A high-level panel marked Desertification and Drought Day 2020 with a discussion focused on the Day’s theme, ‘Food. Feed. Fibre,” and the question, “Is it time for a new social contract for nature?” Ministers and agency heads offered recommendations for addressing vulnerabilities for land management that have been exposed by the COVID-19 pandemic and options for building back better.
The virtual panel took place on 17 June 2020, and was moderated by UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) Executive Secretary Ibrahim Thiaw. It was one of several events organized to celebrate Desertification and Drought Day 2020.
The event opened with a video statement by the UN Secretary-General, who called for a new social contract for nature in order to leave no one behind.
Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi, Minister of Climate Change and Environment, United Arab Emirates, emphasized the need for an inclusive response and commitment to making greener choices after the pandemic is over.
Saboto Caesar, Minister of Agriculture, Forestry, Fisheries, Rural Transformation and Industry, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, highlighted that his country faces multiple challenges from climate change and the pandemic, which have implications for land, food, and fiber. St. Vincent and the Grenadines is increasing import substitution activities while increasing exports and promoting drought tolerant crops.
Marieme Bekaye, Minister of Environment and Sustainable Development, Mauritania, and Chair of Great Green Wall for the Sahara and Sahel Initiative, noted that collaboration among institutions and between countries has made it possible to avoid food shortages. She also stressed the importance of data collection, and said more environmental data are needed for the African continent.
Babul Supriyo, Minister of State, Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, India, reviewed commitments India had taken as President during the 15th meeting of the UNCCD Conference of the Parties (COP 15). He highlighted India’s efforts to share technology through South-South activities, and called attention to India’s target to restore 26 million hectares of degraded land by 2030 and recover its forest cover by 2%.
Francesco La Camera, Director-General of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), noted that renewable energy systems support land use management and contribute to long term sustainability. Recalling the memorandum of understanding between IRENA and UNCCD signed at COP 15, he said the two organizations are working to address their common challenges, with climate change being the biggest challenge that they face. [UNCCD News Release and link to video of event][SDG Knowledge Hub sources]