Land degradation – a security issue – UNCCD

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When land degradation reaches a level at which it seriously threatens people’s livelihoods, it can turn into a security issue. This is because land is so closely linked to basic human needs, such as access to food and water. If land degradation interferes with the fulfilment of these needs, it can lead to conflicts over scarce land and water resources, spark food riots or turn smallholder farmers into refugees.

 

 

editorial

It is striking that many of today’s violent conflicts are taking place in countries with vulnerable dry ecosystems. Syria, Mali and Darfur are just a few examples. I believe that this issue urgently needs to be addressed – by national and international policy-makers and researchers alike. That’s why I have put the investigation of the connection between land degradation and conflict high on the UNCCD’s agenda.

The question is not whether land degradation is a root cause of, or a contributory factor to, violent conflicts. The point is that we must take action to curb land degradation. By managing land sustainably, we can contribute to human security, stability and peace. The good news is that we have many useful tools at hand that can halt land degradation and restore degraded land. With this in mind, our mission to establish a land-degradation neutral world becomes even more urgent.

I have seen sustainable land management initiatives with genuinely stabilising effects in many corners of the world. The Great Green Wall for the Sahara and Sahel Initiative is bringing a coordinated and harmonised response to food security and peace. The Sahel, which is the core area of the initiative, is severely affected by land degradation and has experienced violent conflicts over resources.

We are still in the early stages of exploring the link between land degradation and security. To get a clearer picture of the human connections between poverty, conflict and environmental degradation, the UNCCD secretariat is partnering with CAUX – Initiatives of Change for the 2014 Caux Dialogue on Land and Security, an international conference to take place in Switzerland this summer. I am looking forward to fruitful discussions at Caux and it is my sincere hope that they will provide the UNCCD with further guidance about sustainable land management’s potential role in reducing the risk of any form of conflict.

But one thing is already clear: land degradation is much more than an environmental issue. It has major implications for people’s livelihoods and has the potential to become a genuine security challenge for many communities, societies and nations, especially for those engaged in agriculture. Let’s tackle this nexus between land and security in an integrated manner. That means combining a sustainable land management and a conflict prevention perspective. That’s what destabilised dryland communities need for their human security.

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Monique Barbut
Executive Secretary

Original article can be found here.

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