UNCCD, Saudi Arabia commit to implement G20 initiative on land degradation


The Minister of Environment, Water and Agriculture of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Abdulrahman Abdulmohsen AlFadley, and the Executive Secretary of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), Mr. Ibrahim Thiaw, on Tuesday 30 November 2021 signed a cooperation agreement between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and UNCCD to implement the G20 Global Initiative on Reducing Land Degradation and Enhancing the Conservation of Terrestrial Habitats.

The Initiative, adopted during the G20 Saudi Presidency in 2020, aims to realize the G20 leaders’ aspiration to halve degraded land by 2040. The agreement commits the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to provide financial support to implement the Initiative’s aspirations as laid out in annex (I) of the 2020 G20 Environment Ministers’ Communique.

The terms include the G20’s aim to prevent, halt, and reverse the degradation of land on every continent, complement and support existing initiatives and avoid duplicating efforts. To this end, the G20 Global Initiative will work in tandem with existing multilateral initiatives, and add momentum to the United Nations Decade on Ecosystem Restoration.

G20 is made up of the world’s 20 most powerful economies. They account for more than 80 percent of the world’s Gross Domestic Product, 75 percent of global trade and 60 percent of the population of the planet.

The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification will house the mechanisms needed for the effective implementation of the Initiative, as laid out in the 2020 G20 Environment Ministers’ Communique.

“We have one shot – this decade – to save our lands. Saudi Arabia’s pledge is to provide financial support for a strong start to the implementation of the G20 Global Initiative on Reducing Land Degradation and Enhancing the Conservation of Terrestrial Habitats. This also signals the G20’s commitment to lead in the global efforts to reduce land degradation and restore degraded land to deliver multiple benefits at national, regional, and global levels for people and the planet,” said Minister AlFadley.

“The G20 Global Initiative will reduce land degradation, support biodiversity conservation, build resilience to and mitigate the effects of climate change and drought, as well as lock away carbon in the soil, contribute to food security and provide incomes and jobs to local populations. We hope this pledge motivates everyone – governments, the private sector, ordinary people – to be part of the change we all want to see,” he added.

Ibrahim Thiaw, UNCCD Executive Secretary, said “in the Middle East and across the world, land degradation is a substantial and growing problem. The leadership of the G20 countries through this Global Initiative may become a watershed moment in the global turn to good land stewardship and the restoration of balance with nature.”

“The G20 Global Initiative brings to the table at least three new elements. First, it incentivizes the global community to tackle climate change, biodiversity losses and land degradation together. Second, it demands that while we think globally, we pursue inclusive solutions at the regional and national levels alongside indigenous and local communities, with their traditional knowledge at the heart of action. Third, it demands the engagement of the public and private actors,” Thiaw added.

The G20 Rome Leaders’ declaration issued in October in Italy elaborated in greater detail how good land use and stewardship can solve some of the most urgent global challenges facing humanity today.

In the Rome declaration, G20 leaders confirmed their continued support for the Global Initiative and their eagerness for the implementation strategy and its operational plan.

UNCCD, after a workshop organized by the Italian Presidency of the G20, is developing the 10-year strategy and a flexible and an adaptable three-year operational plan through a consultative process with G20 countries and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Land restoration and drought will be at the heart of discussions to be held at the UNCCD COP15 taking place in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire in May 2022.