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Saudi Arabia Champions Global Efforts Against Land Degradation

The global observance of Desertification and Drought Day 2024, hosted by the Government of Germany, concluded on June 17 in Bonn, marking the 30th anniversary of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD). The event underscored the urgent need to combat land degradation and drought under the theme “United for Land: Our Legacy. Our Future.”
Emphasizing the significance of this year’s Desertification and Drought Day, UNCCD Executive Secretary Ibrahim Thiaw said, “As we gather in Bonn, Germany and around the world to mark this Day, we are also celebrating a major milestone this year: 30 years since the adoption of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification.”
Thiaw added, “This year, we focus on sharing the wisdom of our ancestors with future generations. More than a billion young people under the age of 25 in developing countries depend on land and natural resources. They are key to transforming their communities and driving innovation in sustainable land management.”
In a statement highlighting the urgency of addressing land degradation, Dr. Osama Faqeeha, Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Minister of Environment, Water, and Agriculture, emphasized the Kingdom’s commitment to sustainable land management, stating, “Desertification, land degradation, and drought are among the most pressing environmental challenges of our time. Land degradation affects up to 40% of the world’s land area and results in the annual loss of 100 million hectares of healthy land. This year’s 30th anniversary of the UNCCD coincides with COP16, which is expected to be a pivotal moment for land restoration and sustainable management. Together, we can turn the tide and restore our land. Our future depends on our ability to manage our land sustainably.”
Dr. Faqeeha highlighted the stark fact that we lose an area of healthy land equivalent to four football fields every second due to land degradation. He added, “Healthy land is essential for our future. Let’s unite for sustainable land management.”
Saudi Arabia has been at the forefront of driving global efforts to combat land degradation and drought. The Kingdom’s initiatives, such as the Saudi Green Initiative and various land restoration projects, were highlighted as exemplary models for sustainable development. These initiatives not only contribute to environmental sustainability but also aim to create economic opportunities and improve the quality of life for communities.
The event brought together leaders from government, academia, and civil society, along with young changemakers who are at the forefront of restoring land, enhancing drought resilience, developing sustainable agricultural businesses, and leveraging technology and innovation to tackle global environmental challenges.
Key highlights of the event included the presentation of the new cohort of UNCCD Land Heroes and the unveiling of the UNCCD Youth Engagement Strategy and the Land Youth Negotiators Programme. These initiatives empower youth to transform land management practices and engage in policy-making processes, especially ahead of the upcoming UNCCD COP16 negotiations in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, from December 2-13, 2024.
The event also highlighted the significant economic benefits of investing in land restoration. For every $1 invested, up to $30 in benefits can be realized. This is critical as land degradation and drought jeopardize global food supply, increase the risk of natural disasters, and drive conflict and forced migration. With a quarter of the world’s rural youth (187 million out of 778 million) living in areas with high agricultural and trade potential, targeted development in these areas is essential. Engaging youth in food system transformation and land restoration is expected to help create the estimated 600 million jobs needed by 2030.
The global observance of Desertification and Drought Day 2024 successfully underscored the urgent need for collective action in land stewardship, driving home the message that healthy land is fundamental to global prosperity and stability.

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