Maiden UN treat on desertification, land degradation and drought begins in Central Asia


The twenty-first session of the Committee for the Review of the Implementation of the Convention (CRIC 21) to the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) will be held in Samarkand, Uzbekistan from Monday 13-17 November 2023.

CRIC21 will bring together an estimated 500 delegates from 196 countries and the European Union, civil society, and academia to reflect on progress in delivering the Convention’s strategic objectives. It marks the first time UNCCD convenes one of its most significant meetings in Central Asia, since its establishment.

This meeting comes at a critical juncture, as recent data launched by UNCCD shows that the world is losing nearly 100 million hectares of healthy and productive land every year. If current trends continue, 1.5 billion hectares of land will need to be restored by 2030 to achieve land degradation neutrality around the globe. But, halting additional degradation and accelerating existing commitments alone could surpass the neutrality target.

UNCCD Executive Secretary Ibrahim Thiaw said: “Droughts, wildfires and heatwaves we have witnessed around the world are the symptoms of the deepening and interlinked climate and nature crises, with land at the heart of both. Since 2015, some 4 million square kilometres of healthy and productive lands have been lost—an area roughly the size of Central Asia. We must urgently stop further land degradation and restore at least 1 billion hectares to meet global land targets by 2030.”

CRIC21 will be held at the Silk Road Samarkand Congress Centre. Parties will have the opportunity to review progress and provide recommendations towards achieving global targets to prevent and reverse land degradation, in line with the 2018-2030 UNCCD strategic and implementation frameworks.

Among the highlights of the CRIC21 programme:

Opening plenary on 13 November from 10:00-13:00 with introductory statements from the Chair of the CRIC, the UNCCD Executive Secretary and the representative of the Government of Uzbekistan.

UNCCD Gender Caucus on 14 and 16 November from 13:00-15:00 will convene international experts to discuss women’s land rights as a prerequisite to the success of global land restoration and drought resilience efforts.

A high-level political event on Sand and Dust Storms hosted by the government of Uzbekistan will be held on 15 November from 10:00-13:00. In recent years, sand and dust storms have increased in both frequency and severity in both Uzbekistan and surrounding countries.

For the first time, more than 30 side events will be organized at CRIC21. These events provide the informal opportunity for parties and accredited observer organizations to exchange information and experiences on diverse issues related to the objectives of the Convention.

Press briefings will be held throughout CRIC21 between 13:00-15:00 local time, including:

13 November: Focus on Central Asia: global and regional trends on desertification, land degradation and drought with UNCCD Chief Scientist, Dr Barron Orr, and Programme Officer, Science, Technology and Innovation Unit, Ms Olga Andreeva (TBC).

14 November: Her Land. Her Rights: global and regional efforts to advance women’s land rights and their engagement in land restoration and drought resilience efforts with UNCCD and regional experts (TBC).

15 November: Sand and Dust Storms: the latest data on this growing phenomenon with UNCCD and regional experts, as well as the outcomes of the high-level event hosted by the Government of Uzbekistan.

17 November: Closing press conference: an overview of the key outcomes of CRIC21 with Mr Ibrahim Thiaw, UNCCD Executive Secretary, Ms. Biljana Kilibarda, Chair of the CRIC, and Mr Aziz Abdukhakimov, Uzbek Minister of Ecology, Environmental Protection and Climate Change.