NEW YORK – As nearly 40 per cent of land across the planet is degraded with more acres lost every second, governments, businesses and communities must galvanize action to reverse the damage and protect Earth, the UN chief said in a strong message for the World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought, marked annually on 17 June.

“Every second, around four football fields of healthy land are degraded,” said UN Secretary-General António Guterres. “The security, prosperity and health of billions of people rely on thriving lands supporting lives, livelihoods and ecosystems, but we’re vandalising the Earth that sustains us.”

The UN said desertification, land degradation and drought are currently among the most pressing environmental challenges.

The Day’s theme is United for Land. Our Legacy. Our Future, spotlighting the future of land stewardship, which is the planet’s most precious resource to ensure the stability and prosperity of billions of people around the world.

Healthy land not only provides us with almost 95 per cent of food eaten around the world, but so much more. It clothes and shelters people, provides jobs and livelihoods and protects communities from the worsening droughts, floods and wildfires.

“As the focus of this year’s World Day reminds us, we must be ‘United for Land’,” he said. “Governments, businesses, academics, communities and more must come together and act.”

“We know what we need to do,” the UN chief said. “It’s set out clearly in the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD). As we mark the thirtieth anniversary of the Convention, the world must dramatically pick up the pace of implementation.”

To do this, he pointed to building momentum towards UNCCD Conference of States Parties (COP16) in Riyadh and ensuring young people are heard in the negotiations.

“Together, let’s sow the seeds for a thriving future for nature and humanity,” he said.