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Critical juncture in global efforts to combat desertification and mitigate drought effects

Bonn, Germany, 17 February 2011 – The UN’s top official on matters of drought, land degradation and desertification, Mr. Luc Gnacadja, claims that we are at crucial moment in history. “At the end of this year, the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) will, for the first time, have the tools to support national monitoring and vulnerability assessments on the biophysical and socioeconomic trends” in countries affected by these challenges. “You cannot improve what you cannot measure,” he said, so for the assessment to be conducted from 2012, “the UNCCD and its stakeholders will for the first time in history of the Convention be enabled to measure actions taken to materialize the UNCCD vision.” Executive Secretary Gnacadja made the remarks yesterday at the opening of the global gathering of scientists tasked by the Parties to the Convention, with providing guidance on how countries should measure the changes in land cover and poverty among the populations that live in the world’s drylands. The scientists drawn from governmental, non-governmental, international, intergovernmental organizations are attending a three-day meeting of the second special session of the Committee on Science and Technology (CST S-2) of the Convention taking place at the World Conference Center Bonn, Germany. Noting that the scientists are driving the agenda of the UNCCD process, Mr Gnacadja urged them to move the Convention to the realm of measurability. “There is a need to start already considering the development of possible targets, which will bring higher credibility to the process,” he added. At their meeting in 2009, the Parties agreed to assess the impact of the Convention through two mandatory and nine optional indicators. It called on the Committee on Science and Technology, through its Bureau, to guide the secretariat of the Convention to refine the methodologies and approaches that will be used with these indicators.  To this end, Professor Klaus Kellner of South Africa and current chair of the CST Bureau called for the active involvement of scientists from both the countries affected and not affected by desertification in the work of refining the indicators, setting up an effective system to manage knowledge and organizing the 2nd UNCCD Scientific Conference that will take place in 2012. In this way, he said, scientists will offer their best. The outcomes of the second special session of the CST will advance work on these issues, and the resulting recommendations forwarded to the tenth session of the UNCCD’s Conference of the Parties (COP 10), which will take place from 11-21 October 2011 in Changwon City, Republic of Korea. CST S-2 ends on Friday this week. About UNCCD Established in 1994, the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) is the sole legally binding international agreement linking environment and development issues to the land agenda. The Convention focuses on all the world’s drylands, home to over 2 billion people, 50% of the world’s livestock and accounting for 44% of all cultivated ecosystems. The Convention’s 194 Parties are dedicated to combating land degradation and mitigating the effects of drought in the drylands by improving the living conditions of the affected populations and ecosystems. For more information, contact: Wagaki Mwangi UNCCD Secretariat email: wmwangi@unccd.int Cell: +49 173 268 7593

Critical juncture in global efforts to combat desertification and mitigate drought effects
Making a paradigm shift in the fight against desertification and drought

Bonn, Germany, 16 February 2011 – “The international community’s battle against desertification and the effects of drought is on the threshold of a paradigm shift,” Mr. Luc Gnacadja, Executive Secretary of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) has said, ahead of a global conference on the Convention opening today at the World Conference Center Bonn, in Germany. “During the last four decades, initiatives to combat desertification and to mitigate the effects of drought lacked defined impact indicators. That is set to change when we meet next week to clarify the benchmarks to be used, going forward, to assess progress both in terms of the immediate action to be taken and long term change,” Mr. Gnacadja added. The second special session of the Committee for Science and Technology (CST S-2) which will take place from 16-18 February will focus on the methodologies to be used to measure changes in land cover status and the proportion of the population living above the poverty line in areas affected by desertification. These are the two mandatory indicators to measure impact agreed upon at the 2009 Conference of the Parties to the Convention. The CST is a subsidiary body of the Convention. “For nearly four decades, scientific consensus about the scope of land degradation and its global impact on livelihoods have been elusive. So, although countries and experts have been monitoring phenomena such as desertification, land degradation and drought, we cannot collectively determine its impacts because there is no harmonized approach or agreement on how to approach these assessments,” according to Professor Klaus Kellner, Chair of the CST 9 Bureau. “What the CST embarked on in 2008, and the focus of this session in particular, is to make progress towards developing this kind of a framework,” he said. “A framework that any country should can apply, and whose results can provide a basis for comparison across time and countries. In the long-term, the data would be aggregated at various levels and provide clarity about the scope of desertification globally or regionally. Data aggregation would enable parties to decide on the targets to aim for to guarantee the long-term sustainability of the drylands,” Prof. Kellner added. The meetings are path breaking for another reason. For the first time in the history of the Convention, the reports on the actions countries, civil society organizations and international organizations have taken to combat desertification and to mitigate the effects of drought will be based on one template with performance indicators, known as the Performance Review and Assessment of Implementation System, PRAIS. The reports, to be reviewed at the ninth session of the Committee for the Review of the Implementation (CRIC 9) meeting of 21-25 February, are expected to provide the baseline for future performance assessments. “The development of PRAIS marks a defining moment for the Convention. At last, a clearer picture on the global state of investment and public expenditure into sustainable land management is starting to emerge. Precious data on the volume, source, geographic distribution and sectoral allocation of financial resources is now available, arming countries with the necessary tools to increase domestic budgetary allocations, and seize innovative opportunities at the national and international levels’’ adds Mr. Christian Mersmann, Managing Director of the Global Mechanism of the UNCCD. CRIC is a subsidiary body of the Convention. The PRAIS was jointly developed by the UNCCD secretariat, the Global Mechanism of the UNCCD, the Global Environment Facility (GEF), United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and UNEP’s World Conservation Monitoring Center (UNEP-WCMC) in close consultation with the regional groupings of the Convention. The recommendations from the CST S-2 and CRIC 9 will be transmitted to the tenth session of Conference of the Parties (COP 10) for consideration when it meets in Changwon City, Republic of Korea, in October 2011. Established in 1994, the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) is the sole legally binding international agreement linking environment and development issues to the land agenda. The Convention focuses on all the world’s drylands, home to over 2 billion people, 50% of the world’s livestock and accounting for 44% of all cultivated ecosystems. The Convention’s 194 Parties are dedicated to combating land degradation and mitigating the effects of drought in the drylands by improving the living conditions of the affected populations and ecosystems.

