Action Plan to boost visibility of the world's drylands

10 July 2013 | News story

10 July 2013 – Caux, Switzerland. The heads of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) today signed an agreement aimed at drawing global attention to the value of drylands and their threatened status as ecosystems.

UNCCD Executive Secretary Luc Gnacadja and IUCN Director General Julia Marton-Lefèvre signed the Joint Plan of Action at the Caux Dialogue on Land and Security taking place in Caux, Switzerland.

“Drylands are invaluable ecosystems but their future sustainability is threatened by desertification, climate change and other human activities. The IUCN Red List of Ecosystems, for instance, will provide the international community with a valuable tool to signal growing threats to drylands,” said Gnacadja.

“IUCN is, and has been, a key player in forests and landscape restoration. This is crucial in the fight against desertification, land degradation and drought. Partnership with IUCN in this area will enable the UNCCD to scale up land restoration in the drylands and others areas affected by land degradation, and advance and accelerate the shift to a land-degradation neutral world,” he added.

“Desertification is a major threat not only to global sustainability but also to global peace and security. This is why IUCN and UNCCD have joined forces to address this challenge together. By restoring dryland ecosystems back to health and improving the way they are governed, we can boost food and climate security, generate jobs and income, and reduce land-related conflicts around the world,” said Marton- Lefèvre.”

Drylands ecosystems cover over one third of the Earth’s land surface and are critical for global food security. They support over half the world’s livestock and cover about 44% of all cultivated areas. More than a third of the global population resides here.

Drylands contain many unique habitats and many endemic species, with a species richness of flowering plants that is amongst the highest in the world. About 51% of the world’s conservation hotspots include drylands.

“Humans have a bad history of turning drylands into man-made deserts. This generation must put an end to that legacy. The myth that dryland ecosystems are wastelands is troubling, but our complacence towards the perpetual creation of man-made deserts is dangerous,” said Gnacadja.

“Desertification robs people of their livelihoods and nations of their wealth. It is time to recognize drylands for what they are: diverse, valuable and fragile ecosystems that need our urgent attention,” said Marton-Lefèvre.

Under the Joint Action Plan that runs until the end of 2014, drylands ecosystems would become part of the future IUCN Red List of Ecosystems. Currently under development, the List will be a global standard to assess the status of ecosystems and measure the risk of collapse. It will be applicable at local, national, regional and global levels.

The plan also addresses issues of land rights and customary governance in drylands as well as the harmonization of gender mainstreaming policies with the Convention on Biological Diversity and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, for which IUCN has been playing a major role.

The agreement signed today formalizes the collaboration between the two organizations that dates back to a joint retreat held in 2011 at IUCN Headquarters in Gland, Switzerland.

Since then, UNCCD and IUCN have played a crucial role in the organization of the 2nd UNCCD Scientific Conference held under the theme of “Economic assessment of desertification, sustainable land management and resilience of arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid areas.” Last year, they published the book “Conserving Drylands Biodiversity” with other partners.

After the signing ceremony, Marton-Lefèvre planted a tree in honor of Gnacadja's role at the UNCCD and Caux in bringing together the land restoration and security agendas.

Gnacadja has been a key player in convening the Caux Dialogue on Land and Security that has brought together individuals, governments, international organizations, NGOs and businesses to explore the potential of sustainable land management as a driver of peace, development and climate change mitigation.

For more information contact:

Sergio Zelaya, Coordinator, Policy for Advocacy on Global Issues Unit, UNCCD Secretariat, szelaya@unccd.int
Jonathan Davies, Global Coordinator, IUCN Drylands Initiative Jonathan.Davies@iucn.org

About IUCN
IUCN, International Union for Conservation of Nature, helps the world find pragmatic solutions to our most pressing environment and development challenges. IUCN supports scientific research, manages field projects all over the world, and brings governments, NGOs, the UN and companies together to develop policy, laws and best practice. IUCN is the world’s oldest and largest global environmental organization, with more than 1,000 government and NGO members and almost 11,000 volunteer experts in some 160 countries. IUCN’s work is supported by over 1,000 staff in 60 offices and hundreds of partners in public, NGO and private sectors around the world.

About the UNCCD
Desertification, along with climate change and the loss of biodiversity, were identified as the greatest challenges to sustainable development during the 1992 Rio Earth Summit. Established in 1994, UNCCD is the sole legally binding international agreement linking environment, development and the promotion of healthy soils. The Convention’s 195 signatory Parties work to alleviate poverty in the drylands, maintain and restore the land’s productivity, and mitigate the effects of drought.