Lobbying for local and sustainable practices during the UNCCD summit
From May 9 to 20, the 15th Conference of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification, Land Degradation and Drought (UNCCD COP15) will take place in Abidjan, the capital of Côte d'Ivoire. Governments, policymakers, civil society organisations and scientists from countries all over the world will discuss the problems around drought, land degradation and desertification that are increasing. Colleagues Nathalie van Haren and Stefan Schüller will be there, as will a large number of representatives of organisations with which Both ENDS has been working together for decades. But what is the purpose of the meeting, what is discussed and why is it important to be present? We asked Nathalie and Stefan.
Nathalie: "The UNCCD is a UN treaty on combating desertification, land degradation and drought. The convention was signed in 1994 by all members, or member states, of the UN, which is why all those countries are 'parties' to the convention. Once every two years the members meet to discuss the struggle against desertification, land degradation and drought, and how members can help each other. This is called the 'Conference of the Parties', abbreviated COP."
You are present at the COP. What is the main reason for that?
Stefan: "Both ENDS has followed the international negotiations within the UNCCD since the first COP, in 1997. Together with local civil society organisations that work with communities in dry and semi-dry areas, we want to ensure that better and more inclusive policies are implemented. Policies that stimulates sustainable, agroecological agriculture and pastoralism and that are based on what women farmers, farmers, nomads and herders in arid areas need in order to use the land sustainably. Many of them have been doing this for a long time, but national and international policy does not take these practices into account and financial flows often still go to large-scale projects. These are generally not well attuned to the local context and therefore not very effective."
Nathalie: "That's why at this 15th UNCCD COP we will use examples from our partners, among other things, to show that the sustainable methods they use really work well for soil health, the environment and the livelihood of local communities. They not only prevent land degradation, but also restore land that has already been degraded. We hope to convince policy makers and donors to create more financial and policy space for such practices.
The UNCCD-COP is sometimes called the little sister of the UNFCCC-COP. Is this a deserved nickname?
Nathalie: "I don't think it is exactly deserved, but it is true that the UNCCD has a bit of an image problem. Many people think that the treaty is mainly about desert areas, which is only partly true. The treaty is about the process of human action turning fertile land into barren land and the effects of drought on the health of soils and local communities. These are processes that affect the whole world, including the inhabitants of temperate ecosystems such as the Netherlands. Just look at the droughts in the Netherlands in 2018, 2019, 2020 and how dry it is in the Netherlands at this moment. That will only happen more often.
Are the agreements made in the UNCCD binding?
Stefan: The UNCCD is a UN treaty, which means that national governments commit themselves to convert decisions taken within that treaty into national policy. However, it remains 'soft law': if a country does not fulfill that promise, it will not be thrown out of the convention. You can regard the UNCCD as an opportunity to achieve good international cooperation and better national policy."
What is your main message at this particular COP?
Stefan: "Since desertification, land degradation and drought are most felt by marginalised groups such as women, small-scale farmers/farmers, nomads and herders and local communities, their interests must come first. If policies are made to combat desertification and restore degraded land, they must fit in with many different local contexts. What is needed? For example, to start with, farming communities need to be sure that they can use their land for years to come. That is often not the case now, because land use rights are not at all secured in many countries.
Nathalie: If you can be evicted from your land at any moment, that's not really a motivation to grow trees and farm sustainably. Then you mainly look at the short term. If, on the other hand, you are sure that you can use that land for years or maybe even decades, you'll make sure that your land is still fertile in the future and it is also worth planting trees for shade, fruit and soil fertility. Land use rights are therefore extremely important, which is why it is crucial that local communities are seen and heard in policy processes.
Are civil society organisations listened to at the COP?
Nathalie: "Civil society organisations have observer status within the UNCCD, just like international organisations such as the FAO and the Global Environmental Facility. International organisations and civil society organisations are sometimes given the opportunity to issue a statement. We have organised ourselves within the UNCCD, there is an NGO meeting every morning before the negotiations, and so we jointly prepare a statement for every item on the agenda."
