Dryland management must be placed higher on international agenda, stresses Secretary-General at High-level General Assembly event on desertification

Too often seen as a “lost cause”, the world’s drylands — home to 2 billion people — must be placed higher on the international agenda as poor land management, climate change and conflict threatened to jeopardize hard-won gains in painstaking national efforts to reduce poverty and improve development prospects, top United Nations and other officials said today during the High-level Meeting of the General Assembly to address desertification, land degradation and drought.

Nowhere were those challenges felt more acutely today than in the Horn of Africa, where 13 million people faced the subregion’s worst drought in six decades. The incentive for the sustainable management of drylands was clear, given their potential for biofuel growth and both solar and wind resource development, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said during the opening of a plenary meeting to launch the day-long event.

Timely action could unlock those riches and provide solutions to other formidable challenges, including rural poverty, geopolitical conflict and forced migrations. However, land degradation was not just a dryland issue, it was also occurring in tropical areas at an unprecedented rate, he said, warning that if left unchecked, it could roll back efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.

During the interactive panel discussions, political leaders vowed not to stand idly by while climate change dried out their lands, shrivelled crops and killed off livestock. They called strongly on the United Nations to help them identify and implement effective, low-cost projects to tackle the equally daunting challenge of reversing and preventing desertification.

Mass migration was also fuelling the problem, as was the unequal treatment of important international conventions covering land desertification, which meant that timely funds were not being provided, other speakers commented. Several delegates expressed hope that such matters would figure prominently in discussions at the June 2012 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development.

Original article published at www.uncsd2012.org

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