Ladies and Gentlemen,
Let me start by highlighting the alarming rate and impact of desertification and land degradation. This has been noted in recent reports by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES).
Degradation has reduced the productivity of 23% of land around the world. This has dramatic implications for food production, jobs, ecosystems, affecting the quality of life of communities around the world whose livelihoods depend on their natural resources and the services these provide.
The Great Green Wall is a beacon of hope and an opportunity to turn the tide on such land degradation and desertification in Africa—from Senegal to Djibouti.
Take someone like 46-year mother and grandmother Avoabu, who was featured in a recent documentary about the Great Green Wall. She is one of many farmers from Nankum village in Burkina Faso who has seen many trees lost and soil washed away. But while more land has been cultivated to compensate for the damage, such communities are still experiencing smaller harvests that generate less money for food or school fees.
But Avoabu and her neighbors also see the 3 million hectares being restored across the country. Which is why, like so many other communities, they are interested in participating in this process. For them, the Great Green Wall can be more than just a way to halt land degradation. It is, for example, an opportunity to develop new value chains for communities to sell sustainable dryland products.
And it may also have the potential to reduce the impact of climate change. Indeed, the IPCC has highlighted the huge spillover benefits of land restoration for adaptation and mitigation.
Moving this initiative from promise to full implementation will take an unprecedented level of cooperation.
I commend Great Green Wall partners, including the African Union, its Development Agency, and the Pan African Agency for the Great Green Wall; the individual countries involved; and partners like the European Union, the World Bank, the Global Environment Facility, the UN and NGOs for taking on this project.
Some progress has been made: Over 8 billion dollars in funding have been secured and a lot of individual projects and initiatives are taking root. But we need to step up our efforts to deliver on the promise of the Great Green Wall: the ambition to grow 8,000 kilometers of natural wonders across the entire width of Africa, and support communities in ensuring that restored land is maintained.
We are still missing opportunities to exploit synergies that could scale-up and speed up that progress, simply because we are not yet coordinating our efforts effectively enough to maximize the return on any financial and political investment.
Overcoming such hurdles is exactly why we are here.
Against this background, I firstly want to ask all Great Green Wall partners to strengthen their collaboration and partnerships—including with local community organizations, local and global businesses, and academia—to empower rural communities and help them secure their livelihoods.
Let us prove that the potential of the region far outstrips its problems when it comes to engaging a young, fast-growing workforce, and empowering rural communities, particularly women, to secure employment and safeguard their future and that of their families.
And secondly, I urge you to work together to secure a solid foundation from which more Member States, private sector and civil society stakeholders can accelerate the benefits of the Support Plan for the Sahel and the Sustainable Development Goals.
If we get this right, the Great Green Wall can actually turn adversity into something extraordinary.
It can -- and must -- grow to be a natural network of solutions.