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ESCWA Marks World Day to Combat Desertification 2016

Beirut, Lebanon

On the occasion of the 2016 World Day to Combat Desertification, regional and international experts gathered on 20 June in a web conference organized by ESCWA to highlight the importance of striving towards Land Degradation Neutrality through the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). “Protect Earth, Restore Land, Engage People” was the theme of this year’s global event.

A fact sheet by ESCWA on the land degradation status in the region was presented during the event. It focused on the importance of implementing the SDGs, particularly SDG 15, in Arab countries. “70% of the productive land in the Arab Region is degraded, with more than 30% being severely to very severely degraded,” said Fidele Byiringiro and Johanna Von Toggenburg from the ESCWA  Sustainable Development Policies Division. They also noted that the SDGs recognize this problem with Goal 15, and specifically Target 15.3 that calls for the achievement of a land degradation-neutral world.

The participating panelists, Director of Research at the National Centre for Remote Sensing in Lebanon Talal Darwish, and Associate Program Officer at the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) Sabine Sakr, were introduced by Chief of the ESCWA Sustainable Development Policies Division Reem Nejdawi, who indicated the cross-border nature of land degradation, which calls for regional cooperation on the subject.

Talal Darwish emphasized the importance of data collection and rise of technology for decision-making. He underlined that annual loss due to land degradation in Lebanon exceeds $150 million, whereas investment in soil and land research amounted only to $16 million. For her part, Sabine Sakr presented the Land Degradation Neutrality Target Setting Programme, which offers technical guidance on how to assess the level of land degradation, define national baselines and establish measures and targets to achieve land degradation neutrality by 2030. She also shared with the participants the progress made by the program at the regional level.

More than 25 regional experts participated representing national ministries, regional and international organizations, academia and research institutions from Jordan, Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Oman, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia and UAE among others.  They provided inputs on the topic and highlighted their own activities in support of land degradation neutrality implementation and achievement at national level.  The meeting concluded that further emphasis should be shed on the land degradation combating policies in the region and the need for further actions at regional level.  The participants thanked ESCWA for the initiative.