Conference on Environment and Sustainable Development in Nouakchott

A few weeks ago, an important conference on Environment and Sustainable Development took place in Nouakchott.

UNCCD Executive Secretary Ibrahim Thiaw spoke at the conference as the keynote speaker. Organized by the “Collectif des Cadres Mauritaniens Expatriés” (CCME) under the theme "Environment and Sustainable Development in Mauritania: Challenges and Opportunities", Government officials, ambassadors and high-level officials from the Nouakchott-based diplomatic corps, researchers, members of the civil society, and the general public took part in the conference.

UNCCD Executive Secretary Thiaw explained the relationship between development and environmental preservation in Mauritania - a desertification and climate change-prone country where 50% of child mortality under-5 is related to the environment. “Balancing the need for development with the necessity to protect the environment is a delicate exercise of compromise,” said Mr. Thiaw. He spoke about the environment sector in the country which is more diverse and has more significant potential than currently valued. To illustrate such potential, he gave examples, including green jobs and agro-pastoralism, that would turn the challenges into opportunities. He concluded the speech by emphasizing that Mauritania’s sustainable development must be everyone's business.

Desertification, the loss of natural habitats and water shortages are naturally at the core of Mauritania's environmental challenges. Evidence that climate change has already had its effects, droughts are becoming more frequent and more intense, each time causing economic damage to the country. Years of severe droughts thus correspond to periods of economic shrinkage, as the primary sector is the mainstay of the economy (more than 60% of Mauritanians derive their livelihood from agriculture and livestock farming). The citizens, not only those living in rural areas, are devastated by droughts. The land is affected as much as marine and coastal areas. Environmental issues are among the root causes of Sahelian cancer.

However, in the era of the fourth industrial revolution, artificial intelligence and blockchains, these challenges can be transformed into a source of wealth and comfort. Mauritania can achieve its aspirations for prosperity while protecting its environment.

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