Ibrahim Thiaw

Message from UNCCD Executive Secretary for Desertification and Drought Day 2020

Dear friends,

This year, living under the shadow of COVID19, choices seems to have vanished for many of us. We can’t choose where we go, how we work, and how we celebrate with our friends, our families. We should be celebrating the just-ended Decade on Desertification, for example. As people suffer and as jobs and incomes are lost, we at UN Convention to Combat Desertification, instead, extend our deepest sympathies to everyone affected.

While some of our choices and freedoms have been temporarily cut held, we have not lost all power and influence. We can still make some important choices. If we take care of nature, nature will take care of us. We need nature, nature does not need us. If we intrude into nature’s wild spaces and degrade the land, we can expect more zoonotic diseases to emerge; we can expect the services land provide us with – healthy food, clean air and water – to disappear. In our globalized world, the food we eat, the feed for our livestock and the fibre for clothes impact land thousands of miles away. Each of us holds the power to protect the land for each choice we make in our daily lives. And we can still choose to protect nature. By doing so, we in fact protect our future.

The food we lose or waste every year uses 1.4 billion hectares. By wasting food, we indeed waste land and water, we waste our biological resources, we emit carbons, we jeopardize the future of new generations. In most cases, how much food we waste is entirely our choice. The land used to graze and produce grains to feed animals makes up 80 per cent of agricultural land. But you can choose a more balanced diet.

By 2030, the fashion industry is expected to use 35 per cent more land, most of it to grow materials for cheap and throw-away fashion. But we can choose that shirt or those jeans more carefully. Those choices do not diminish our quality of life. On the contrary, they improve it.

A new social contract for nature would see human kind committed to building back better, smarter and stronger in the years to come. If we choose to work in harmony with nature, we will avert land degradation, we will curb our emissions, we will reverse biodiversity loss. If we choose to restore the land rather than destroy it, we can create jobs and opportunity.

If, like us, you are inspired by the 80 countries that have pledged to restore 400 million hectares by 2030, you can choose to support communities and restore their land. By doing so, you restore hope too. Your choices matter, and no choice is too small. Thank you.

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