Stefan: "Two 'Open Dialogue Sessions' are also always planned in the official COP programme, in which NGOs often show the work they do with local communities on sustainable land use and propose how policymakers and funds can support these initiatives and practices with better policies and financing. But whether they really listen, time will tell!"
When will you go home satisfied?
Stefan: "I will go home satisfied if we, as an NGO group, can continue the conversation with policy makers and funds about the importance of sustainable initiatives initiated by women, indigenous groups and local communities to combat desertification and land degradation. We must keep planting and feeding those seeds!
Nathalie: "And I will go home absolutely delighted when the value of agroecology and community-based initiatives is explicitly on the agenda during the next UNCCD-COP, number 16, which will take place in two years' time. This would mean that at a high level it is recognised that these kinds of initiatives can make an important contribution to the prevention and reduction of desertification and land degradation in the short and long term and therefore deserve full support, both politically and financially."
WHAT'S ON THE AGENDA FOR THE 15th COP?
- Drought: how countries can work together and exchange knowledge on how to deal better with drought, how to be better prepared and how to respond to drought
- Land rights and land use planning: how countries can work together and exchange knowledge on how to get land use planning in order
- Gender Action Plan: how countries can cooperate and exchange knowledge on how to better involve women in the implementation of the convention in national policy and financing
- Migration: how countries can work together and exchange knowledge to create better livability in rural areas, especially for young people, so that one of the drivers of international migration is reduced
- Finance: how to pay for improved policy action on desertification, land degradation and drought and supporting sustainable land use.
Both ENDS is also co-organiser of a couple of side events during the COP, take a look in the agenda
Read more about this subject
Both ENDS works with partners around the world to ensure that land is governed fairly and inclusively and managed sustainably with priority for the rights and interests of local communities.
Event / 18 May 2022, 10:45 - 12:15
UNCCD-COP15: Monitoring Tree Cover and Enhancing Decision Making Tools Across Africa’s Great Green Wall
Join us for an open space for a reflection and exchange on a new dataset, developed by WRI, to monitor regreening efforts, and its applications in the Sahel.
In the drylands of Africa, land degradation threatens the livelihoods of millions of people. Fortunately, there are promising initiatives emerging all over the continent that are turning the tide. Throughout the Sahel, for example, vast tracts of land along the Great Green Wall have been restored by local communities. They have nurtured the plants that spontaneously spring from the soil, protecting young sprouts from cattle and other hazards.
Event / 16 May 2022, 13:00 - 15:00
UNCCD-COP15: How funders can best support agroecological initiatives by local communities in drylands
Join our dialogue on how to set up more and better financial mechanisms that can support agroecological initiatives of local communities living in drylands.
The land degradation neutrality (LDN) response hierarchy of Avoid > Reduce > Reverse land degradation is an overarching principle for LDN implementation, which guides people in planning interventions to achieve LDN. The hierarchy articulates which interventions should be prioritised based on their potential to maximise the conservation of land-based natural capital, recognising that avoiding or reducing land degradation is generally more cost-effective than efforts to reverse past degradation. As value for money is highest in the Avoiding and in Reducing Land Degradation response, a smart way to spend money is to support sustainable land management approaches like agroecology that work with nature, not against it.
Event / 16 May 2022, 13:00 - 15:00
Join our event, providing space for an interactive discussion among COP15 participants on multi-actor collaboration and the financing of community-based restoration
News / 23 November 2018
Today, the Right Livelihood Awards 2018 will be presented in Stockholm. One of the four people who will receive the prize this year is Yacouba Sawadogo, 'the man who stopped the desert'. Yacouba, a farmer from Yatenga, Burkina Faso, is one of the founders of so-called 'Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration' with which degenerated and dry areas are becoming green and fertile again. According to Both ENDS, Yacouba's award is very well-deserved!
