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AMCEN ministerial conference: Remarks by Ibrahim Thiaw

Excellencies,   Ministers, Colleagues, Ladies and gentlemen,   As we gather here in beautiful Dakar for the eighteenth session of the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment, large parts of the African continent are wilting.  The Greater Horn of Africa is suffering its longest drought in 40 years. 50 million people in the region are suffering from acute food security with many heading to famine. The dry spell is not sparing North Africa: Morocco, Algeria. Last year, it was Madagascar and parts of Southern Africa. The year before, the Sahel. There is hardly any year where floods, drought or loss of fertile land is not hitting the continent. Millions are left without shelter, food, water or barely enough firewood to cook their meal.   And yet, Africa is still not addressing the root causes of land degradation. Many governments still do not see desertification, land degradation and drought as a top priority. It seems  paradoxical to want to achieve food security, to combat poverty and to reduce vulnerabilities while at the same time neglecting its soils and productive land. Ministries in charge of land and drought are still largely under-resourced. Local authorities are not empowered to tackle the Herculean task of restoring degraded lands. Yet, Africa is arguably the most vulnerable region to drought, desertification and loss of productive land.   The continent has lost 65% of its productive land over the last seventy years. Meanwhile the population has grown by 600%. Climate change will further accelerate this disruption. In some parts of Africa, such as the Sahel and Somalia, we have already reached the tipping point.   Are we not tired of seeing children dying? Are we not tired of seeing people leave their lives behind? Are we not tired of the scramble for emergency aid? For sure, I am.  As a human being, as an international civil servant. But above all as a proud African. Many African nations have braced with droughts for decades. But are ready to confront another dry spell? Because there will be another drought.   And another.   And another.   Because the next drought will occur sooner than we thought.   In fact, the next drought may already be here.   Droughts are often followed by floods. Or vice versa.   Droughts and floods are twins.   Desertification is robbing our fertile land.   Drought and Land degradation are eroding our economy.   Deteriorating our well-being and quality of life.   Wreaking havoc on our social fabric, which is perhaps for Africa, the most valuable asset there is.   Excellence, mesdames et messieurs les ministres,   Chers délégués,   Mesdames et messieurs,   L’Afrique, plus que toute autre région du monde, fait face à des défis multiformes.   Pour autant, elle ne plie pas.   L’Afrique résiste.   Stoïquement.   L’Afrique a fait preuve de résilience face à des phénomènes historiques sans précédent. Dépeuplée, dépecée, cannibalisée, elle a, tel un rock, résisté.  Elle est debout.   Certes touchée, mais pas coulée.   Loin s’en faut.   Les événements contemporains ont montré qu’en dépit de la faiblesse de ses moyens matériels, l’Afrique sait faire preuve de résilience, y compris face aux grandes pandémies.   En matière de gestion des ressources naturelles et de lutte contre les changements climatiques, l’Afrique a peut-être une autre voie, une autre stratégie à adopter.   Un changement de narratif demande un changement d’approche.   Une aspiration d’émergence et de prospérité plutôt qu’une approche de lutte contre la pauvreté. Dépasser la borne de départ. Décoller du starting block.  Ouvrir les vannes du potentiel des ressources naturelles. A la fois les richesses sous-terre ou au fonds des mers, et celles à ciel ouvert.   