Building peace in the minds of men and women

World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought

Message from the Director-General

Every year in the world, 120,000 square kilometres of land – the equivalent to half the size of the United Kingdom – are rendered infertile by desertification. The phenomenon of land degradation occurs in the drylands of the planet, which cover 40% of the Earth’s surface and are home to 2 billion people.

Desertification is a continuing, silent disaster, with drastic effects on nature as well as on the women and men who live in it: the destruction of entire ecosystems, acceleration of climate change, and obstacles to development and an increase in poverty in countries where the environment is under threat. According to the Secretariat of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, 135 million people are likely to migrate worldwide by 2030 because of the deterioration of their land.

Through the Man and the Biosphere programme, the International Geoscience and Geoparks Programme and the International Hydrological Programme, UNESCO is working to promote integrated agriculture and food systems, as well as sustainable land use patterns, in more than 800 locations around the world. A great many products from these UNESCO sites, from chocolate to cucumber and argan oil to spirulina, are then distributed across the globe.

Because the way we consume has a direct impact on the condition of the land, one of the keys to responding to the threat of desertification is in our own hands. The slogan of World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought in 2018, “Land has true value. Invest in it”, highlights the responsibility of consumers who, by changing their habits, have the power to refocus management and land use practices by seeing land not as a resource to be exhausted, but a resource to be preserved.

Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of 'UNESCO
Message on the occasion of the World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought, 2018