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???Conserving Land and Water = Securing our Common Future’ is the theme for this year’s World Day to Combat Desertification (WDCD), being observed tomorrow, Wednesday, June 17.

Celebrated since 1995, the day is aimed at promoting public awareness relating to international cooperation to combat soil desertification and the effects of drought, and the implementation of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD).

According to a statement from the UNCCD, threats to soil security as a result of desertification, land degradation and the effects of drought constitute a peril to securing our common future.

Recent research on Migration and Climate Change estimates that there are between 17 and 24 million environmentally-displaced persons worldwide, with projections of that figure reaching 200 million by 2050.

"Desertification, land degradation and drought (DLDD) threaten human security by depriving people of their means of life – by taking away food, access to water, the means for economic activities, and even their homes. Failing policies and climatic change are putting more pressure than ever on the soil. When secure water and food supplies cannot be guaranteed, people frequently migrate to areas where they believe they can find them," the UNCCD statement surmised.

In worst-case scenarios, DLDD is said to undermine national and regional security, force people to leave their homes and trigger low, or high-level intensity conflicts.

In order for the issue of soil security to be effectively addressed by the international community, two methods – securitise the ground and ground security -have been posited. These speak, respectively, to raising the global political awareness of the effects of DLDD on people’s lives and the use of proactive, short, medium and long-term strategies for coping with soil insecurity and related effects from global climate change and the loss of biodiversity.

Global partnerships have been cited as the best methods of fighting the effects of DLDD, with a UNCCD study recommending a two-way approach, where, on the one hand,?? policy makers?? and institutions?? act at the global level?? to promote long-term sustainability of ecosystem services, while actively involving stakeholders in a bottom-up approach.

Citing the need for full participation in decision-making by women at the national, regional and international spheres, the UNCCD contended that the time was ripe for soil protection to gain attention as a security issue.

"Global partnerships between scientists, international agencies, civil society organisations and governments are key to recognising desertification, land degradation and drought as a mounting threat to security. It is clear that soil insecurity triggers human insecurity. The UNCCD is at the forefront of the international effort to combat desertification, land degradation and the mitigation of drought, and promoting territorial development as a factor of social cohesiveness. One of its strategic goals is to improve the lives of affected populations," the statement concluded.

The UNCCD was adopted and open for signature 15 years ago on June 17.

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