Making a paradigm shift in the fight against desertification and drought
Davos: counting the cost of land degradation and taking action

Bonn, Germany, 11 February 2011 – Winston Churchill once said: “If you will not fight for right when you can easily win without bloodshed; if you will not fight when your victory is sure and not too costly; you may come to the moment when you will have to fight with all the odds against you and only a precarious chance of survival. There may even be a worse case. You may have to fight when there is no hope of victory.” This might be the fate of humanity, unless the global community begins to take economic account of the global costs of desertification, land degradation and drought, according to Mr. Luc Gnacadja, Executive Secretary of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD). A meaningful assessment must go beyond an analysis of the social and economic costs of use, and include the costs of inaction as well, he said. Mr. Gnacadja made the remarks in a keynote speech at the Global Risk Forum Davos during the World Economic Forum held on 26-30 January 2011. Noting that the “`Davos Forum’ is where great minds gather every year to consult on how to set and maintain the world economy on a pathway to sustainable growth and where world leaders come in search of new thinking,” he said “Davos is the right place to share views on why the international community needs to conduct a global assessment of the economics of desertification, land degradation and drought.” According to Mr. Gnacadja, the first and only global assessment of land degradation was conducted in 1992 by the United Nations Environment Programme. At the time, expert opinion suggested that the loss of crop and livestock productivity associated with land degradation amounted to US$42 billion. A year ago, a study sponsored by the European Commission’s Directorate-General for the Environment estimated that the mismanagement of soil biodiversity is in excess of US$1 trillion per year. As a first step towards such an assessment, Mr Gnacadja reported that the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation is supporting the preparation of a meta-analysis to take stock of existing studies in order to evaluate gaps as well as options for conducting such a study. He also reported that there are many places in the world with success stories waiting to be scaled up and disseminated to prevent land degradation and reclaim land, but wondered why investments for these activities are limited. During the occasion, he and Dr. Walter Ammann, President of the Swiss-based foundation, Global Risk Forum (GRF), signed a cooperative framework between their two institutions to address the global threat of desertification, land degradation and drought. The Memorandum of Understanding outlines several areas of cooperation, including strengthening local governance and enabling sustainable financial investments in specific projects on desertification, land degradation and drought. To read the full statement by Mr. Gnacadja, visit: For media information, contact: Wagaki Mwangi UNCCD Secretariat Bonn Email: wmwangi@unccd.int Tel: +49 228 815 2820

Davos: counting the cost of land degradation and taking action
Critical juncture in global efforts to combat desertification and mitigate drought effects

