Helen Clark: Speech at the UNDP/UNEP Sponsored Side-Event on Sand and Dust Storms

Nov 15, 2016

In the Middle East and North Africa region, some $13 billion in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is estimated to be lost annually due sand and dust storms. Photo: UNDP

It is a pleasure to join this discussion on the serious challenges posed by sand and dust storms.

These storms have wide-ranging adverse impacts across human health and wellbeing, economic sectors, and infrastructure.  In the Middle East and North Africa region, some $13 billion in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is estimated to be lost annually due to these storms. 

Some of the world’s most significant sand and dust storm challenges have been caused by a combination of prolonged drought and unsustainable land and water management practices. Climate change projections show that many regions currently affected, including West Asia, are likely to become even drier in the next decade.

Coupled with the overall impact of climate change which is producing hotter, drier weather patterns, sand and dust storms now pose a significant challenge to sustainable development for affected countries.

Combatting these storms calls first for heightened awareness of the multidimensional aspects of the challenges they present to the health, well-being, and livelihoods of affected countries and communities; the biodiversity and land productivity implications; and the overall impact of sand and dust storms on inclusive and sustainable development.

The Sand and Dust Storms Global Assessment which has just been published makes a significant contribution to our understanding of the causes and consequences of sand and dust storms. It calls for consolidated and co-ordinated global policy on responding to sand and dust storms.

Increased co-operation at the global and regional levels is called for in four areas:

development of early warning systems, and the sharing of climate and weather information which can be used to forecast dust storms and sandstorms;

promotion of measures to mitigate the worst adverse health effects of sand and dust storms where and when they happen;

scoping of effective preventive measures; and

research on how these storms may impact our atmosphere, climate, and oceans in the future.

The United Nations development system can serve as a platform for such co-operation. UNDP itself has a global presence and commits to working closely with other agencies which can provide specialized inputs. Affected Member States, regional development banks, and other donors can also contribute financing towards regional initiatives to address the challenge of sand and dust storms.

Countries experiencing serious drought and/or desertification have many best practices, experiences, resources, and technical expertise to share on combating sand and dust storms. Iran, together with other Member States, has been playing a major role on forging consensus on the issue.

UNDP stands ready to support all countries and partners on tackling the serious issues of sand and dust storms in the years ahead.

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