20 September 2011
Statement by H.E. Dr. Aliakbar Salehi
Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Islamic Republic of Iran
before the High-level Meeting on
“Desertification, land degradation and drought
in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication”
(New York – 20 September 2011)
In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful
Mr. Chairman, Dear Ministers, Ladies and Gentlemen;
At the outset, I would like to express my appreciation to the president of the General Assembly for convening this important high-level meeting. I would also like associate myself with the statement made by Argentina on behalf of the Group of 77 and China.
This meeting is, indeed, a timely event enabling us ascertain how the UN system and the international community response to the challenge of desertification has functioned.
Desertification poses a major challenge to sustainable development, reduces agricultural production, increase poverty and causes forced migration. It increases airborne dust and water sedimentation. Population growth which entails increased food demand are expected to drive the expansion and intensification of land cultivation in dry lands. If no countermeasures are taken, desertification in dry land will threaten future improvements in human well-being and possibly reverses it in some regions of the world.
This is a great challenge we face in modern times which puts tremendous pressure on all countries, in particular developing countries. On a parallel track, environmental degradation such as deforestation, climate change and loss of biodiversity threatens the livelihoods of billions of people.
Dry land which is home to two billion people are highly susceptible to land degradation and desertification. It is estimated that by 2020, 135 million people will be at risk of being driven from their lands due to continuing desertification. Approximately 70 percent of the 5.2 billion hectares of dry lands utilized for agriculture are degraded and are at risk of desertification.
Bearing these in mind, in light of enormous interdependence of sustainable development and desertification, the question tickles mind that is it possible to achieve sustainable development without combating desertification? We do believe that the answer is: “Impossible”.
Sustainable development is not an abstract concept. It is a well-defined and elaborated concept in various global agreements. Eradicating poverty, changing unsustainable patterns of production and consumption and protecting and managing the natural resource base of economic and social development are overarching objectives of, and essential requirements for, sustainable development. Eradicating poverty, as the greatest global challenge facing the world today, is an indispensable requirement for sustainable development, in particular for developing countries.
One major regional impacts of climate change and desertification which has emerged as a huge challenge to countries in recent years, is dust and sand storm. Dust and sand storm is one of the most serious and hard-to-beat challenges in recent years, inflicting substantial damage to the socio-economic situation of the Islamic Republic of Iran and many other countries in our region, impairing the normal life and health of the people, eroding agricultural land and polluting water resources throughout the area.
The Islamic Republic of Iran, bearing in mind the damages that other countries are suffering alongside Iran, stands ready to enter into bilateral, multilateral and regional arrangements to identify the root causes of the problem and to eradicate it in a collective region-wide manner. Therefore, cooperation and coordination among stricken countries is essential for any successful plan of action.
In this connection and in the framework of regional cooperation to combat this challenge, the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran hosted a regional environmental gathering at the ministerial level which included Iraq, Turkey, the Syrian Arab Republic, and Qatar on 29 September 2010, in Tehran in which they agreed to cooperate in bringing dust and sand storms under control over the next five year.
At national level, the Islamic Republic of Iran and the UNDP have implemented a “carbon sequestration” project in dry land area. It has been recognized as the most successful project implemented by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in the region. In this regard, my country announces its willingness to share its experience of the “carbon sequestration” initiative with the neighboring countries in the region in line of its regional and international commitments in the field of combating desertification.
Mr. Chairman, Dear Ministers, Ladies and Gentlemen;
We are less than one year away from the Rio + 20 Conference on sustainable development in 2012 which should aggressively tackle desertification, land degradation and drought in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication, including the dust and sand storm challenge, in order to identify the root causes of the problems and attempt to eradicate them.
In conclusion, it is my conviction that we have no choice but to relinquish political considerations in addressing many environmental challenges the world faces today. We need Technical, technological and capacity building cooperation at regional and global levels to tackle the challenge of desertification. It is worth mentioning that the promise for technology transfer to the developing countries dealing with environmental challenges is yet to be fulfilled. A promise that is well over due.
I thank you Mr. Chairman