Le soleil et le vent, les cours d’eau, la houle et la géothermie seront, peut-être, bientôt cotés aux bourses des valeurs «écologiques».   Le monde se tourne vers l’hydrogène, cette énergie propre du futur.   Or, les quatre coins d’Afrique dégagent un potentiel excédentaire en hydrogène vert ; l’électrolyse se ferait en utilisant, comme source d’énergie, le soleil, le vent et l’eau.  Tous neutres en carbone.   Sortir l’Afrique de sa pauvreté énergétique, par la grande porte de la neutralité carbone.  Assurer le décollage industriel du continent, en suivant une autre voie que celle qui a conduit aux désastres cataclysmiques que le monde subit au quotidien.   Il s’agit pour l’Afrique, d’arrêter de « dormir sur la natte des autres », pour paraphraser l’inoubliable Joseph Ki Zerbo du Burkina Faso.  La richesse de l’Afrique en terres rares est un autre don de la Nature. En Afrique centrale et en Afrique australe notamment. Ces éléments si essentiels aux technologies vertes vendues à prix d’or sur le marché international.   Par ailleurs, la diversité extraordinaire des écosystèmes est une autre des dimensions de cette richesse: de la forêt dense humide à la savane, des grands espaces ouverts, aux luxuriantes steppes. La disponibilité de grands espaces offre une amplitude extraordinaire pour la restauration des terres à grande échelle.   Restaurer les terres, c’est rendre à celles-ci leur aptitude à produire pour nos besoins et les besoins de nos écosystèmes.   Restaurer les terres, c’est créer de la richesse, lutter contre les vulnérabilités en construisant la résilience des écosystèmes et des populations.   Restaurer les terres, c’est aussi réduire la quantité de carbone dans l’atmosphère, en stockant ce dernier dans le sol.   Bref, la restauration des terres, la gestion rationnelle des forêts, comme la production d’énergie propre ou l’exploitation rationnelle des terres rares sont autant de mesure d’atténuation aux changements climatiques.   L’atténuation aux changements climatiques doit donc être une priorité pour l’Afrique.  Autant que l’adaptation.   Un tel changement de narratif est vecteur d’investissements (publics et privés) dans des secteurs productifs tels que l’énergie, l’agro-foresterie ou encore l’éco-tourisme.    Il s’agit de promouvoir la prospérité tout en préservant la nature.   Il s’agit de promouvoir une croissance sobre en carbone.    Il s’agit tout simplement de promouvoir le développement durable.   L’Afrique, la presse n’en parle pas assez, joue un rôle pionnier dans la promotion des investissements  en matière de restauration des terres. Au Sahel, la Grande muraille verte a pu mobiliser 19 milliards de dollars. En Côte d’Ivoire, l’initiative d’Abidjan en est à 2,5 milliards de dollars. D’autres initiatives comme AFR100 du NEPAD, montre la voie. La toute nouvelle initiative de restauration des terres en Afrique australe (SADC), est plus que prometteuse. L’initiale de restauration des terres du Moyen Orient, concerne plusieurs pays d’Afrique. Elle promet plusieurs dizaines de milliards de dollars. La Earth Foundation de Bezos annonce un milliard de dollars pour la restauration des terres en Afrique. La liste n’est pas exhaustive. Elle est cependant une démonstration concrète du leadership africain dans ce domaine crucial. Leadership qu’il faut célébrer et renforcer. Les agendas des terres, du climat et de la biodiversité étant fortement interconnectés, une approche globale et intégrée est fortement recommandée. C’est ainsi qu’à UNCCD, nous appelons de tous nos vœux pour des résultats concrets à la COP27 du climat à Sharm-El-Sheikh, et à la COP15 de la biodiversité à Montréal.   Avec les résultats de la COP15 de UNCCD qui s’est déjà tenue en mai à Abidjan, la communauté internationale disposerait ainsi d’un corpus juridique cohérent.   Ensemble, nous réussirons.   Je vous remercie.  

