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Interview: UN official says desertification deserves more attention

English.news.cn   2013-12-13 07:48:22            

by Tang Zhiqiang, Ban Wei

BONN, Germany, Dec. 12 (Xinhua) -- Desertification and land degradation would affect lives of ordinary people and cause many global problems including terrorism, thus deserved more attention from all stakeholders, said a top UN official in an interview with Xinhua on Thursday.

"Clearly, I cannot say that it has been done enough," said Monique Barbut, Executive Secretary of the United Nation Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), "the (desertification) affected land are getting bigger and bigger."

According to the Bonn-based UNCCD secretariat, about 12 million hectares of productive drylands become infertile due to desertification and drought. Over 2 billion people live in the drylands where desertification and drought are enduring challenges. About 90 percent of them are in developing countries, mostly in the rural areas where land is their primary source of livelihood.

Barbut said that there is a misperception that land restoration is only good for the few people to whom the land belongs.

"It is not a local problem, it is a global problem," she said, "if you think in terms of global food security, less land that you have somewhere would also impact the price of food in another place."

In her opinion, the problem of desertification and land degradation was even one of causes of terrorism.

"If you see today the conflicts in north Mali and other areas, why don't we talk about the root cause of terrorism in those region?" Barbut said.

"What will happen if there is no more land to cultivate and no more water for the population there ... Most of those people are trying to survive ... if they have nothing, then they are left into hands which are maybe not so nice."

The new executive secretary admitted that it is a pressure for her that UNCCD did not draw as much attention as UNFCCC, another UN convention for climate change.

"It is the poor child," said Barbut, adding that given the misperception about the global impact of desertification, the phenomenon is understandable, but it is in her plan to raise public awareness of desertification through cooperation with media.

"People like to talk about what is concerning them most," she said, "If you bring food and water everyday to the table of the ones living in cities, they do not see that the problem of land degradation, of water scarcity is a big problem."

The official said there should be more big "flagship projects" as the Green Great Wall in China, a vast forestation project aim to cover 4.07 million square km by 2050, in order to show that "things that can be done".

"China is a very good example, because it's one of the rare country which is restoring more land than it is degrading," she said.

According to the executive secretary, the success of desertification combating relies on the collaboration internationally, as well as inside individual countries.

"Different ministries should be working together, it can't be agriculture ministry dealing with that, it can't be ministry of environment alone, or only energy ministry," Barbut said.

Besides, a better use of current resources and a change of developing pattern are essential in this process. She warned that there are many countries which clearly "not in the right way to develop and use their land".

Editor: An
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