Bonn, Germany, 17 February 2011 – The UN’s top official on matters of drought, land degradation and desertification, Mr. Luc Gnacadja, claims that we are at crucial moment in history. “At the end of this year, the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) will, for the first time, have the tools to support national monitoring and vulnerability assessments on the biophysical and socioeconomic trends” in countries affected by these challenges. “You cannot improve what you cannot measure,” he said, so for the assessment to be conducted from 2012, “the UNCCD and its stakeholders will for the first time in history of the Convention be enabled to measure actions taken to materialize the UNCCD vision.” Executive Secretary Gnacadja made the remarks yesterday at the opening of the global gathering of scientists tasked by the Parties to the Convention, with providing guidance on how countries should measure the changes in land cover and poverty among the populations that live in the world’s drylands. The scientists drawn from governmental, non-governmental, international, intergovernmental organizations are attending a three-day meeting of the second special session of the Committee on Science and Technology (CST S-2) of the Convention taking place at the World Conference Center Bonn, Germany. Noting that the scientists are driving the agenda of the UNCCD process, Mr Gnacadja urged them to move the Convention to the realm of measurability. “There is a need to start already considering the development of possible targets, which will bring higher credibility to the process,” he added. At their meeting in 2009, the Parties agreed to assess the impact of the Convention through two mandatory and nine optional indicators. It called on the Committee on Science and Technology, through its Bureau, to guide the secretariat of the Convention to refine the methodologies and approaches that will be used with these indicators. To this end, Professor Klaus Kellner of South Africa and current chair of the CST Bureau called for the active involvement of scientists from both the countries affected and not affected by desertification in the work of refining the indicators, setting up an effective system to manage knowledge and organizing the 2nd UNCCD Scientific Conference that will take place in 2012. In this way, he said, scientists will offer their best. The outcomes of the second special session of the CST will advance work on these issues, and the resulting recommendations forwarded to the tenth session of the UNCCD’s Conference of the Parties (COP 10), which will take place from 11-21 October 2011 in Changwon City, Republic of Korea. CST S-2 ends on Friday this week. About UNCCD Established in 1994, the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) is the sole legally binding international agreement linking environment and development issues to the land agenda. The Convention focuses on all the world’s drylands, home to over 2 billion people, 50% of the world’s livestock and accounting for 44% of all cultivated ecosystems. The Convention’s 194 Parties are dedicated to combating land degradation and mitigating the effects of drought in the drylands by improving the living conditions of the affected populations and ecosystems. For more information, contact: Wagaki Mwangi UNCCD Secretariat Email: wmwangi@unccd.int Cell: +49 173 268 7593

Critical juncture in global efforts to combat desertification and mitigate drought effects
Dryland forests are the focus of the 2011 World Day to Combat Desertification

Bonn, Germany, 7 February 2011 – “Forests are critical to the eradication of poverty in the drylands. They are also the first step towards healing the drylands and protecting them from desertification and drought. In essence, ‘Forests Keep Drylands Working.’ This is our motto for this year.” Mr Luc Gnacadja, Executive Secretary of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification, made these remarks from from Bonn, Germany, this morning as he announced the theme and slogan, and unveiled the logo, for the observance of the World Day to Combat Desertification to be held on 17 June 2011. “The international community knows about temperate and tropical forests. This being the International Year of Forests, we want to introduce the public to the best-kept forest secret of all time – the forests of the drylands. Such forests cover 18% of the land in arid zones, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO),” Mr Gnacadja said. “Known variously as arid lands forests, tropical dry forests and the low forest cover countries, the trees in drylands sustain the land and have come to mean the difference between living in abject poverty and a sustainable livelihood,” he stated. “We are particularly inspired by the testimony of the farmers in Africa’s Sahel region on the importance they have come to attach to dryland forests and their own existence,” he added. The peasant farmers in southern Niger recall that in the 1980s, they had to plant their crops three or four times each planting season because the plants were buried by wind-blown sand. Today, they typically plant only once because the forests now protect the seed, according to a 2009 paper by researchers working with the International Food and Policy Research Institute. Moreover, the trees they plant produce, at least, a six-month supply of fodder for on-farm livestock, as well as firewood, fruit and medicinal products for home consumption or cash sales. These results have inspired the farmers in this region to forest over 5 million hectares – an area about the size of Costa Rica or Slovakia – on their own initiative. Mr Gnacadja noted that the rest of the world is also enjoying the spill-over benefits from the achievement of these barefoot foresters. “Their forests absorb the excess carbon in the air and are important biodiversity sanctuaries; and the peasants are strengthening their own capacity to adapt to climate change. This is truly remarkable,” he said. It is no wonder that the Global Forests Resources Assessment of 2010 published by the FAO claims that “the protective functions of forests are more important in the arid zones than elsewhere.” By providing ecosystem goods such as fodder, fuel, wood for construction, medicines and herbs, forests meet the primary needs of some of the world’s poorest populations. Trees also stabilize the soil, which prevents soil erosion and helps to conserve water. In short, dry forests are a buffer against drought and desertification and a safety net for the poor. The United Nations designated 2011 as the International Year of Forests with an emphasis on forests that serve people. “If each of us makes the commitment and ensures that just one tree is planted in a degraded part of the drylands and that the tree survives through the year, we could have well over two billion trees in the drylands by the end of the year. That is a tree for every inhabitant of the drylands. So then, let us go forth and forest the drylands to keep them working for present and future generations,” Mr. Gnacadja urged. For media information, contact: Wagaki Mwangi UNCCD Secretariat Bonn Email: wmwangi@unccd.int Tel: +49 228 815 2820

Dryland forests are the focus of the 2011 World Day to Combat Desertification