.

Mr. Lee Don Koo, Minister of the Korea Forest Service and President of COP10, said meetings at the conference showed there was strong political will to combat desertification, land degradation and drought.

?Sustainable development is feasible when both developing and developed countries assume full responsibilities, share each others? burden and collaborate,? Mr. Lee said. ?Let?s altogether care for our land; after all it is the vital source of our life.?

Many issues related to restoring productive lands are being discussed at the conference, including finding indicators to measure poverty and land degradation, sustainable land management and food security, especially food prices. Over the next 25 years land degradation could reduce global food production by as much as 12 per cent leading to a 30 per cent increase in world food prices.

?None of us want the 21st century to be one of recurrent food and humanitarian crises,? said Mr. Sha Zukang, Secretary-General of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development, or Rio+20, which will be held in Rio de Janeiro next year.

One of Rio+20?s key themes will be considering the green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication.

?If we can agree on a green economy roadmap at Rio+20, one that is backed by strong political will and means of implementation, it can help guide us to achieve long-term food security through sustainable agriculture,? Mr. Sha said.

Some UN Member States have proposed creating a set of Sustainable Development Goals, Mr. Sha said, and added that with respect to land degradation, interest has been expressed in a target of achieving a zero net land degradation rate by a given year, whereby degraded lands would be offset by restored productive lands.

?Poverty, food insecurity, hunger and famine are the scourges of the people affected by desertification,? UNCCD Executive Secretary Luc Gnacadja said. ?That is why degraded lands mean degraded lives. But degraded lands are not dead lands; they are sick lands in need of stewardship. In that regard there is a statement of hope coming from the grassroots level, which we must enhance and sustain.?

Mr. Gnacadja said the high-level segment would consider and agree on important messages that the UNCCD would like to convey to the Rio+20 Conference.

?With the COP 10 now taking place in Changwon and the Rio+20 Conference to be held in few months, we do have the appropriate context to put sustainable land management high on the agenda of the international community,? Mr. Gnacadja said.

Mr. Nassir Albulaziz Al-Nasser, President of the sixty-sixth session of the UN General Assembly, and Mr. Du Kwan Kim, Governor of Gyeongnam Province also made remarks. The High-Level Segment of COP10 also featured a video on desertification, and cultural performances, including a sand painting projection artist, interpretive dancers and a children?s choir.

After the High-Level Segment opened, a special segment of interactive discussions began on the UNCCD in the context of Rio+20: addressing desertification, land degradation and drought as a cornerstone of the Green Economy.

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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