“From Degraded Drylands to Green Landscapes”: A tribute to the Future Policy Award 2017 at the UN in Geneva

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UNCCD News

Geneva, Switzerland – 31 October 2017 – The UN Library in Geneva partnered with the World Future Council, the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), the Permanent Mission of Ethiopia to the United Nations, the University of Oxford’s Enacting Global Transformation Initiative, the Theatre of Transformation Academy and Green Cross International to pay tribute to the Future Policy Award 2017 by hosting an event that blended a unique theatre performance, heartfelt testimonies and a high-level roundtable dialogue.

Following a warm welcome by the UN Library Director, Mr. Francesco Pisano, Councillor Dr. Rama Mani opened the roundtable. Mr. Pradeep Monga, Deputy Executive Secretary of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification, set the scene by underlining the challenges of effectively addressing desertification, land degradation and drought. He stressed how useful it was for UNCCD to be a partner of the Future Policy Award 2017 highlighting impactful policies. There is an urgent need for UNCCD States Parties to adopt policies that effectively reduce the severe consequences that land degradation has for food security, water availability and livelihoods, which result in increasing migration pressure and conflicts.

Ms. Alexandra Wandel, Director of the World Future Council, explained that the Council dedicated this year’s award to the “silent, under-reported crisis” of desertification. She highlighted that a common feature of all the winning policies is that they have effectively restored land on a massive scale. The impacts include substantial soil and water conservation measures, enhanced food security, provision of access to water to the poorest of the poor, the promotion of indigenous and traditional local knowledge, and the benefits for local people, in particular youth and women.

Representing this year’s Future Policy Gold Awardee, Dr. Atinkut Mezgebu Wubneh, Head of Agriculture and Rural Development of Tigray, reported how thanks to political foresight and leadership, environmental conservation became a key feature of Tigray’s Regional Development Strategy. He emphasized that mass mobilization of local people and the involvement of youth were fundamental to the strategy’s operative implementation throughout Tigray region.

Mr. Ousséni Diallo, President of Green Cross Burkina Faso, shared his experiences on afforestation and sustainable land management in combating desertification at local level in West Africa. He pointed out that it is vital to strengthen public policies that address this huge challenge in West African countries and that a number of key aspects of the winning policies could considerably contribute to improving the situation.

A poetic interlude followed, presented by Councillor Dr. Rama Mani from the Theatre of Transformation Academy and Fellows of University of Oxford’s Enacting Global Transformation Initiative: Ms. Gargi Katikithala, Ms. Mahbubeh Kuhestani and Mr. Javier Ormeno. They offered a multi-cultural production on transforming the deserts into oasis through the art. First, students representing different continents and cultures shared emotional interpretations of ancient and original poems and texts. Dr. Rama Mani then enacted the “Vision poem” in honor of late Councillor Ibrahim Abouleish, who invested into desert land near Egypt’s capital Cairo and started to reclaim the infertile soil through biodynamic agricultural methods. His efforts led to the founding of SEKEM, which in the 40 years of its existence has transformed almost 684 hectares of arid land into vital soil.

During the interactive dialogue, Ambassador Negash Kibret, co-host of the event, thanked the UNCCD and the World Future Council for awarding his country with the Future Policy Award 2017. He underlined the importance of land restoration in Ethiopia, where agriculture provides livelihoods to major part of the populations. Ms Saja Majali, Ambassador of Jordan, reiterated her country’s pride about the Future Policy Bronze Award for Jordan’s Updated Rangeland Strategy. She underlined that the strategy, developed to a partnership with IUCN, was particularly innovative, as it employs the “Hima” approach, which effectively integrates natural resources, community life, ethics and animal welfare. In addition, Ambassador Anda Filip, a representative of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) and WFC Councillor expressed her organization’s gratitude to the World Future Council for cooperating on many of the past Future Policy Awards and stressed that the IPU is keen to join again as a future partner.

The event concluded with informal talks accompanied with delicious traditional food and coffee offered by the Permanent Mission of Ethiopia.