AMCEN ministerial conference: Remarks by Ibrahim Thiaw
UNCCD Land Anthem inspires a Moment for Nature at UN Headquarters

The UNCCD Land Anthem “Born from the Land’, performed by the Land Ambassador Ricky Kej, became an emotional curtain-raiser for the high-level thematic debate "Moment for Nature" that took place on 19 July 2022 in the General Assembly Hall of the UN Headquarters in New York. The debate focused on ways to achieve the Paris Agreement's 1.5-degree target and ensure humanity's future by promoting greater coordination of the global efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, protect biodiversity on land and sea, restore life to degraded land and soils, combat pollution and enable circular economies. Somewhere along our journey as humans, we have forgotten that we are not the only species, we need to live in absolute peace and absolute harmony with every single entity of nature, co-existing with the land we walk on and the air we breathe" –  Ricky Kej The two-time Grammy Award winner and a long-standing UNCCD Land Ambassador, Ricky Kej embodies and inspires positive change through the emotional language of art and music. The UNCCD Land Anthem that he created together with another Land Ambassador Baaba Maal and other musicians from Canada, India, the USA, Senegal, South Africa and Vietnam has already been produced in eight languages. The song that celebrates Life on Land has been performed at key international events, such as the UNCCD COPs and the Desertification and Drought Day global observances. You can download the lyrics in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Spanish and Russian, and watch the original release on our YouTube channel.

UNCCD Land Anthem inspires a Moment for Nature at UN Headquarters
Baaba Maal vows to fight desertification in the Sahel

UNCCD has recently renewed its partnership with Baaba Maal who is one of the six UNCCD Land Ambassadors. Hailing from the region of the Senegal River which is home to millions of people living in four Western African countries: Senegal, Mali, Guinea and Mauritania, the music legend Baaba Maal has vowed to fight desertification and climate change in the Sahel, by planting trees and making it a land of green. A singer and guitarist who has released albums since 1989 in a music career lauded across the world, Baaba Maal lent his unique voice to the sound track of the international blockbuster Black Panther, a film that won an Oscar and a Grammy Award for its music score. Since 2003, the musician has been committed to fighting various development challenges in Africa. His popularity means that he can make global impact to help create a new narrative for the Sahel as a region of opportunities, where a Great Green Wall Initiative works to transform lives of humanity’s most vulnerable people by creating green jobs, harnessing the Sahel’s abundant solar energy and building and prosperous future on land. "My music and songs use many words to describe the beauty of the Sahel – but now the beauty is disappearing and people are moving away from their villages. I want my music to call people to fix things, again. The first step is planting trees." — Baaba Maal Photo (L to R): Baaba Maal with UNCCD Executive Secretary Ibrahim Thiaw Read more: Land Ambassadors Great Green Wall

Baaba Maal vows to fight desertification in the Sahel
Using NFTs to support climate action

As the COP26 closes with a call for more ambitious and measurable climate actions by governments, activists around the world are ramping up their efforts to continue work outside the conference halls. Our Land Ambassador, a Malian-French singer and songwriter Inna Modja, in her recent interview with CNN presented the CodeGreen, a new coalition of artists and coders who want to use non-fungible token (NFT) auctions to raise money for climate projects. Inna, who is a co-founder of CodeGreen, discussed its potential to mobilize funds for projects along the Great Green Wall. In the Sahel, where 80 per cent of the population rely on agriculture for their livelihood, the Great Green Wall goes beyond growing trees to create opportunities for vulnerable populations, especially, for youth and women. The first CodeGreen is  planned for the World Economic Forum in Davos. Watch the interview here

Using NFTs to support climate action
Restore Balance with Nature campaign is underway

For centuries, we have used nature to live. As a result: Nearly one million species are at risk of extinction. Nearly three quarters of the Earth's ice-free land has been transformed to meet human demands for food, raw materials, and homes. If humans continue to emit greenhouse gases at current rates, global temperature will rise more than 1.5 degrees Celsius target within decades. Today, we need nature to survive. Protecting and restoring nature can help drive a green recovery and prevent future pandemics. Investing in nature-based solutions will allow us to build forward better, greener, healthier, stronger, and more sustainably. The three Rio Conventions on biodiversity, land and climate are joining forces to ensure that each and every one of us takes action in their own environment in order to change the course of the world to restore balance with nature. Learn more about the campaign at the Rio Conventions Pavillion website and follow it on social media: @UNCCD @UNBiodiversity @UNFCCC. Read more: Rio conventions Land and climate Land and biodiversity Solution brief: Restored Land, healthy people, green recovery

Restore Balance with Nature campaign is underway