News / 28 September 2017

Both ENDS at UNCCD COP13: don’t forget about the people

This September, Both ENDS participated at the 13th Conference of the Parties of the UNCCD in Ordos, Inner Mongolia in China. We were part of the Drynet delegation, a network of CSOs, to bring local realities to the international UNCCD discussions.

The UNCCD is the UN Convention to Combat Desertification. At its 13th Conference of the Parties (COP) in Ordos, the Strategic Framework 2018-2030 was discussed, as well as the implementation of SDG target 15.3*. Nathalie van Haren and Karin van Boxtel from Both ENDS have attended the conference to put several themes on the agenda of the delegates of the UNCCD. Together with the Drynet partners, we had formulated a number of goals that we wanted to see included in the Strategic Framework. Key to all our efforts is the message "While combating land degradation, the focus should always be on local people".

CSO participation

One important goal of Drynet was to guarantee meaningful CSO participation in the implementation and monitoring of the UNCCD Strategic Framework 2018 - 2030. Many Drynet members work in close relationship with local communities on sustainable land use and to halt land degradation. In addition, the recognition of the work that CSOs do with communities in official documents gives leverage to many CSOs when engaging with their local and national governments, science and private sector.

Already at the beginning of the COP, it became clear that the International Working Group on the UNCCD Strategic Framework 2018-2030 had forgotten to include CSOs in the strategic plan that will run for the coming 12 years.

Therefore the Drynet network decided to have every intervention accompanied by the ask: "Put CSOs in the Frame". Many parties agreed that this was an omission. However, as the text of the strategic plan was already a consensus text, no party dared to 'open it up' to add CSO inclusion, as this would automatically reopen the whole negotiations and all the work that had been done since COP12 in 2015 would be questioned and jeopardised.

A diplomatic solution had to be found, as the CSO community would not let this one loose, because of the threat to CSOs of being side-lined. In the end, the solution is that CSOs are included in the preamble and the decision about the Strategic Framework 2018-2030.

Linking land and soil quality to land tenure issues

Furthermore, Drynet aims for just, accountable and responsible land governance that recognizes formal and non-formal (including customary) land use and tenure rights. In this context Drynet supports the implementation of the VGGTs* in the UNCCD strategic framework 2018-2030.

The VGGTs focus on land tenure. This is important, because access to, ownership and control over land is inherently part of a successful implementation of sustainable land management and land degradation neutrality (LDN). Sustainability often means investing for the long term, and insecurity withholds land users to do so. This is why the VGGT can be of great value in the fight against desertification.

Due to the efforts of Drynet and many others, the UNCCD Strategic Framework now acknowledges the importance of the VGGTs for responsible land governance. As is stated in the draft decision: "Noting the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security and recognizing their potential contribution to the effective implementation of the UNCCD 2018−2030 Strategic Framework".

Include community initiatives in SDG target 15.3 monitoring

Both ENDS' Nathalie van Haren is CSO-observer in the Science Policy Interface of the UNCCD, where the definition of Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) and its monitoring methods are determined in the Conceptual Framework on Land Degradation Neutrality. We are glad to have achieved a strong recommendation of the VGGT in this Conceptual Framework, as this means that meaningful participation of local communities and local initiatives of dryland communities are also included in the monitoring of SDG target 15.3 on LDN.

Finance for restoration

Drynet and its members are engaged in numerous initiatives of local land users and communities to restore land and to use the land sustainably. Therefore Drynet would like to look at finance for restoration for local people, communities, institutions and organisations, for example through the Land Degradation Neutrality Fund.

This topic was discussed in our side event 'Small is Beautiful' by Noel Oettle of Drynet member EMG, who works with rooibos farmers in South Africa on sustainable land management, Michael Braack, the deputy director at the department of Environmental Affairs in South Africa working on the national LDN target setting programme, and Gautier Queru, the director of the LDN Fund.

Drynet: a strong network

For Both ENDS, it is good to see that Drynet is such a strong network of very committed member organisations, as strengthening our partners and jointly advocating inclusive sustainable land use is at the heart of what we do. The coming years, together with the other Drynet members, we will continue to make sure the UNCCD works for people living in drylands. We will make sure that their realities are being heard in UN processes. Also, we will follow up on SDG target 15.3 monitoring, focusing on community based contributions to LDN and the national LDN targetting programmes, and engage with and monitor the projects that are considered by the Land Degradation Neutrality Fund.

Based upon the good results and cooperation achieved at UNCCD COP 13 in Ordos, we are sure and confident that Drynet will work with lots of energy to get things moving and done.

*SDG target 15.3: one of the 169 targets of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a set of goals adopted by the UN. Target 15.3 says: By 2030, combat desertification, restore degraded land and soil, including land affected by desertification, drought and floods, and strive to achieve a land degradation-neutral world. The UNCCD is the custodian of target 15.3 and therefore responsible for monitoring its implementation. 

** VGGTs = Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security. These guidelines were formulated in 2012 after profound consultations with stakeholder groups and are adopted by the FAO Council and the UN member states as a response to the land (use) rights insecurities of local communities. 

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