Global Call to Act on Land Degradation and Drought

By Devendra Kamarajan

ABIDJAN, Côte d’Ivoire (IDN) — The 15th Conference of Parties (COP15) of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), concluded in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, has concluded with a united global pledge to boost drought resilience and invest in land restoration for future prosperity.

Nearly 7,000 participants, including Heads of State, ministers, delegates from the UNCCD’s 196 Parties and the European Union, as well as members of the private sector, civil society, women, youth leaders and media participated in the two-week meeting (May 9-20) on the future of land management.

Speaking at the closing ceremony of UNCCD COP15, Patrick Achi, Prime Minister of Côte d’Ivoire, said: “Each generation faces this thorny question of how to meet the production needs of our societies […] without destroying our forests and lands and thus condemning the future of those on whose behalf we endeavour.”

He drew attention to the US$2.5 billion raised for the Abidjan Legacy Programme launched by Côte d’Ivoire President Alassane Ouattara at the Heads of State Summit on May 9, which has already surpassed the US$1.5 billion anticipated for it.

At a news conference, Alain-Richard Donwahi, COP15 President, highlighted that it was the first time Côte d’Ivoire hosted a COP for one of the three Rio Conventions and emphasized his country’s continued commitment to keeping land issues high on the international agenda.

Following are the highlights of the new commitments at COP15:

  • Accelerate the restoration of one billion hectares of degraded land by 2030 by improving data gathering and monitoring to track progress against the achievement of land restoration commitments and establishing a new partnership model for large-scale integrated landscape investment programmes;
  • Boost drought resilience by identifying the expansion of drylands, improving national policies and early warning, monitoring and assessment; learning and sharing knowledge; building partnerships and coordinating action; and mobilizing drought finance. 
  • Establish an Intergovernmental Working Group on Drought for 2022-2024 to look into possible options, including global policy instruments and regional policy frameworks, to support a shift from reactive to proactive drought management.
  • Address forced migration and displacement driven by desertification and land degradation by creating social and economic opportunities that increase rural resilience and livelihood stability, and by mobilizing resources, including from the diaspora, for land restoration projects;
  • Improve women’s involvement in land management as important enablers for effective land restoration, by addressing commonly encountered land tenure challenges by people in vulnerable situations, and collecting gender-disaggregated data on the impacts of desertification, land degradation and drought;
  • Address sand and dust storms and other escalating disaster risks by designing and implementing plans and policies including early warning and risk assessment, and mitigating their human-made causes at source; 
  • Promote decent land-based jobs for youth and land-based youth entrepreneurship and strengthen youth participation in the UNCCD process; and
  • Ensure greater synergies among the three Rio Conventions, including complementarities in the implementation of these treaties through nature-based solutions and target-setting at the national level.

Besides, three significant declarations were issued during the COP:

Reports launched during COP15 include:

  • “Drought in Numbers 2022,” a compendium of drought-related facts and figures, including a 29% a rise in droughts since 2000 and a projection that three-quarters of the world’s population will be affected by drought by 2050 unless urgent action is taken. 
  • A special Southern Africa thematic report released as part of the Global Land Outlook series, which warned of rising pressures on land and land-based resources, exacerbated by insecure land tenure systems, pervasive poverty, and low rural literacy levels, raising risks for the most vulnerable among Africa’s population. It underlines the need to leverage strong links between the food, water, energy and environment sectors. A new technical guide that helps shape a tailor-made response to commonly encountered land tenure challenges via a range of national plans, legal frameworks, strategies, and action programmes addressing land degradation.
  • The study on Differentiated Impacts of Desertification, Land Degradation and Drought on Women and Men has revealed that women are twice more affected by these issues, and that drought and land degradation tend to increase the burden of unpaid care and domestic work shouldered by women and girls.
  • Sand and Dust Storms Compendium: Information and guidance on assessing and addressing the economic, environmental and health risks of these increasing phenomena.

COP15 also launched:

  • The Business for Land initiative aimed at bringing visibility to the commitments made by participating companies towards land degradation neutrality, both in supply chains and CSR activities. 
  • The Sahel Sourcing Challenge to enable communities growing the Great Green Wall to use technology to monitor progress, create jobs and commercialize their produce such as baobab juice, moringa oil and shea butter.
  • Droughtland, a new UNCCD public awareness campaign that aims to showcase solutions and rally global action on drought. The campaign will also be featured during UN Desertification and Drought Day (June 17), hosted this year by Spain.

UNCCD’s COP15 is the first Conference of the Parties of the three Rio Conventions taking place in 2022, ahead of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change COP27 and the UN Convention on Biological Diversity COP15. 

Future meetings of the Conference of the Parties to the UNCCD and its subsidiary bodies will be held in Saudi Arabia (COP16 in 2024), Mongolia (COP17 in 2026), and Uzbekistan (Committee for the Review of the Implementation of the Convention in 2023). [IDN-InDepthNews – 21 May 2022]

Image: UNCCD COP15

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