The eleventh session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 11) to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) opened on Monday afternoon in Windhoek.
Land degradation directly affects 1.5 billion people globally. A total of 24 billion tons of fertile soil is lost every year because of cropland erosion, while another 12 million hectares falls prey to drought and desertification. Some 27 000 species of flora and fauna are lost each year due to land degradation.
This according to the Minister of Environment and Tourism (MET) Uahekua Herunga at the official opening yesterday. Herunga has officially taken over the mantle of presidency of the COP for the next two years.
During his welcome speech the Minster noted that it is “extremely fitting that Namibia, itself facing the very real threat of desertification, land degradation and drought” is hosting the event. He noted that Namibia’s interventions to arrest these phenomena need to be strengthened.
Herunga said that the Convention to Combat Desertification “deals with some of the most pertinent issues humankind faces in the decades to come … Increasing imbalances and demands on natural habitats, once taken for granted, are rapidly changing environments into inhospitable and unproductive conditions”.
The negative impacts include the rapid urbanisation of urban centres as people leave “their barren homesteads for already overcrowded cities”.
He noted that following agreements reached at Rio+20 the time has come “to take huge steps towards the realisation of a world without land degradation. In order to achieve this, we require a clear target setting of steps that would support the attainment of this goal”.
The Minister said that globally, billions of people depend on the productivity of their natural environments. In Africa and elsewhere people “are tied to the soil, not only in terms of deriving their livelihood from it, but the land on which they live plays a huge role in their cultural and traditional values which they adhere to”.
Luc Gnacadja, Executive Secretary of the UNCCD, at the mid-point of the implementation of the Convention’s 10-year strategy “the time is ripe to capitalise on our achievements and lessons learnt and adopt a higher level of ambition for ourselves and for this process”.
He said it was time to “move beyond a political agreement and bring land degradation to the forefront of national policy. This will help all parties to effectively deliver on critical policy issues at the nexus of food-energy and water security, as well as eradication of poverty”.
During the first week, participants will build upon the results of the second UNCCD scientific conference and review the progress after the completion of the first half of the 10-year strategy of the UNCCD (2008 – 2018). They will also work on the way forward for the next five years.
In addition, COP 11 sessions will follow up on the outcomes of the Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development which was held in 2012.
In the second week, a high level segment for Ministers and other senior representatives will take place on 23 and 24th September through round table meetings on critical policy questions.
Other items on the agenda of the COP11 include: the mid-term evaluation of the 10-Year Strategy; improving mechanisms to facilitate regional coordination of the implementation of the Convention; programme and budget; progress in the implementation of the comprehensive communication Strategy; provisions for an interdisciplinary scientific advice and private sector representatives in meetings and processes of the UNCCD; and maintenance of the roster of experts.