Remarks by PGA Csaba Kőrösi on Desertification and Drought

High-level event in observance of World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought

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16 June 2023

Madam Secretary-General,

Mr. Executive Secretary,


Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is an honour to participate in today’s High-Level Event.

We derive much of our identity, culture, and traditions from our connections to land.

From my mother’s side, my ancestors have been farmers for centuries. That means they knew the values land offered, they respected and used the forces of nature. I learned a lot from them.

Land degradation is a threat not only to our food security, livelihoods, ecosystems, and biodiversity – but to our existence as a whole.

Land degradation wipes out the wisdom that has lived beneath us for millennia, and with it – our hope for the future.

Indeed, as aptly called by the South African writer Nadine Gordimer, the desert is “a place without expectation”.

Twenty-nine years ago, this body proclaimed 17 Juneas the Day to Combat Desertification and Drought.

Ever since, the GA has been tackling these challenges through the deeply intertwined issues of resilience and land restoration.

It has been a long struggle.

And we have all understood that, to quote James Lovelock, “Sadly, it’s much easier to create a desert than a forest”.

Today we cast our focus on two topics that matter to us all: land, and women’s equal rights to own, manage or inherit it.

Throughout my Presidency, I have strongly advocated for better integration of science and policy.

This is especially important for planning how to tackle the climate shocks that erode our global landscape.

So, what does science say about the intersection of land rights, gender empowerment and justice?

The data could not be clearer.

When women farmers have access to own land, they grow more and so do their children and nations.

The UN Food and Agricultural Organization finds that with women’s equal access to resources, including land, agricultural yields could rise by almost a third, resulting in potentially 150 million fewer hungry people in the world.

Empirical research proves that strengthening women’s land and property rights increases food security and reduces malnourishment.

In addition, when we include women equally in land management – and tap their traditional knowledge to promote sustainable land use – we not only reverse desertification, but also promote land restoration practices.

Together, these positive shifts in women’s empowerment have a ripple effect on income, and children’s welfare.

So, we have the evidence to support why it is advantageous to increase women’s land tenure.

What we are lacking are the policy decisions and investments that should not only target women’s individual rights, but also recognize their role in collectively managing land.

In this field, too, we should do our best to remove the barriers to women’s participation in decision-making.

The 2030 Agenda recognizes that gender-equal access to land rights is integral to the achievement of all our global goals of sustainable development.

All 17 goals – from achieving gender equality, to ending poverty and hunger, and to sustaining life on land.

This understanding of the integrated nature of both crises and solutions must have pride of place at the SDG Summit in September.

As we mark this Desertification and Drought Day, I urge you to recognize women’s contributions to the sustainable management of land and the broader achievement of our 2030 Agenda.

And I call upon you to promote laws and policies that give us a fighting chance at leaving no one behind.

We cannot let this foundational promise dry out.

Thank you.

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