Message from Ms. Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO, on the Occasion of World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought
“Let us grow the future together”
17 June 2019
Drought, climate change, biodiversity erosion, land degradation, intensive farming practices and poor water management, inter alia, have adversely affected our lands to the point of today’s global desertification crisis, which affects more than 165 countries worldwide.
This crisis has a dramatic impact on our common environmental heritage, and poses a considerable threat to global peace and sustainable development.
As stated by the Global Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), launched on 6 May 2019 at UNESCO, there is an urgent need to take collective action to preserve the living fabric of our planet. This implies taking immediate action against desertification and drought, which is our responsibility towards future generations.
Desertification and drought increase water scarcity, at a time when two billion people still do not have access to safe drinking water – and over three billion may have to confront a similar situation by 2050. The world’s most vulnerable communities cannot fulfil essential water needs, sometimes causing them to migrate from lands that have become dry and barren. According to the Secretariat of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, 135 million people are likely to migrate worldwide by 2030 as a result of the deterioration of lands. These migrations and deprivations are in turn a source of conflict and instability, demonstrating that desertification is a crucial challenge to peace.
Every year, we observe the World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought on 17 June to promote public awareness of international efforts to achieve land degradation neutrality, thanks to the tools of scientific cooperation, problem-solving and strong community involvement at the grass-roots level. UNESCO has been at the forefront of this collective endeavour, building on its scientific expertise and mobilizing its water and environmental programmes.
This is why finding solutions to drought and water scarcity, whether natural or humaninduced, was one of the main themes of the UNESCO International Water Conference held on 13-14 May 2019. This conference encouraged a broad and concerted commitment to implementing a global response to the challenges raised by water access and governance, anticipating and mitigating negative impacts on world peace, sustainable development and international solidarity.
UNESCO has provided support to its Member States to address drought-related challenges and management by enhancing human capacity, policy guidance and existing tools. This includes drought monitoring and early warning systems for local populations in Africa, the development of drought atlas and observatories to determine the frequency and exposure to droughts by local populations, as well as the assessment of socio-economic vulnerabilities and the development of drought indicators for policy-making in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Working together is crucial. No progress can be achieved in the combat against desertification and drought without engaging with all actors: public authorities, actors from the private sector, scientists, associations, and local communities, especially their youth.
For it is only by working across disciplines, and doing so holistically and inclusively that we can hope to fulfil the Sustainable Development Goal on “Life on Land”, and reverse the process of desertification that is a threat to humankind.
Together, let us grow a sustainable future through respecting our lands, preserving their abundance and beauty, and working to foster inclusive solutions.