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UNCCD chief calls for joint efforts to tackle global land degradation

In the interview on Desertification and Drought Day 2024 falling on Monday, the UN senior official said that restoring the balance between increasing demands and shrinking resources is the biggest challenge facing the world.

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This photo taken on May 16, 2024 shows a road winding through the sandy land in Ongniud Banner in Chifeng City, north China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region. (Xinhua/Lian Zhen)

Joint efforts are required to tackle challenges such as desertification and land loss, the executive secretary of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) said in an exclusive interview with Xinhua on Monday in Bonn, Germany.

Ibrahim Thiaw stressed that land degradation is occurring rapidly worldwide while human beings continue to extract resources from the land for various purposes.

The world population is expected to reach 10 billion by 2050. In the interview on Desertification and Drought Day 2024 falling on Monday, the UN senior official said that restoring the balance between increasing demands and shrinking resources is the biggest challenge facing the world.

As UNCCD statistics show, desertification, land degradation and drought are currently among the most pressing environmental challenges. About 40 percent of all land area worldwide has been degraded.

On Monday, which also marks the 30th anniversary of the UNCCD, Thiaw praised the remarkable efforts of many countries, including China, to restore degraded land. He said those efforts prove the possibility of bringing the land back to life even after it has gone through a period of degradation.

Nevertheless, Thiaw said more needs to be done in the future to face the global challenge. “The water we drink, the food we eat, the clothes we wear, the quality of the air we breathe are all dependent on the healthiness of the land we live in,” he stressed.

“It is important that we all think as one planet, regardless of where we live in the world. We are so interconnected,” he added, emphasizing that any action affecting nature anywhere in the world will impact everywhere else.

The UNCCD was adopted in 1994 to assist countries and regions affected by severe drought or desertification, with a total of 197 parties. In 2015, the United Nations incorporated desertification control into the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, proposing to achieve the goal of zero growth of land degradation by 2030, forming a global consensus on combating desertification.

As a party to the Convention, China is “making great contributions to the UNCCD and to the world,” Thiaw said. He recalled his visit to Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region several years ago, when he traveled 1,200 km across the Taklamakan Desert, one of the most arid regions in China.

“I saw really good progress being made by experts under very difficult circumstances. But I also saw the magnitude of what is left to be done to protect that environment,” he said.

In terms of international partnerships between China and other countries within the frame of UNCCD, he said: “China is reaching out to the Middle East sharing knowledge and experiences. China is working with many countries in Africa and elsewhere. We appreciate that.”

The UNCCD chief called for more international cooperation and joint efforts to tackle environmental problems. “We need to build alliances between countries from the Middle East, from Africa, from Latin America that are all affected by the same phenomenon.”

Xinhua News Agency

Founded in 1931, Xinhua News Agency is one of the largest news organizations in the world, with over 10,000 employees across the globe. As the main source of news and information for China, Xinhua plays a key role in shaping the country's media landscape and communicating its perspectives to the world. The agency produces a wide range of content, including text news articles, photos, videos, and social media posts, in both Chinese and English, and its reports are widely used by media organizations around the world. Xinhua also operates several international bureaus, including in key capitals like Washington, D.C., Moscow, and London, to provide in-depth coverage of global events.

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