World Day to Combat Desertification (WDCD) 2018

World Day to Combat Desertification (WDCD) 2018

This year's World Day to Combat Desertification (WDCD) will take place under the slogan 'Protect Earth. Restore Land. Engage People'. The global observance event will take place in Beijing, China, and will be hosted by the State Forestry Administration of China. The event will showcase China's new development strategy, 'The Belt and Road,' which aims to strengthen cooperation to combat desertification and land degradation, primarily in Eurasia. During the celebrations, China will launch the 'One Belt and One Road Joint Action to Combating Desertification Initiative' together with interested countries and stakeholders. WDCD 2016 activities will also seek to demonstrate how the target of Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) can be a critical element for achieving other sustainable development as well as climate goals.

Desertification and land degradation cause poverty and hunger, undermining the living environment, triggering social conflict and hindering sustainable development. They are a severe challenge to human survival and development worldwide. These challenges of desertification will affect more seriously the livelihoods of small farm holders, in particular women and children, living on the degraded land. The Silk Roads have been important routes for trade and cultural exchanges throughout human history. Desertification and land degradation are important factors restricting the sustainable development of countries along the Belt and Road Initiative.

To promote sustainable development, countries along the Belt and Road need to cooperate with each other and with relevant international organizations.

The 'Belt and Road' Joint Action Initiative for Combating Desertification

The State Forestry Administration published a white paper titled The "Belt and Road" Joint Action Initiative for Combating Desertification" on Friday.

Following is the full text of the white paper.

Under the principles of wide consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits, countries can promote integration of their respective development strategies for joint action, and attach importance to ecological environment protection and restoration to effectively tackle desertification and land degradation.

I. Vision of the Belt and Road and Sustainable Development Goals

The "Vision and Actions on Jointly Building a Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road" released by the Chinese government emphasizes the concept of "ecological civilization" and enhancing cooperation related to the ecological environment, biodiversity and climate change, and jointly building a green Silk Road.

Last year, 17 global goals for sustainable development were adopted by world leaders meeting at the United Nations in New York. One of these goals, SDG 15, calls for efforts to "protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss".

In particular, Target 15.3 in SDG 15 on land degradation neutrality will be significant for mobilizing support to ensure the link between healthy and productive land and the achievement of many critical development goals, particularly related to climate change. In this regard, at the 12th session of the Conference of the Parties of United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification held in October 2015 in Ankara, parties agreed to achieve land degradation neutrality through voluntary national targets.

II. Consensus for Action

We recognize that a sound ecological environment is the basis for sustainable development in countries along the Belt and Road, and crucial for achieving the vision of the Belt and Road Initiative. The protection and rational use of natural resources, along with the promotion of green economic development and restoration of land in the areas affected by desertification, in combination with ecological improvements and "deserti-culture" (local adaptive industry) development, is an effective way to achieve sustainable development in countries along the Belt and Road.

We recognize that, in addressing desertification and land degradation, mankind has accumulated traditional knowledge and practical skills to combat desertification and land degradation.

We recognize that joint action to combat desertification and restore degraded land is in line with the vision of the Belt and Road Initiative and meets the development needs of countries along the Belt and Road. It is also an important way to achieve the LDN goal of the SDGs. We call upon countries along the Belt and Road to work together proactively to combat desertification, reverse land degradation and open a new chapter in green development.

III. Principles of Action

The joint action is to comply with the principles of "peace and cooperation, openness and inclusiveness, mutual learning and mutual benefit", with people's engagement at all levels, in particular land users at community level, in a participatory process.

IV. Framework of Action

To effectively curb desertification, reverse land degradation and build a green Silk Road for improving livelihood and alleviating poverty, we propose the following actions:

(1) Take integrated ecosystem management approaches, maintain and strengthen ecosystem stability and biodiversity of desert, steppe, pasture and oasis along the Belt and Road, and improve the ability of ecosystems to adapt to climate change.

