Germany Hosts 30th Anniversary Of UN Convention To Combat Desertification, Drought

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As part of the campaign against desertification, Germany hosted the 30th anniversary of the UN Convention in Bonn, Germany, with the message to save the land and preserve the future.

The event, held on June 17, 2024, the Desertification and Drought Day 2024, marked a pivotal moment in the global effort to combat land degradation and drought, through that country’s Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). The event united changemakers from around the world under the theme “United for Land: Our Legacy. Our Future.”

This year’s event coincided with the 30th anniversary of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), the sole global agreement dedicated to sustainable land management, ratified by 196 countries and the European Union.

United Nations secretary-general, António Guterres emphasised the urgency of collective action: “As the focus of this year’s World Day reminds us, we must be ‘United for Land’. Governments, businesses, academics, communities and more must come together and act. We know what we need to do: it’s set out clearly in the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification. As we mark the 30th anniversary of the convention, the world must dramatically pick up the pace of implementation; build momentum towards UNCCD COP16 in Riyadh; and ensure young people are heard in the negotiations. Together, let’s sow the seeds for a thriving future – for nature and humanity.”

President of the Federal Republic of Germany, Frank-Walter Steinmeier echoed this sentiment: “Today, we are not only commemorating the annual ‘Desertification and Drought Day,’ but we are also celebrating 30 years of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification. There is nothing more important, more basic, than good soil, safe food and clean water. So let’s work together. And let’s bring in young people to make sure that our decisions today ensure their good future tomorrow. 2024 is a decisive year: What is discussed, negotiated and decided this year will shape our world and the lives of our children.”

UNCCD executive secretary, Ibrahim Thiaw underscored the critical nature of land preservation: “The future of our land is the future of our planet. By 2050, 10 billion people will depend on this vital resource. Yet we are losing the equivalent of four football fields to land degradation every second.”

State secretary, Jochen Flasbarth highlighted the multifaceted importance of soil: “Healthy soils form the basis of our future. No matter whether we are talking about climate change, biodiversity loss, or food crises – soil quality plays a central role in meeting these global challenges. Soils retain water and allow trees and plants to grow. We will only be able to feed humankind and deal with the climate crisis and its impacts if we have healthy soils.”

Land degradation affects up to 40 percent of the world’s land and nearly half the world’s population, with the highest costs borne by those who can least afford it: indigenous communities, rural households, smallholder farmers and especially youth and women. Engaging youth in land restoration can create the estimated 600 million jobs needed in the next 15 years, contributing to both economic growth and environmental sustainability.

“For too long, desertification and drought have been seen as problems specific to the South. However, these phenomena are spreading globally and affect us all. The past year has been marked by many events that remind us of the urgency of action. This Desertification and Drought Day and the forthcoming COP16 in December must allow us to organise and fight against desertification and its consequences. There is no time to lose,” stressed COP15 President Alain-Richard Donwahi.

At the global observance event, 10 Land Heroes were announced by the UNCCD. These young changemakers from around the world are working to restore land, boost resilience to drought, develop sustainable agricultural businesses and harness technology and innovation to tackle global environmental challenges. 

“UNCCD recognises the talents of young people as entrepreneurs and agents of change. They are key to transforming their communities and driving innovation in sustainable land management. From Brazil to Mali, from the Philippines to Moldova, young leaders are committed to restoring land. We need their voices to shape the future of our planet,” Thiaw added.

The event culminated in a series of announcements and commitments to promote sustainable land management. A new programme to train youth negotiators to become future decision-makers on land and drought issues was launched. In its first year, youth negotiators from more than 30 countries will receive training ahead of the 16th Conference of the Parties (COP16) to the UNCCD, to be held in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, in December 2024.

Bonn mayor m, Katja Dörner, in cooperation with the UNCCD, inaugurated the city’s first “land-friendly” school. This unique programme gives students the opportunity to learn about organic farming through both educational and practical lessons on the school’s farmland.

Countries around the world also organised Desertification and Drought Day events. Italy issued a commemorative stamp and the Belgian EU Presidency hosted a documentary screening and panel discussion on land restoration in Burkina Faso. Kenya planted over 120,000 seedlings as part of a tree planting and awareness campaign. Nigeria hosted a webinar on sustainable practices, while Tunisia held an online event on land degradation neutrality. India discussed sustainable land management in Chennai; Myanmar launched an online campaign and held a high-level event in Naypyidaw; and the Philippines organised tree-planting activities and stakeholder workshops. Sri Lanka held an awareness-raising campaign, Guatemala linked sustainable development and land management, while Moldova held an interregional meeting on drought and land degradation neutrality.

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