Sunday, July 1, 2012

Luc Gnacadja speaking at the 2011 Caux Forum for Human Security (Photo: Tanya Wood)

Despite some pessimistic evaluations,  progress was made at the Rio+20 summit,  - particularly on the issue of land degradation. Luc Gnacadja, Executive Secretary of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification, offers his evaluation of Rio+ 20. On 9 July he will lead a special day on Restoring Land, Restoring Lives at the Initiatives of Change international conference centre in Caux, Switzerland.

Rio de Janeiro, 23 June 2012.

Agreements at the just ended heads of state and government meeting at the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, herald a new dawn in the way land is managed, says Luc Gnacadja, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification.

The over 100 world leaders gathered in Rio agreed to curb the growing gap between land-degradation and its restoration, to monitor land degradation globally and to improve the science that guides these actions.

This seals the most serious gaps that actors have faced in efforts to address desertification and land degradation, and mitigate the effects of drought.

In their outcome document, the leaders agree to strive for a land-degradation neutral world. They reaffirm their resolve under the UNCCD to take coordinated action nationally, regionally and internationally, to monitor, globally, land degradation and restore degraded lands in arid, semi-arid and dry sub humid areas.

They also underline the need to further develop and implement scientifically based, sound and socially inclusive methods and indicators to monitor and assess the extent of desertification, land degradation and drought.

In 1992, the Rio meeting agreed to combat land degradation. Rio 2012 has given birth to a new paradigm, land degradation neutrality, said Mr Gnacadja after the meeting ended on Friday night.

By 2030, the demand for food is likely to increase by 50%, and by 40% for energy and 35% for water. Each of these demands will claim more land, which would lead to more deforestation, unless we commit to restore degraded land. Avoiding land degradation while restoring degraded land is especially crucial for the rural poor to achieve energy, food and water security, he said.

From Rio 1992 to Rio 2012 we have learned that desertification, land degradation and drought are drying up The Future We Want. So I am pleased to acknowledge that in the context of sustainable development, a new concept calling for a paradigm shift to build a land degradation neutral world was (should we say "was born" or rather "is born" here at Rio +20, Mr Gnacadja added.

Every year, 12 million hectares of productive land are degraded through desertification and drought alone. This is an area half the size of the United Kingdom. In the same period, 75 billion tons of soil are lost forever. Globally, 1.5 billion people live off the degrading land.

In taking these decisions, the leaders pointed to the economic and social significance of good land management. They also expressed deep concern for the devastating consequences of the cyclical drought and famine in Africa and called for urgent action in the short to long-terms.

In this regard, they called for cooperation in sharing of climate and weather information. They also stressed the need for forecasting and early warning on desertification, land degradation and drought and on dust storms and sandstorms.

With such an outcome, we must now walk the talk, for which the need of synergies cannot be over-emphasized. This outcome can drive the synergies needed by actors to deliver together. It provides an enabling environment for the Rio Conventions to work effectively especially at the grass roots level to effecti support food security, Mr Gnacadja stated, and then laid out the commitment of the UNCCD secretariat to support the decisions.

To ensure a timely implementation, the UNCCD, through effective partnerships among all stakeholders, will spearhead and facilitate global monitoring of land degradation and therestoration of degraded land especially in the drylands. We will build capacity through knowledge management and knowledge sharing.

To this end, we will harness science and lessons learned from grassroots level success stories. We will also promote the adoption and implementation of national drought policy, preparedness and risk management measures in all drought-prone regions and countries, he said.

Going Land degradation-neutral is the way to connect the goal and drive synergies while implementing the Rio Conventions at the grassroots and landscape levels in developing countries, Mr Gnacadja concluded.

Luc Gnacadja
UNCCD Executive Secretary
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