World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought: give the floor (and power) to the people

World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought: give the floor (and power) to the people

June 08, 2018

World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought: give the floor (and power) to the people

The small choices we make every day when we buy food and other goods, may change the fate of our planet, by helping combat desertification, a worrying phenomenon linked to managing the land with no sustainability.  

Every year, 17 June marks the  World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought, a special date established by the United Nations General Assembly in 1994 to increase global awareness of the importance to combat soil degradation and strengthen our ability to combat droughts. The theme chosen for 2018 - "Land has true value. Invest in it" calls upon individuals to take the front line to address the current situation through conscious choices. "What we eat, drink and wear can make the difference, and push investors to choose land management policies that are really sustainable" stated Monique Barbut, United Nations Under-Secretary General and Executive Secretary for the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UN Convention to Combat Desertification - UNCCD). "Every amount that people spend, no matter how small, determines the fate of public and private investments: let us not underestimate the power that our choices have in changing the world", she added


The value of land

"Land has true value" recites the slogan of the 2018 World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought. This is backed by economic data, since the estimates suggest that soil degradation will cause the world economy to lose 23,000 billion dollars by 2050. Degradation, which already affects 30 per cent of all lands, is caused to a large extent by human activity: intensive farming, extreme exploitation of mineral resources, deforestation to create new arable lands. Climate change does the rest, putting at risk the already fragile ecosystems of arid and semi-arid lands. The importance of the issue and the need to find effective answers to these challenges are the focus of the United Nations' experts, who included them in the sustainable development goals to be achieved by 2030. Goal No. 15, in particular, is about 'life on earth' and, among its targets, it mentions strengthening cooperation against desertification, soil degradation and droughts, in addition to achieving 'soil degradation neutrality', that is a state whereby the quantity and quality of land resources are stable or increasing .

Global initiatives

Contrary to what we may think after a quick overview of this issue, desertification and droughts affect all the world population. The data are very clear. More than 250 million people today are directly affected by desertification, and nearly a billion are at risk, especially the poorest people, the outcasts with no political weight. According to the experts, access to productive lands is the basis for future economic growth, as well as stability and world peace. Data from the Global Land Outlook, an UNCCD platform set up in 2017, show how the health of soils and lands is an absolute condition for the welfare of humans and the whole planet. International collaboration on various levels is one of the strategies that can be unleashed, but it also needs the awareness of each individual citizen, and this year's World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought provides the opportunity to achieve this objective. All the initiatives organized for 17 June are listed in a dedicated page on the official UNCCD website. 

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