17 June each year is World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought. In this connection, TASS Russian News Agency and Renmin Ribao (People's Daily) newspaper interviewed SCO Secretary-General Vladimir Norov.
Desertification is a serious global problem spelling major consequences for regional and global environmental security. It presents a serious challenge to humankind's efforts to eradicate poverty, threatens socio-economic stability and sustainable development. The inevitable consequences of desertification include food and water shortages, reduced crop yields, hunger and poverty and forced migration. Social, economic and political tension, linked with these developments, can lead to socio-political conflicts.
Problems linked with desertification and soil degradation affect a considerable part of the SCO region, primarily Central Asia.
Vladimir Norov also noted that all the SCO member states face the threat of droughts and soil degradation. They share approaches for dealing with them under the UN Convention to Combat Desertification and exert active efforts in this field, including under their respective national programmes.
The Secretary-General devoted special attention to the shrinkage of the Aral Sea; this process can impact the gene pool and the health of the Aral region's population, as well as the diversity of its plant and animal life. The tragedy of the Aral Sea has changed the lifestyle of millions of people and destroyed the region's social and economic systems. Its dry section contains a salty desert with an area of over 5.5 million hectares. The drying out of the Aral Sea has launched a double desertification process and increases overall dust content in Central Asian air space. Dust clouds have been known to reach high altitudes and have spread over considerable distances.
In his interview, Mr Norov also provided exhaustive information on functioning multilateral mechanisms and programmes to save the Aral Sea.
In conclusion, the SCO Secretary-General stated joint intra-UN and intra-SCO approaches.
For example, he shared information on the SCO's environmental protection agenda, joint projects involving international and regional organisations and the Organisation's contractual-legal framework whose implementation aims to preserve the environmental balance in the SCO region and to restore biodiversity in the interests of future generations, to create favourable conditions for the population's well-being and sustainable development.
In 1994, the UN General Assembly declared 17 June World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought for raising the international community's awareness of this problem.
This date was selected in connection with the anniversary of passing the UN Convention to Combat Desertification in countries facing serious droughts and desertification. The document is the only legally binding international agreement defining the environment's impact on the state of land resources. It aims to boost the stability of communities and ecosystems and to improve people's living conditions, especially in arid regions.
In 2019, 193 UN member countries, including all SCO member states, had signed the Convention. Since 1999, the Convention's Permanent Secretariat is located in Bonn, Germany.