June 17 – the World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought

    20 Jun 2021

    In 1994, the United Nations General Assembly declared June 17 the World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought to promote public awareness of the issue, and the implementation of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) in those countries experiencing serious drought and/or desertification, particularly in Africa.

    This day was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly resolution A/RES/49/115 on January 30, 1995, after the day when United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification is drafted.

    Desertification is the degradation of land in arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid areas. It is caused primarily by human activities and climatic variations. Desertification does not refer to the expansion of existing deserts. It occurs because dryland ecosystems, which cover over one third of the world’s land area, are extremely vulnerable to overexploitation and inappropriate land use. Poverty, political instability, deforestation, overgrazing and bad irrigation practices can all undermine the productivity of the land.

    The matter requires even more attention now. When the land degrades and stops being productive, natural spaces deteriorate and transform. Thus, greenhouse gas emissions increase and biodiversity decreases. It also means there are fewer wild spaces to buffer zoonoses, such as COVID-19, and protect us from extreme weather events, such as droughts, floods, and sand and dust storms.

    Approximately 2 billion people globally depend on degrading areas for their livelihoods, and nearly half of the world’s very poor (42%) live in degraded areas, making them some of the most insecure places in the world, and in some cases their instability can destabilize entire political regions. Desertification has changed 2,6 billion hectares on Earth which is 25% of the land. Land of 110 countries is under risk of degradation. 12 million hectares are lost annually.

    The day’s focus is to turn the degraded land that has lost its natural productivity due to human activity into healthy land. To fight this menace, the degraded land should be converted to fertile land in the coming years. The need to restore the degraded land is to bring economic resilience, create jobs, raise income and food security. The pandemic has played a significant role in lessening the impact of climate change and green recovery.

    This year’s theme is “Restoration. Land. Recovery. We build back better with healthy land”. The best way to plan the restoration is to immediately stop the process of desertification. To combat it, soil fertility should be maintained by planting trees, which will lead to land settlement.

    The importance of this day is to restore the lost lands. And the overgrowing demand for food, raw materials, highways, and homes has led to the melting of three-quarters of Earth’s ice-free land. To reverse these losses, there should be an urgent need to recover from this pandemic and guarantee the long-term survival of people and the planet.

    Dryland ecosystems, which cover over one third of the world‘s land area, are extremely vulnerable to overexploitation and inappropriate land use. Desertification is the degradation of land in arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid areas; it is caused primarily by human activities and climatic variations, and affects the world’s poorest. The decisions we make every day on what to buy, eat, drink, wear and how to travel – all have an impact on land resources.

    The UN day is a unique moment to remind everyone that land degradation neutrality (LDN) is achievable. The commemoration of the day is led by the Secretariat of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification.

    “Desertification  and  drought,  which  are  a  degradation  of  environmental  health,  contribute to the collapse of biodiversity and favour the appearance of zoonoses. This is  yet  another  reminder  that  human  health  and  the  health  of  our  environment  are  deeply intertwined,” said Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO, on the occasion of World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought 2021

    Desertification and the Sustainable Development Goals

    The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development declares that “we are determined to protect the planet from degradation, including through sustainable consumption and production, sustainably managing its natural resources and taking urgent action on climate change, so that it can support the needs of the present and future generations”. Specifically, SDG Goal 15: Life on Land states the resolve of the United Nations and the SDG signatory nations to halt and reverse land degradation.

    Why do we observe Desertification and Drought Day?

    How does desertification affect you? No matter where you live, the consequences of desertification and drought concern you. Globally, 23 % of the land is no longer productive. 75 % has been transformed from its natural state, mostly for agriculture. This transformation in land use is happening at a faster rate than at any other time in human history, and has accelerated over the last 50 years. Scientists say the evolution from one state to the next is so rapid, the process is only observable over very short periods. Everyone needs to know that desertification, land degradation and drought (DLDD) have direct affect on their daily lives, and that everyone’s daily actions can either contribute to, or help fight DLDD.

    Who celebrates Desertification and Drought Day?

    Anyone whose life depends on the land needs to care about it, and how land is treated by humans. That includes each and everyone, because 99 % of the calories every human being needs for a healthy life still come from the land.

    Land that is healthy and resilient is the first point of defense against disasters such as droughts and flashfloods, which are becoming more frequent, long and severe

    The loss of more and more productive land is creating growing competition for land to meet the growing demand for goods and services and for ecosystem services that support life

    The next few decades will be the most critical in restoring land for sustainable future.

    The problem is man-made, which means humans are also part of the solution. What do we want people to know about desertification and drought?

    Sustainable land management is everyone’s business. Together, we can restore the productivity of over 2 billion hectares of degraded land and improve the livelihoods of more than 1.3 billion people around the world.

    Land degradation, climate change and biodiversity loss are intimately connected, and are increasingly affecting human well-being. Tackling these issues together is key to achieving many of the Sustainable Development Goals.

    A decade of land degradation may create irreversible damage, but a decade of land restoration may bring multiple benefits

    Please visit this page to learn how people around the world celebrate Desertification and Drought Day. To learn more about how countries in the convention tackle desertification and drought:

    Restoration. Land. Recovery.

    The 2021 Desertification and Drought Day to be held on 17 June will focus on turning degraded land into healthy land. Restoring degraded land brings economic resilience, creates jobs, raises incomes and increases food security. It helps biodiversity to recover. It locks away the atmospheric carbon warming the Earth, slowing climate change. It can also lessen the impacts of climate change and underpin a green recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

    Nearly three quarters of the Earth’s ice-free land has been altered by humans to meet an ever-growing demand for food, raw materials, highways and homes. Avoiding, slowing and reversing the loss of productive land and natural ecosystems now is both urgent and important for a swift recovery from the pandemic and for guaranteeing the long-term survival of people and the planet.

    Current commitments from over 100 countries specify the restoration of almost 1 billion hectares of land over the next decade – an area almost the size of China.5 If we restore this land, we can deliver massive benefits for people and the planet.

    To celebrate the Day and become aware of our role, the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) has announced various activities and materials on its official website. You can help to achieve the restoration of our lands!

    When the soil asks for help

    The UNCCD is therefore calling on all members of the global community to treat the land as a limited and precious natural capital, prioritize its health in the pandemic recovery and push hard to restore the land during the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration. Everyone has a role to play because everyone has a stake in the future.

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *