In the last two years over the past two years, over the past two years, COVID-19 pandemic has altered the way we live as we know it across the globe. Evidence from research shows that the COVID-19 pandemic results from the zoonotic virus, one that is transmitted between humans as well as animals. The new causes of zoonotic illnesses are all connected to human interactions with nature particularly the alteration and conversion of ecosystems and land.

As we face a growing number of crisis, further amplified by the war in Ukraine We are facing the end of our window to confront the interconnected planetary issues of climate change, biodiversity and degradation of the land. Our responses to these crises should be based on the idea that they are not or require our resources or time. We need to rise up to face any crises urgently.

2022 is a crucial year in this regard. This week, I am among participants and delegates from 196 nations located in Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire, to attend the 15th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP15) to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification with the theme "Land. Life. Legacy from scarcity to prosperity". This is the beginning of three important sessions on global health this year. It will be then COP15 about biodiversity issues in China and the COP27 on climate change in Egypt. It is essential that the first meeting about land degradation and desertification sets the stage for the remainder of the year and inspires commitments to take decisive actions in order to restore the health of our planet.

There is no shortage of issues: 40 percent of land used by humans is being destroyed, affecting more than half of the world's inhabitants and at risk of affecting fifty percent (US$44 trillion) of the world's GDP. More than 1.3 billion of people that depend on the land for their livelihoods are forced to live on degraded agricultural land. In addition, an estimation suggests that 5 million worldwide suffer from droughts each year and this is threatening the security of food and the livelihoods of pastoralists, farmers communities of the forest, Indigenous Peoples and local communities across the globe. of the globe.

However the act of restoring ecosystems and land can bring huge benefits for all of the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The announcement of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration (2021-2030) is an important signal to rally for action in restoration. From now until 2021, estimates suggest that the restoration of 350 million hectares degraded land in the Bonn Challenge, one of the most important global restoration goals, can take up to 26 gigatons greenhouse gases from the atmosphere . That's nearly half the global emissions in 2019 - and provide 9 trillion dollars in ecosystem benefits. In addition, preventing the degradation of land by implementing sustainable restoration and land management could yield up to 1.4 trillion annually in economic gains. The investment in restoration will help to create jobs and ensure secure living in a time where more than 100 million job opportunities that were lost in 2020 as a result of the pandemic has not yet been reclaimed.

Africa is the most important factor in solving many of these issues. The vast landmass of Africa forested land grasslands, rivers and wild animals are essential to the restoration of global land as well as reversing the loss of biodiversity and overcoming the global climate catastrophe. Many countries are setting the pace to show that a better future can be a reality.

For instance, Niger is supporting local communities as well as non-governmental organizations working in tandem together with United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to manage and preserve all the resources that are natural to the Niger River basin to improve the control of droughts, flooding and pollution. This will in turn reduce the pressure on forests, soils as well as biodiversity - while also protecting livelihoods.

In Ethiopia the agro-ecological intervention and the infrastructure for water storage has increased the productivity of land and resilience during dry times. UNDP has been a partner in this effort by working with pastoralists and smallholder farmers to restore degraded watersheds and increase productivity.

In Cote D'Ivoire, communities in the village of Marchoux close to Abidjan have been able to restore the mangroves in the area which serves as natural infrastructure to protect against strong winds and floods that could otherwise threaten the village and others similar to it.

These local actions are crucial prior to COP15 in which the world community will be discussing ways to implement the pledge to restore one billion hectares of land that has been degraded in the next 30 years. One of the key factors that can help is financing. Implementing the current restoration plans in the coming 10 years is projected at somewhere between $305 billion to $1.7 trillion. For this to happen, there must be collaboration and planning that has the ability to combine different types of capital and negotiate trade-offs that result in fair restoration outcomes. Countries will need to ensure that their national and sub-national planning and budgeting frameworks, including those that are part of national COVID-19 recovery packages, create an enabling environment for land restoration investments and actions and remove barriers to such investments. Countries must also open-up opportunities to engage people and expertise from all sectors of society, including businesses and investors, small-scale producers, Indigenous Peoples and local communities, to effectively implement national restoration commitments.

When countries gather at COP15 to discuss measures to address drought and restoration, UNDP, together with partners such as UNEP and FAO is ready to help local governments, communities and other partners in moving forward with their landscape and drought restoration plans. Achieving global health is achievable and it all comes down to what we do now for the future of our children.