UNCCD: The Forgotten Billion Reside in the Drylands, New Study Claims

    “It will be impossible to halve the world’s poverty and hunger by 2015 unless life is improved for the poor people of the drylands,” claims a new study titled The Forgotten Billion to be released at the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) Summit in New York, next week.

    The study, which maps the ‘forgotten billion’ drylands inhabitants from a natural endowments perspective, finds similar patterns at both the global and national levels. “In certain regions, human well-being, particularly female adult literacy and child mortality, decline in parallel with the aridity gradient,” which is related to water scarcity, according to the study jointly published by the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

    Therefore, it is not a coincidence that as Ghana achieved the Goal of halving poverty and hunger and became the first country in sub-Saharan Africa to do so in 2006 well ahead of schedule, the proportion of poor people in its driest and most remote Upper East and Upper West regions also increased, and got left behind. Similarly, five of the ten countries at the bottom of UNDP’s Human Development Index are the predominantly drylands countries of Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali and Niger, as well as Iraq, Somalia and Zimbabwe that are unranked due to a lack of data. The Forgotten Billion also underscores that drylands are “one of the most conflict-prone regions of the world, and some of the conflicts attract foreign intervention.”

    “The message of this forward-looking study is clear. Poor soils result in poor people,” says Luc Gnacadja, Executive Secretary of the UNCCD. “This study reinforces the assertions made by UN Secretary-General Ban on Monday on the need to target women and children, but it goes further. It points more specifically to the drylands regions as the location where women and children are most severely constrained in the attainment of the Goals. It is unequivocal that a ‘perceived remoteness’ has led to the political disadvantage and economic marginalization of the drylands, undermining the attainment of the MDGs,” he added.

    “By finding that drylands are one of the world’s granaries and support half of the world’s livestock, the study explodes the myth that all drylands are empty, barren places with little economic value, and makes plain the conditions for success. The policy implications are clear. To achieve the Goals set for 2015 will require a strong coalition pursing five drylands-focused policy approaches. These are, first, country-led development and effective governance addressing the specific needs and conditions of drylands populations. Second, inclusive and pro-poor economic growth polices that improve farming systems and soil productivity. Third, climate adaptation to help small holder farmers to manage risk and reduce climate-driven shocks. Well-tailored and targeted interventions for social assistance, and for investment in education, health and basic services are the other two approaches,” Mr. Gnacadja stated.

    The Forgotten Billion will be discussed at a Round-Table taking place next Wednesday, 22 September 2010, at the UN headquarters in New York, United States. Nearly 140 Heads of State and Government will be converging in New York on Monday for a three-day Summit to consider how to accelerate momentum towards the achievement of the Goals they pledged to meet by 2015.

    Download The Forgotten Billion at: http://www.unccd.int/media/docs/Forgotten%20Billion.pdf

    Proceedings of the event will be Webcast live via: http://www.un.org/webcast

    For more information on the Round-Table, contact:
    Mr Charles Dickson, UNDP New York
    Mr. Melchiade Bukuru
    UNCCD New York Liaison Office
    UN Headquarters, DC-1 Building
    New York, NY 10017, United States
    Tel: +1-917 367 4081
    Email: teixeira2@un.org

    For media inquiries, contact:
    Ms. Wagaki Mwangi
    UNCCD Secretariat
    Hermann-Ehlers Str.10
    53113 Bonn, Germany
    Tel: +49-(0)228-815 2820
    Cell: +49-(0)173-268 7593
    Email: wmwangi@unccd.int