News / 30 August 2019

Dealing with drought: the UNCCD COP in India

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.

"UNCCD COP, the conferences' abbreviaton, stands for the 'United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification Conference of Parties'. A mouth full, that’s for sure, but then again the topic is very important. One could see this conference as the less visible sister of the climate summit, the UNFCCC-COP which is held in Chile this year. Although there is a lot of overlap - land degradation is one of the biggest causes of climate change, as we have again seen confirmed in the recent IPCC report - the conference in New Delhi focuses on combating desertification and land degradation, dealing with drought and the restoring and sustainable use of land. "

Representative of the NGOs

"At the beginning of 2018, I was elected to be a CSO panel member of the UNCCD. That means that I am one of five people representing civil society. Each panel member represents NGOs from a region for two years: Africa, Asia, Latin America / Caribbean, Eastern Europe, and my region 'Western European and other groups’. This last region consists of Western Europe, Australia, the USA, Canada and Turkey, say the countries with money.  In total, the 5 panel members represent  more than 500 organisations and there are 140 NGOs in 'my' region alone. There has been little attention to dry areas and desertification in my region so far, because, unlike climate change, these specific problems have not been directly related to the daily reality of rich countries for a long time."

Poor people's convention

"Because the rich countries have always paid less attention to the UNCCD, it is also called the ‘little sister’ of the climate treaty and the biodiversity treaty. In my view this is undeserved, as the UNCCD is very progressive and has an inclusive design. In addition to the fact that the countries are being facilitated in their negotiations, there is  a CSO panel, something that neither the UNFCCC nor the 'Convention on Biological Diversity' has established. Another nickname for the UNCCD is 'poor people's convention'. People who live in arid regions are often not taken into account by policymakers and politicians in the capital cities, and the rich countries barely put money into this convention because it doesn’t concern them very much.

Exhausted soil becomes fertile again

"Huge numbers of people live in arid regions. Of course they want to participate in decisions about how their environment can be used in a sustainable inclusive and future-proof way, and where necessary restored. If land and ecosystems are being restored through sustainable food production methods, through growing trees and shrubs or by improving soil health, then this must be done in consultation with and in cooperation with the population, or even better: on their call! There are countless examples of 'community-led' initiatives using sustainable farming to convert degraded land into fertile and productive land. We call this agro-ecology which, thanks to the focus of female and male farmers and pastoralists, smart knowledge exchange between land users and scientists and building on environmentally friendly farming methods, helps the soil to become healthy and fertile again. Moreover, biodiversity and biomass are increasing, and people who are sure of long-term use of the land, who are supported in knowledge exchange about sustainable land use, and who can participate in decisions about their environment have a better and sustainable future perspective. "

The priorities of the NGOs

"Together with the NGOs present in India, we ensure that these types of initiatives are brought to the attention of policymakers and funds to show that they are really worth investing in. My assignment as a CSO panel member is to support NGOs to be visible in the UNCCD negotiations. Together with the accredited NGO’s,  we have identified a number of priorities, including recognition and funding for local initiatives, advocating land use rights and involving women in decision making. "

Focus on delivery at the COP

"I hope the COP in India will help countries to secure land use security for female and male farmers and pastoralists in national laws and regulations in such a way that women and men are supported and encouraged by the government use the land in a sustainable way. And I hope that COP14 will help countries with inclusive land use planning, so that local communities have a say (or will get it back) in decisions and investments with regard to their environment.  But most of all I hope that this conference will help countries to not only talk about sustainable land use, but to actually see community led initiatives  - which are very often supported by NGOs - and support them!”

More info:

Both ENDS and partners organise three 'side events' at the conference:

• Drynet: Pathways for big money to reach local communities: how large funds can support communities to contribute to Country Degradation Neutrality and SDG15.3 while leaving no one behind: Wednesday 4 September from 13:00 to 15:00 in MET-13

• Both ENDS & CARI: CSO actions to combat desertification: working with communities to up-scale Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration throughout the Sahel: Friday 6 September from 13:00 to 15:00 in MET-09

• Drynet: From global frameworks to local actions: the change that (upcoming) global reports can bring to policies and action on sustainable land management: Thursday 12 September from 08:00 to 10:00 in MET-10

As a CSO panel, Both ENDS also organises the Open Dialogue Session, this is an official part of the agenda and will take place on Thursday 5 September 2019 from 3 p.m. - 6 p.m. in the plenary room. The focus will be on 'Community based initiatives, women, country tenure, enabling environment and adequate finance policy'.

For more information

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