2023 World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought marks preparation for the upcoming UNCCD COP 16 in Saudi Arabia
18 June 2023
This annual year event was organized in alignment with the World Day theme “Her land, Her rights”.
Empowering women in combating desertification and drought is a critical call for sustainable land management and restoration and directly affects the productive capacity of the ecosystems. Desertification and drought are the major global challenges threatening the livelihoods of millions of people, particularly those living in arid and semi-arid regions. These challenges are exacerbated by climate change, land degradation, and unsustainable land use practices.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, under the leadership of the National Center for Vegetation Cover Development and Combating Desertification (NCVC) with participation from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) organized a special event to mark World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought on Sunday, 18 June 2023 at the Mövenpick Qassim. With the World Day’s slogan "Her lands, Her rights”, the event was graced by His Royal Highness Prince Dr. Faisal bin Mishaal bin Saud bin Abdulaziz, Governor of Qasim Region which was hosted in a hybrid mode combining in-person and virtual participation.
Saudi Arabia’s remarkable commitment to combating desertification
Opening the event, His Royal Highness Prince Dr. Faisal highlighted the imperative role women play in protecting the environment and conserving natural resources. The Royal Highness Prince, Governor of Qassim Region was proud that Qassim is one of the regions in the Kingdom where the community has been actively involved in protecting the environment and conserving natural resources and elaborated on the region's afforestation efforts, starting way back in 2017. Under the banner of “Qasim Green Land”, the community continues the efforts of planting trees, rehabilitating land, and caring for the environment. He strongly emphasized the importance of empowering women in these efforts and engaging all members of the community, including youth, and integrating education on environmental protection into the school curriculum. Further, he stressed the need for a robust awareness programme, noting that without good communication and awareness, these efforts are doomed to fail.
Dr. Khaled Al-Abdulkader, the CEO of the NCVC, in his opening speech, pointed up that the celebration of World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought underpins the commitment of the Kingdom to addressing the two pressing natural hazards. In the same line of thought, he turned the spotlight on the importance of engaging the community and creating awareness across the Kingdom, demonstrating solidarity with the global community, in which the Kingdom is at the forefront of combating desertification and addressing drought. The efforts have been validated through the launch of the Kingdom’s ambitious initiatives - the “Saudi Green Initiative” and “Middle East Green Initiative”, by His Royal Highness, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz in developing and sustaining vegetation cover and combating desertification locally, regionally and globally and the Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture with NCVC leading role in upcoming UNCCD COP 16, which will be hosted by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in December 2024. Through various significant actions, NCVC has successfully led the Kingdom on the right path to combat desertification and land degradation and achieved the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), especially SDG 15 and SDG 13.
Women are the agents of change
“It is time for all institutions and members of the society to join forces in restoring the land and managing drought”, says Ayman Omer, FAO Saudi Arabia’s Programme Director in his opening speech. He drew all attention to the importance of gender inclusiveness and investment in related programmes to attract women’s active and effective involvement. He felicitated the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for its pioneering role in the global initiative in reducing land degradation and promoting the preservation of terrestrial habitats through the Saudi Green and Middle East Green initiatives. He further commended the great efforts made by NCVC and the Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture in promoting sustainable management of natural resources and environment protection through dedicated and well-resourced national environmental strategies and plans.
Dr. Abdullah Al-Buraiki, the General Director of Plant Diversity and Combating Desertification underscored the urgency of the NCVC in bridging the gap between desertification and drought. He emphasized the need to involve the local men and women to achieve efficient, inclusive, resilient and sustainable agrifood systems and to promote sustainable development in the areas for better livelihood and economy. In line with the Kingdom’s Vision 2030, Dr. Al-Buraiki emphasized that NCVC prioritizes the study of desertification, forecasting droughts and mitigating strategies, using scientific methods, field measurements and artificial intelligence to produce accurate forecast models in monitoring the development progress effectively.
Thematic presentation and dialogue on the theme “Her lands, Her rights”
This annual year event was organized in alignment with the World Day theme “Her land, Her rights”. The event was attended by 200 participants and brought together governmental organizations, universities, researchers, and UN agencies in addressing Saudi women’s important issues. Twelve presentations in three sessions, eight of which were delivered by women, focused on updated Saudi Arabia policies and legislations in empowering women, investment opportunities for women land ownership, and opportunities for women landowners in combating desertification. The results of the event will contribute to the efficient mainstreaming of gender plans, community awareness programmes development, and women empowerment and access to resources, finance, training and support to help them manage and use their land effectively.
FAO Sustainable Rural Agriculture Development Project
FAO technical support to the event was organized within the framework of the Sustainable Rural Agriculture Development Project (SRADP), a multi-disciplinary project formulated by FAO and the Ministry of Environment Water and Agriculture in alignment with the National Transformation Program under the Saudi Vision 2030. FAO through SRADP aims to contribute toward achieving the national development goal of sustainable rural agricultural development in the Kingdom, including combating land desertification under the natural resources management pillar of the project.
UN entities involved in this initiative
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations