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Supervisor Elham AbolFateh
Editor in Chief Mohamed Wadie

UN Calls for Enhanced Global Efforts to Combat Desertification, Drought


Wed 05 Jun 2024 | 11:52 AM
António Guterres
António Guterres
By Ahmad El-Assasy

This year, the United Nations celebrates "World Environment Day" on June 5 under the theme "Our Planet, Our Future: Together We Restore Our Earth."

The theme highlights the Earth's environmental challenges and emphasizes the need for global efforts to combat desertification and drought. 

It calls for international cooperation to revive reforestation projects, increase forest cover, restore water sources, and replenish soil to improve livelihoods, end deprivation, and achieve food security for all economically vulnerable and marginalized people worldwide.

In a message to the international community last night, on the eve of this occasion, UN Secretary-General António Guterres urged donor and developed countries to increase funding to support developing countries in their efforts to adapt to extreme weather phenomena, protect nature, and support sustainable development.

Guterres warned of what he called the "toxic mix of pollution, climate chaos, and biodiversity collapse," which has turned healthy lands worldwide into deserts and transformed vibrant ecosystems into dead zones. 

This includes deforestation, the destruction of grasslands, and the hardening of lands that support ecosystems, agricultural activities, and local communities.

The UN Secretary-General's remarks come just hours before he addresses the international community from the American Museum of Natural History in midtown Manhattan, New York, on World Environment Day regarding climate action.

In a statement to the United Nations yesterday, Inger Andersen, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), warned that ongoing desertification and land degradation affect more than three billion people worldwide. She highlighted that freshwater ecosystems also deteriorate, making crop cultivation and livestock rearing more difficult. 

This disproportionately impacts small-scale farmers and the rural poor. Andersen emphasized that restoring ecosystems can help the international community slow the triple crisis facing the planet: climate change, nature and biodiversity loss, and pollution and waste.

Andersen noted the possibility of reversing biodiversity loss by 2030 in line with the Global Biodiversity Framework. She mentioned the "UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration," which supports commitments to restore one billion hectares of land, an area larger than China. 

Last year, six countries pledged to restore 300,000 kilometers of rivers and 350 million hectares of wetlands.

The UN Secretariat has frequently reiterated its belief in the possibility of "living in harmony with the Earth" and has warned, particularly in recent years, of the growing challenges and threats facing ecosystems worldwide, from forests and drylands to agricultural lands and lakes. 

These natural spaces, crucial for human existence, have reached a breaking point.

According to reports from the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), which marks its 30th anniversary in 2024, "40% of the Earth's land is currently undergoing general degradation, impacting the living conditions, economies, growth, and stability of half the world's population, with drought duration increasing by 29% since 2000."

These reports warn of the consequences of the international community's failure to heed these warnings and take urgent measures to address the causes of this degradation and halt its negative impacts. The reports predict that drought will directly affect more than three-quarters of the world's population by 2050 if no action is taken.