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UN Marks World Day to Combat Desertification

World Day to Combat Desertification 201117 June 2011: The annual World Day to Combat Desertification was marked on 17 June 2011, with events and statements from leaders around the world. The specific focus of the Day was on forests in the drylands areas of the world, in keeping with the International Year on Forests (2011), and guided by the motto: “Forests keep drylands working.”

In his message on the Day, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said dry forests and scrubland “provide the backbone of arid ecosystems,” and that the greening of the Sahel, among other success stories, showed the possibility of reclaiming degraded lands. He noted the potential of the Green Climate Fund and other initiatives for improving dryland populations' resilience, and called for a change in market perceptions of drylands as “investment deserts.”

UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Executive Director Achim Steiner spoke of the Day's connections to a green economy in regard to forest ecosystems and their relevance to national economies. Steiner expressed hope that at the upcoming UN Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD, or Rio+20) countries would recommit to the objectives and intent underlying the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), one of the three Rio Conventions.

Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), said deserts and drylands represented the frontlines of both the negative impacts of climate change, as well as opportunities to respond to climate change. Ensuring that drylands inhabitants are not left behind as governments pursue sustainable development paths, she said, presents a “major planning challenge,” with which the UN could help by providing clear and coordinated advice.

Ahmed Djoghlaf, Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), highlighted drylands forests' role as providers of ecosystems services and contributors to sustainable development and climate change responses.

Other statements were made by: Michel Jarraud, Secretary-General of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO); Ambassador Kwon Byong Hyon, UNCCD Sustainable Land Management Champion; Kanayo Nwanze, President, International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD); Jacques Diouf, Director-General, Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO); Monique Barbut, Chief Executive, Global Environment Facility (GEF); and Christian Mersmann, Managing Director, Global Mechanism of the UNCCD. [Statements on World Day to Combat Desertification] [Website of World Day]