Press Conference by Executive Secretary of United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification on Moving towards Land Degradation-Neutral World

26 March 2012

Press Conference by Executive Secretary of United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification on Moving towards Land Degradation-Neutral World

26 March 2012
Press Conference
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Press Conference by Executive Secretary of United Nations Convention to Combat


Desertification on Moving towards Land Degradation-Neutral World


A total of 12 million hectares of land with the potential to produce 20 billion tons of grain was lost to degradation and drought every year, a reality that hampered the ability of States to tackle food, water and energy security, as well as climate change, Luc Gnacadja, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification said at Headquarters today.


“This is equal to 23 hectares of land transformed into man-made desert every minute,” he declared at a press conference, noting that drylands were home to 2.7 billion people, or 38 per cent of the world’s population, and comprised 44 per cent of cultivated systems and hold 50 per cent of its livestock.  With global trends such as population dynamics, and growing demand for energy, food and water expected to exert a dramatic increase in pressure on land, demand for food alone was expected to jump by 50 per cent and that for energy and water by 40 per cent by 2030.


“These needs will not be met unless we preserve the land,” warned Mr. Gnacadja, who is in New York for a two-day intersessional meeting on the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20), to be held in Brazil from 20-22 June.  That meeting aims to secure renewed political commitment to sustainable development.  Indeed, sustainable land use by all and for all was an imperative and should be the cornerstone of the “green economy”, he stressed, expressing hope that “ Rio+20” would live up to that imperative.


He said two mechanisms could arrest the shrinkage of fertile land:  managing non-degraded fertile lands in such a way as to halt further loss; and restoring already damaged land.  Sustainable land management was a vaccine, and the many successful methods already in use must now be disseminated, he added.  First and foremost, however, an ambitious target must be set to empower a “land degradation-neutral” society in which the sustainable management of land and water was supported at all levels, and every hectare of degraded land was offset by one restored.  “With political will and cooperation, we can achieve this paradigm shift,” he said.


Helping to spread that message, Leila Lopes, Miss Universe and Drylands Ambassador for the anti-Desertification Convention, declared:  “It’s simple; drylands are not wastelands.  They can be saved.”  She added that she was from an area of Angola that had been greatly affected by land degradation, a phenomenon that affected many of the world’s poorest people.  Addressing it meant that poverty could be tackled in a meaningful way, she said, appealing for unity in order to achieve a society free of land degradation.  She added that she would be taking part in activities leading up to “ Rio+20”, including around the World Day to Combat Desertification, observed every 17 June.


Mr. Gnacadja presented Ms. Lopes with a certificate formally designating her Drylands Ambassador for 2011-2012.  He presented a similar certificate, in absentia, to Jeffrey Sachs, Director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University and Special Adviser to the Secretary-General.


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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.