28 September 2009

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Land-dependent People Should Be ‘Part of the Picture’ at Copenhagen Conference,


Secretary-General Tells States Parties to UN Convention on Desertification

Following is UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s message to the ninth session of the Conference of Parties to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, in Buenos Aires today, 28 September:

It is a pleasure to send greetings to all participants in the high-level segment of the Ninth Session of the Conference of Parties to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification.  I thank the Government and people of Argentina for generously hosting this important Conference.

Desertification, land degradation and drought are among the most pressing global environment challenges of our time, threatening to reverse the gains of sustainable development that have emerged in many parts of the world over the past few years.  Expanding deserts suffocate livelihoods and ways of life.  Desertification and land degradation destabilize societies, entrench poverty and exacerbate climate change.  The more than 2 billion people who live on the world’s drylands are also among the poorest and most vulnerable.  They bear the brunt of change and are least able to cope.

In addressing climate change, the international community has tended quite understandably to focus on cutting greenhouse gas emissions.  But tackling the issue in all its complexity also requires us to go beyond mitigation and take into account the intrinsic linkages between desertification, land degradation and climate change.  Three quarters of all disasters globally are now climate-related, up from half just a decade ago, and we can expect worse.  These disasters are exacerbated by desertification and land degradation.

There is only one way forward.  We must strengthen our ability to adapt to a changing climate.  Sustainable land management can make a critical contribution, through carbon sequestration, land reclamation and efforts to combat soil loss and restore vegetation.  Such steps can not only strengthen resilience, but also enhance agricultural production, food security and economic development.

Your deliberations can help lead the international community towards the paradigm shift that is required in policymaking and resource allocation.  When world leaders gather in Copenhagen in December, the land agenda -- and most of all the people who rely on the land for their jobs, sustenance and very survival -- should be part of the picture.  Your deliberations here can give important guidance in this regard, and I wish you every success.

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For information media • not an official record