(2) Encourage the development of a green economy in dryland areas, advocate integrated land management, coordinate to reflect ecological and economic functions including through sustainable agriculture, utilize solar energy, wind power and other clean energy, and protect desert landscapes wherever possible.

(3) Establish an integrated eco-protection system of towns (Oasis) and roads/highways and promote sustainable land and water management in inland river and lake basins.

(4) Promote preparedness and mitigation of drought and control of shifting sand dunes in dust and sandstorm originating areas, and improve early warning and emergency response capacity.

(5) Strengthen ecological conservation/protection and restoration in the surrounding areas of the world's natural and/or cultural heritage of countries along the Belt and Road.

V. Cooperation Priorities

Joint research, technical exchanges, information sharing, technical training and demonstration projects are encouraged in the following key areas:

(1) Monitoring and planning: establish and improve the monitoring and early warning assessment system for desertification, drought, land degradation and sandstorms including creation of a land resource atlas and scientific framework for assessment of land restoration and its impacts on agricultural, pastoral and agroforestry (sylviculture) productions and on biodiversity, and prepare a joint action program for combating desertification and restoring the degraded land along the Belt and Road.

(2) Policies and regulations: improve national policies and regulations, encourage and support desertification control projects that help to improve the ecological environment and promote development, carry out policy dialogue and develop assessment indicators for combating desertification, restoring degraded land and drought mitigation, as well as ecological management standards. In the planning and implementation of these policies special attention will be given to the active participation of women.

(3) Desert natural heritage list: develop a "List of Important Desert Natural Heritages along the Belt and Road" in joint efforts with international organizations such as the secretariat of United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, International Union for Conservation of Nature and United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization and World Desert Foundation.

(4) Technology transfer and demonstration: exchange and promote adequate technologies for sand fixation, degraded land vegetation restoration, afforestation for windbreak and sand-fixation, mining field reclamation, water conservation and water harvesting afforestation technology in arid areas; promote and utilize practical technologies for soil improvement, saline governance, sustainable agriculture and animal husbandry, as well as water-saving irrigation.

(5) Information sharing: establish internet-based sustainable land management, ecological restoration directory and information-sharing platform; build platforms to share information on plant germplasm with high economic and/or ecological value such as sand fixation, drought resistant, salinity tolerant; establish a national technical inventory and technological demand list to promote technology exchange and sharing.

(6) Capacity building: launch projects for experience exchange, training and demonstration of desertification/land degradation control and restoration technology through various ways; carry out specific technical training to enhance the regional, national and local capacity in combating desertification/land degradation.

VI. Cooperation Mechanism

The cooperation will be undertaken through existing bilateral and multilateral mechanisms to promote joint action, with voluntary participation.

Explore the feasibility of establishing a dialogue mechanism for the joint action, and hold occasional forums as needed, in the form of side events at the Conference of the Parties of United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification to assess the progress and propose further recommendations for the joint action, in rotation by the members of the initiative.

VII. Financing

Participants of the joint action will mobilize resources together by:

(1) Jointly raising funds in the form of voluntary contributions or shared obligations.

(2) Studying the possible establishment of a special open-ended public offering/fund that relies on existing funds to attract additional resources from society.

(3) Applying for projects from existing bilateral and multilateral channels to support joint action, in accordance with rules and procedures of international financial institutions and international organizations.

(4) Welcoming voluntary contributions or commitments to support follow-up activities from interested stakeholders.

VIII. Partnerships

Establish a wide range of partnerships making full use of existing bilateral, multilateral and regional cooperation mechanisms; promoting cohesion and integration of strategies and policies formulated by countries along the Belt and Road and international organizations and showing common concern and providing support for resource mobilization activities. Encourage private sector and civil organizations to participate in the joint action. Relevant countries and partners will further enhance the conservation, improve restoration of the ecosystem, including soil fertility, in desertification/land degradation affected areas and heighten the level of green economic development in dryland areas, and provide ecological guarantees, technical support and cooperation momentum for sustainable development of countries along the Belt and Road.