World Day to Combat Desertification Celebrated at Rio+20

17 June 2012: The Secretariat of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) is marking World Day to Combat Desertification, which is celebrated annually on 17 June, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, just a few days before the opening of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD, or Rio+20). 

To mark the Day, the Rio Conventions Pavilion at UNCSD focused on the theme of securing healthy soils and stopping land degradation within a generation, as well as global observance of the World Day to Combat Desertification. The event commenced with a high-level roundtable on what sustainable land and soil management can do to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Panels addressed: towards a zero net land and soil degradation world; the Global Soil Partnership; and the economics of land degradation. The Day concluded with global observance of the World Day to Combat Desertification and a Land for Life Award reception. The Land for Life Award was presented to Sustainable Organic Integrated Livelihoods (SOIL), Haiti, in a ceremony headlined by UNCCD Drylands Ambassador and Miss Universe Leila Lopes. SOIL works in some of the poorest areas of Haiti to promote an integrated approach to the issues of inadequate sanitation, declining soil fertility and extensive erosion.

At the end of the day-long event and following reports by moderators of the three panel sessions, UNCCD Executive Secretary Gnacadja summarized key messages to Rio+20. He noted the Day's discussions had highlighted that while zero net land degradation is an ambitious target, it is timely and achievable. He emphasized that this target would empower the UNCCD to monitor “our land and soil in drylands” and to encourage all stakeholders to move away from business as usual to “business unusual.”

In a statement marking the Day, UNCCD Executive Secretary Luc Gnacadja called on world leaders at Rio+20 "to adopt a stand-alone goal on sustainable land use for all and by all." He said that, to achieve this goal, efforts need to be taken to avoid land degradation in non-degraded areas, restore soil fertility in degraded lands, avoid deforestation, adopt drought preparedness policies.

In his statement to mark the Day, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon emphasized that, by 2050, sufficient productive land will be needed to feed an estimated nine billion people, which will be impossible if soil loss continues at its current pace. He said "important land-use decisions need to be made, as well as critical investments," including extension services for small farmers and technology to support environmentally sustainable mass food production. [IISD RS coverage of Rio Conventions Pavilion] [UNCCD Executive Secretary's Statement] [UN Secretary-General's Statement]