Stop ‘vandalising’ Earth and help the planet thrive, UN chief urges


“Every second, around four football fields of healthy land are degraded,” said UN Secretary-General António Guterres.

“The security, prosperity and health of billions of people rely on thriving lands supporting lives, livelihoods and ecosystems, but we’re vandalising the Earth that sustains us.”

Desertification, land degradation and drought are currently among the most pressing environmental challenges.

United for land

The Day’s theme is United for Land. Our Legacy. Our Future, spotlighting the future of land stewardship, which is the planet’s most precious resource to ensure the stability and prosperity of billions of people around the world.

Healthy land not only provides us with almost 95 per cent of food eaten around the world, but so much more. It clothes and shelters people, provides jobs and livelihoods and protects communities from the worsening droughts, floods and wildfires.

“As the focus of this year’s World Day reminds us, we must be ‘United for Land’,” he said. “Governments, businesses, academics, communities and more must come together and act.”

‘We know what we need to do’

Growing populations coupled with unsustainable production and consumption patterns fuel demand for natural resources, putting excessive pressure on land to the point of degradation.

At the same time, desertification and drought are driving forced migration, putting tens of millions of people each year at risk of displacement.

Of the world’s eight billion inhabitants, over one billion of young people under the age of 25 years live in developing countries, particularly in regions directly dependent on land and natural resources for sustenance. Creating job prospects for rural populations is a viable solution that gives young people access to eco-entrepreneurship opportunities and at the same time to scale up best practices.

“We know what we need to do,” the UN chief said. “It’s set out clearly in the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD). As we mark the thirtieth anniversary of the Convention, the world must dramatically pick up the pace of implementation.”

To do this, he pointed to building momentum towards UNCCD Conference of States Parties (COP16) in Riyadh and ensuring young people are heard in the negotiations.

“Together, let’s sow the seeds for a thriving future for nature and humanity,” he said.


Fast facts

NOOR for FAO/Benedicte Kurzen

Women in Senegal work in tree nurseries created as part of the Great Green Wall initiative to improve living conditions, biodiversity conservation and the sustainability of the land in the Sahel region.

  • Every second, an equivalent of four football fields of healthy land becomes degraded, adding up to a total of 100 million hectares each year
  • Each dollar invested in land restoration can yield up to $30 in return
  • In many countries affected by desertification, land degradation and drought, agriculture represents a high share of economic revenue
  • Under UNCCD, over 130 countries have already pledged to achieve land degradation neutrality by 2030 towards a world where human activity has a neutral, or even positive, impact on the land
  • The UN supports innovative efforts worldwide, including the newly launched Great Green Wall Observatory, which tracks progress of Africa’s largest land restoration initiative to combat land degradation, desertification and the negative impacts of climate change in the Sahel region
  • The UN Educational. Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) established a growing national and global networks of “Geoparks” combining conservation and sustainable development, with 213 UNESCO Global Geoparks operating in 48 countries and counting
  • Learn more about how the UN is helping here

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