Interview. Balms for the world’s desertified lands. Landscape News spoke with UNCCD Executive Secretary at the World Day to Combat Desertification | Land Portal

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Date of publication: 
December 2019
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According to the U.N. and World Bank, 40 percent of the global population is affected by water scarcity, and by 2030, up to 700 million people could be displaced as a result.
Having spent his youth spent living through a series of droughts and famine, Ibrahim Thiaw is not only a face to these numbers but also on a mission, as Executive Secretary of the U.N. Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), to ensure that even if the statistics are forgotten, the lands and lives they involve are not.

The UNCCD is extremely active on the issue of migration because of the links between degradation and migration. When there is nothing left for a young person to do, what else can they do but flee? But the UNCCD has a large program in Africa supporting dozens of countries, called the 3S Initiative (Sustainability, Stability and Security), which is a program targeting young people, creating opportunities to help them stay home rather than take the dangerous roads of irregular migration, or helping those who have not been successful in migrating come back home and be reintegrated. So it’s a wonderful program supported by many countries,
spearheaded by Morocco and Senegal.

We do have many other programs including supporting the Great Green Wall in the Sahara, which is also creating opportunities and jobs for young people, women and people who are unfortunately left behind. It is important for us all to take into consideration that when there is no production in rural areas, people have to flee somewhere else, and that situation can be very difficult. It can create civil unrest. These young people might also be implicated in terrorist attacks. With USD 200, it’s a lot of money for them, and they can be diverted to situations where no one wanted them to be.

Land rights also make sure that small farmers own their land, and there is no land and water grabbing. People come to grab water more than land because they have land where they live, but what may be lacking there is water, or productive land.

Land tenure is extremely important and equally important for investors. If you are thinking about restoring 2 billion hectares in the world, to create the balance we need in the world, these investments will have to be done by private companies that would normally exploit the land for a longer period of time. Who is going to invest in someone else’s land if there is no land security, if there is no concession, if there are no guarantees that these investments will yield and be there for a long period of time?

Authors and Publishers

Author(s), editor(s), contributor(s): 

Thiaw, Ibrahim

Data provider

The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification in Those Countries Experiencing Serious Drought and/or Desertification, Particularly in Africa (UNCCD) is a Convention to combat desertification and mitigate the effects of drought through national action programs that incorporate long-term strategies supported by international cooperation and partnership arrangements.


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