Dr. Osama Fageeha

Deputy Minister for Environment Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture (MEWA), Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

“Challenging environments as opportunities for renewal and transformation”

On behalf of the Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture of Saudi Arabia, I would like to welcome you to Riyadh for the first ever International Workshop on Combatting Desertification in the Saudi Arabia. I would like to express my deepest appreciation and thanks for the support and encouragement we received from the Government, multiple local and international partners and you the speakers and exhibitors as we prepare for this event. It is together that we are able to reach this stage of preparation for the workshop. The workshop comes at an apt time, just before the June 17th World Day to Combat Desertification (WDCD) and at a time that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is ramping up its implementation of the Saudi Vision 2030 which represents the Kingdom’s ambitious vision road map for the future. Achieving environmental sustainability is one of the most important components of both the Vision 2030 and the National Transformation Program (NTP) 2020 and a significant number of strategic objectives fall within the broad sustainability indices of personal development, clean environment, well-balanced society, sustainable use of resources and a sustainable world. Successful desertification control and management very much relies on multi-disciplinary and trans-sectorial initiatives, as well as public-private partnerships. This workshop will bring many different practitioners and stakeholders together to strengthen and establish partnerships. With government officials, experts, high-level representatives of IGOs, the UN, NGOs, the private sector, scientific and academic institutions, along with the media and other eminent people, the workshop will provide a valuable forum for dialogue and a strategic contributor for the world´s efforts at combatting desertification. The focus of this workshop is on “Leveraging Innovation and Renewable Resources to Combat Desertification”. With more than 12 million hectares of arable land lost to drought and desertification annually, and over 1.5 billion people affected in over 100 countries (UNCCD), the quest for sustainable solutions to combat desertification remains one of the greatest global challenges of our times. Arid environments are especially vulnerable to desertification with an intricate and complex set of risks combined with difficulties in finding viable technical and economic solutions that could be replicated and taken to scale. At the core of these risks are the dynamic social and ecological conditions that shape these arid environments. Therefore, fostering resilience in arid and desert environments such as ours ever more depends on an integrated approach that balances smart engineering solutions and investments with advanced practices. The workshop will includes participants from leading research centers, international and regional organizations and technology providers. It will encompass a wide spectrum of related topics, including plenary and think-tank sessions, poster sessions, exhibitions and networking events. The workshop will provide a unique opportunity for networking, exchange of information and viewpoints between scientists, policy makers, and practitioners. It is through the vision of developing a series of direct, pertinent and practical solutions that address urgent issues in various key areas of sustainable land and water management that we can succeed in our quest to achieve Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN). We anticipate a successful and rewarding workshop. Our special thanks go to the patronage of the H.E. the Minister for Environment, Water and Agriculture (MEWA), to the authors of all the papers and posters to be presented, to the high-level speakers and panelists, and to the exhibitors. For their leadership, guidance, support and hard work; we would like to thank the co-hosting institution FAO and the Scientific and Technical Advisory Committees.