UN chief calls for global action on drought

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UN Secretary-general Ban Ki- moon on Monday called for a collective global action to build resilience and prepare for droughts, as well as to combat desertification.

"Droughts are hard to avert, but their effects can be mitigated. Because they rarely observe national borders, they demand a collective response," said Ban in a message marking this year's World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought, which features the theme of "Don't let our future dry up."

From Uzbekistan and Brazil to the Sahel and Australia, "the social, political and economic costs of drought are evident," noted the secretary-general.

For example, just last month Namibia declared a national drought emergency as 14 percent of the population became food insecure. Last year, the United States experienced its worst drought since the 1950s, which affected 80 percent of agricultural land.

"Over the past quarter-century, the world has become more drought-prone, and droughts are projected to become more widespread, intense and frequent as a result of climate change," said Ban.

"The long-term impacts of prolonged drought on ecosystems are profound, accelerating land degradation and desertification. The consequences include impoverishment and the risk of local conflict over water resources and productive land," he added.

The UN chief underlined that "the price of preparedness is minimal compared to the cost of disaster relief."

He encouraged countries to build resilience to droughts by implementing the outcomes of the High-level Meeting on National Drought Policy, held in Geneva last March.

In his message, Ban also urged the international community to implement last year's agreement reached at the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20), to avoid and offset land degradation.

"By conserving arid lands we can protect essential water supplies, promote food and nutrition security, and reduce extreme poverty," he said.

In December 1994, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution to proclaim June 17 as World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought, in a bid to promote public awareness and international cooperation in this regard.

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