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Building a greener, healthier and more sustainable future

By Ibrahim Thiaw, UNCCD Executive Secretary

Bonn is a city I have been calling home for a little over two years now. I have been enjoying every bit of it.  The restrictions imposed on all citizens due to the pandemic have undeniably affected our life. However, let me start by expressing, on behalf of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), my deep gratitude to the authorities of our host country and our host city for all the measures to keep our staff and their families safe.   

The UNCCD was created as a result of the Rio Earth Summit in 1992. The permanent Secretariat was established in 1997. We have been based in Bonn since the start of 1999. We moved to the UN Campus in 2006, when the rapidly expanding UN presence outgrew the Haus Carstanjen, which was our initial seat.

We were, therefore, not the first UN settlers in Bonn, but it is a huge pleasure for the UNCCD to take part in the ‘UN in Bonn’ 25th birthday celebrations this year. We are all lifted by the natural environment: despite the difficult past twelve months, the famous Bonn cherry blossom has been wonderful. Hopefully by the fall, we will be able to celebrate the anniversary in style, with physical events in the City centre.

Throughout the summer, there is a series of digital events planned, and I urge all readers to get involved. Citizen action is a vital way in which we can all contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals.

20 June is the Anniversary Day of the UN Bonn. June is also an important month for the UNCCD. This year, 5 June (World Environment Day) marks the start of the UN’s Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, which will run in parallel with the Sustainable Development Goals until 2030.

On 14 June, a High-level Dialogue on Desertification, Land Degradation and Drought organized by the President of the UN General Assembly. This was the second High Level Dialogue on Desertification organized by the UN General Assembly. The first took place in 2011. I am pleased that the Federal Government fully participated in this event in New York, along with other United Nations Member States. 

And on 17 June, the UNCCD marks Desertification and Drought Day (#DesertificationAndDroughtDay). This year’s theme is ‘Restoration. Land. Recovery: (#RestorationLandRecovery) we build back better with healthy land’’. Investing in healthy land as part of a green recovery is a smart economic decision – not just by creating jobs and rebuilding livelihoods, but by insulating economies from future crises caused by climate change and nature loss.  Learn more (opens in a new tab)

I am also pleased to note that, to celebrate Desertification and Drought Day, City of Bonn and GIZ/BMZ will be holding a virtual exhibition linked to this year's theme - under the German slogan "Boden gutmachen. Land. Aufschwung. Wir starten neu - für eine bessere Zukunft". The exhibition consists of concrete examples and initiatives of people in Bonn, Germany and around the world who are building back better through land-based ecosystem restoration. Please check the following link on or after 14 June: (opens in a new tab)

The UNCCD’s remit is fundamental to the future health of our planet, and humanity. After all, we are totally dependent on the natural world and the land we live on.  Did you know we, humans, have already altered nearly three quarters of the Earth’s ice-free land from its natural state, to meet our demands for food, raw materials and homes?

It is not sustainable. We are putting land under enormous pressure. Climate change, rapid urbanisation, and population growth are all causing land degradation, across the world. 


Today, over three billion people – almost half the global population – are affected by land degradation. In turn, land degradation worsens climate change, accelerates biodiversity losses, and exposes us to new zoonotic infectious diseases like COVID-19.


The UNCCD strives daily to secure action to reverse land degradation. The pandemic has shown that when political will, collective action, and sustained investment come together – we can make a difference. As communities, as individuals, as citizens.


This is how we can build a greener, healthier, and more sustainable future – with better food and water security for the most vulnerable, reduced carbon emissions, and healthy air quality, everywhere.


We already have the tools – like responsible land governance, and investments that protect and restore nature. 


The UNCCD urges all readers of this newsletter to actively contribute to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.