The Secretary-General Message on World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought
More than one billion poor and vulnerable people living in the world’s drylands, where efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals face particular challenges and thus have lagged behind. Almost three-quarters of rangelands show symptoms of desertification. Over the past 40 years, nearly one third of the world’s cropland has become unproductive, often ending up abandoned. The unremitting stress of drought, famine and deepening poverty threatens to create social strains, in turn creating the potential for involuntary migration,the breakdown of communities, political instability and armed conflict. Indeed, human, environmental and social vulnerability come together with unusual force and symmetry in the world’s drylands. Climate change will only exacerbate such pressures.
In this International Year of Biodiversity, we must remember that drylands are areas of enormous biological diversity and productivity. Thirty per cent of the crops that are cultivated and consumed in every corner of the world originate in drylands. Thebiodiversity of dryland soil also plays a critical role in transforming atmospheric carbon into organic carbon – the earth’s largest pool of organic carbon.
When we protect and restore drylands, we advance on many fronts at once: we strengthen food security, we address climate change, we help the poor gain control over their destiny, and we accelerate progress towards the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. On this Day, let us reaffirm our commitment to combating desertification and land degradation and mitigating the effects of drought; and let us recognize that enhancing soils enhances life.