News / 17 June 2021
Today is World Desertification, Land Degradation and Drought Day. Such a day is more than needed to get attention for desertification, land degradation and drought that are threatening and hitting hundreds of millions of people in many regions throughout the world. While the causes - such as large-scale agriculture, use of pesticides, water extraction and climate change - are clear and need to be stopped, it is just as important to focus on solutions like restoration and sustainable land use.– in line with World Desertification, Land Degradation and Drought Day's theme for this year: 'Restoration. Land. Recovery. We build back better with healthy land', we will therefore especially focus on inspiring solutions during the next few weeks.
News / 30 August 2019
Worldwide, hundreds of millions of people live in areas where the soil is depleted; often they are forced to, or the region they have been living in for generations has become increasingly arid over time. The desert is advancing and this is a global problem. Opinions about the causes of land degradation and desertification, but especially about the solutions, are very divided. To discuss this, the biennial global conference on desertification will take place from 2 to 14 September. This is where policymakers, scientists, NGOs, female and male farmers and pastoralist, herders and companies from all over the world come together. Our colleague Nathalie van Haren is present at the conference and explains why.
Globally, the area that is suffering desertification and land degradation is ever expanding. Unsustainable and often large-scale agricultural practices, including the copious use of pesticides and fertilisers, are a major driver of land degradation, aprocess that is further exacerbated by climate change, causing more erratic rainfall patterns, longer periods of drought and unpredictable growing seasons. This is very problematic not only for the hundreds of millions of people who directly depend on land and water for their livelihoods, but also for life on earth as a whole. It is clear that this process must be stopped and reversed, better sooner than later. But how to go about it?
Publication / 8 April 2019
In various countries in the Sahel, vast tracts of degraded land have been restored by the local population by nurturing what spontaneously springs from the soil. They do this using a method called 'Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration (FMNR)'.
Publication / 28 January 2019
External link / 31 May 2018
Many people in the desertifying Sahel region have to choose: claim their land back from the desert, or leave their farms behind. In 2017, Both ENDS started a new project here, introducing a method for regreening the landscape: Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration (FMNR). It has proven itself in Niger, where we worked on FMNR for 15 years. By 2017, 15.000 ha of dryland had been regreened.
In various countries in the Sahel, vast tracts of land have been restored by the local population by nurturing what spontaneously springs from the soil and protecting the sprouts from cattle and hazards.
News / 16 August 2019
Today, an op-ed by Nathalie van Haren and Stefan Schüller was published in the Dutch national newspaper De Volkskrant about the IPCC's latest report "Climate Change and Land". Below you find the English translation.
Publication / 29 January 2019
External link / 19 June 2020
In the first two years of the programme "Communities Regreen the Sahel", more than 10,000 farmers have been trained in Farmer-Managed Natural Regeneration and the practice has expanded to more than 44,000 ha. Moreover, the number of agreements by farmers and nomadic pastoralists has increased significantly, which is important to avoid conflict over land use.
News / 15 June 2023
Koussanar, in eastern Senegal, is a small town that is expanding rapidly, surrounded by villages still rooted in rural and nomadic life. The region is hot and dry, which is exacerbated by climate change. The soil in the region is also dry and often exhausted due to a combination of factors such as unsustainable agricultural practices, (peanut) monoculture, intensive agriculture, forest fires and overgrazing. Today, however, the region's farmers and nomadic pastoralists take a different approach. They are working towards a better future by committing to the restoration of degraded land using Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration (FMNR).
Publication / 11 July 2019
Blog / 25 September 2017
Access to, ownership and control over land is inherently part of a successful implementation of land degradation neutrality (LDN) and sustainable land management. Sustainability often means investing for the long term, and insecurity withholds land users to do so. In particular women's land use rights are fundamental as they are the ones working on the land and thus putting LDN into practice.
News / 28 September 2017
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.