Blog / 21 October 2015

The real task can begin!: UNCCD-COP12 Day Two

The real task can begin!: UNCCD-COP12 Day Two

The Climate Convention’s younger brother

I am attending the twelfth ‘Conference of the Parties’ (COP12) of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), which is this time being held in Ankara, Turkey. This convention originated from the Rio Conventions of 1992. The UNCCD – the younger brother of the climate convention and biodiversity convention of the UN – specifically focuses on desertification and land degradation. The upcoming days I am going to commit myself, together with seven organizations from our Drynet-network, to putting the rights of youth, women and small male and female farmers on the agenda, and to prioritizingsustainable land restoration techniques in the decisions of the UNCCD COP12.


The real task

I am told that the real task will start on day two, after the ‘official statements’ of the first day. One important topic that is on the agenda today is the ‘Land Degradation Neutrality concept’. This entails that the amount of natural resources and soil quality either have to be stable, or increase, in order to support ecosystems and increase food security. There are some drawbacks, however, so the NGOs that are present – including Both ENDS – announce in a joint NGO statement that we think the concept should be clearer defined.


Landgrabbing for land restoration?

What does this ‘neutrality in land degradation’ entail in practice? In its current form, it could easily be applied as a carte blanche to unhindered land cultivation and clearing in one specific area, as long as it is compensated by land restoration in another area. Of course, this can never be the initial intention, as this would still be at the expense of valuable biodiversity. Moreover, the activities that should lead to ‘neutrality’ should not result in the grabbing of local people’s land. It should not open doors for governments and businesses to use land for restoration purposes without the voice and consent of those who live there. Areas where people have always lived throughout history cannot – just like that – be declared ‘nature reserve’ just to compensate for land degradation that has been caused elsewhere. The concept is still unclear about such issues. This is why, in our joint NGO statement, we clearly state that the aim of ‘neutrality in land degradation’ should never be at the expense of written, or unwritten, land use rights.


UNCCD for all the land

Up until now, the UNCCD has focused on land degradation in dry areas. In light of the Rio Conventions, which prioritize the environment and development, and in light of the fight against climate change, it is very important to not solely focus on dry areas alone, but to combat all forms of land degradation in the world. Land is not only necessary for the production of food and therefore for food security; sustainable land use is also essential for biodiversity and the climate. During day two of the UNCCD COP12 it became clear that this topic – putting land degradation in all areas (not only dry areas) on the agenda of the UNCCD – would be heavily disputed during the upcoming days. The European Union, the African Union and many other countries were all in favor of this, but this will not satisfy everyone. It will for instance be a tough task for Brazil, as their entire rainforest will be incorporated in the UNCCD…


The upcoming days I will merge myself further in the diligence that is present at UNCCD COP12. ‘Neutrality in land degradation’ is not the only topic on the agenda. Many other important themes will be discussed and worked on with the other NGOs. To be continued…

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