The eleventh session of the Conference of the Parties (COP11) to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) opened this week in Windhoek, Namibia, under the theme “A stronger UNCCD for a Land-Degradation Neutral World”. During the two-week session, the 195 parties to the UNCCD will define the action needed to improve land management at all levels. They will also review the progress made in the last two years to combat desertification and drought, and to mitigate the effects of drought.
Opening the Conference, COP11 President and Minister of Environment and Tourism in Namibia, Uahekwa Herunga, welcomed delegates to the “the land of the brave, especially at a time when Namibia is experiencing its worst drought in over 30 years.” Noting that combatting desertification presents some operational challenges, Herunga said he expects COP11 to build on the momentum generated from the last COP and to take the Rio+20 outcomes further.
Overall, he stressed the importance of the outcomes on the targets for a land degradation neutral world, the review of the UNCCD 10-year strategy, and that stakeholders strengthen their endeavors to reduce the levels of global land degradation. “We would like to see issues of desertification, land degradation and drought mitigation pushed high on the global agenda and post-2015 millennium development goals framework. We would also like to encourage the greater involvement of and support from the private sector on issues of desertification, land degradation, and drought,” Herunga said.
Luc Gnacadja, outgoing Executive Secretary of the UNCCD, stated that at the mid-point of the implementation period of the Convention’s 10-Year Strategy, the UNCCD was becoming a more authoritative institution, and it is time to fully settle it in that dimension. “The time is ripe to capitalize on our achievements and lessons learnt and adopt a higher level of ambition for ourselves and for this process,” he said.“We need to move beyond a political agreement and bring land degradation to the forefront of national policy. This will help all parties to effectively deliver on critical policy issues at the nexus of food-energy and water security, as well as eradication of poverty,” he added.
He underlined the importance of the COP with regard to turning the agreement on striving for a land degradation neutral world reached at Rio+20 into practical action for the future, strengthening the scientific basis of the Convention, and a target setting approach. During the first week, participants will build upon the results of the second UNCCD scientific conference and review the progress after the completion of the first half of the 10-Year Strategy of the UNCCD (2008-2018). They will also work on the way forward for the next five years. In addition, COP11 sessions will follow up on the outcomes of the Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development held in Brazil in 2012. In the second week, a high-level segment for Ministers and other senior representatives will take place on 23-24 September through a series of round table meetings on critical policy questions.
Gnacadja reflected on his tenure and noted the UNCCD’s progress on mobilizing science for policy development on desertification, land degradation and drought (DLDD); advancing measurability and monitoring; enhancing advocacy and outreach; improving dialogue between science and policy; and improving the UNCCD’s institutional setup.
The UNCCD COP11 agenda includes considering the results of the second UNCCD scientific conference and reviewing the progress of the completion of the first half of the 10-Year Strategy of the UNCCD (2008-2018). Parties will also take decisions on financing, knowledge brokering and the Rio+20 outcome on land degradation, desertification and drought.