The eleventh session of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (COP11 UNCCD) ended Saturday morning in Windhoek, Namibia, with several major breakthroughs.
Luc Gnacadja, outgoing executive secretary of the UNCCD, praised Namibia saying “Namibians can be proud that they have hosted a very successful COP. There is consensus on a large number of outcomes, many of which were very controversial by the time we arrived two weeks ago”.
Over 3 000 delegates with over 1 500 from around the world, attended the meeting, he said. Moreover, a total of 45 ministerial level participants were present.
“We captured Namibia’s spirit and tradition of participation,” he said, noting that “Namibians got to interact with the delegates in a much greater way than has happened in past conferences, through events such as Gender Day, the SLM Business Forum, the Roundtable of Parliamentarians, the Film Festival, side events and the exhibition, excursions and media coverage.”
Some of the issues which were decided on during the two weeks included:
The Science Policy Interface (SPI), a mechanism that scientists have long called for to enable them to communicate scientific findings to policy-makers, was established.
The SPI’s functions are often compared to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change or the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, but it will be structured differently.
Parties confirmed the value and future of the UNCCD Scientific Conferences, after holding the first two conferences as “special sessions.”
To fast-track the start of the third Conference, which will be held in early 2015, the Republic of Korea contributed USD100,000, as part of the 2013 Changwon Initiative implementation plan.
The Parties agreed to set up an Intergovernmental Working Group on the follow-up to the outcomes of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio +20), with three key tasks: to identify a science-based definition of land-degradation neutrality in the drylands; to develop options that parties may consider to strive to achieve land-degradation neutrality; and to advise the Convention on their implications for its current and future strategy and programmes.
“By all accounts COP11 is a resounding success and has lived up to its motto: ‘A stronger UNCCD for a land-degradation neutral world’,” Gnacadja stated.
The COP “has taken concrete steps to make the UNCCD the global authority on science relating to desertification, land degradation and drought… we have moved away from a focus on process towards real substance,” Gnacadja said.
COP11 President Uahekua Herunga, Minister of Environment and Tourism of Namibia, said “COP11 has indeed strengthened the UNCCD as an agent of sustainable development,” and applauded Parties for moving towards the establishment of a science policy interface.
Following institutional reforms undertaken at COP10 that consolidated the management of the Convention’s Global Mechanism and secretariat, COP11 decided to co-locate the two in Bonn, Germany, with a liaison office in Rome, Italy.
COP11 President Herunga issued the “Namib Declaration on a stronger United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification for a land degradation neutral world,” which calls on stakeholders to commit to enhance sustainable land management and improve livelihoods at all levels.
He stated “the commitment of the Namibian Government, through its Presidency and Declaration during and beyond this two year period, to continue strengthening the implementation and on-ground impacts of this Convention.”
The Declaration outlines action to: strengthen UNCCD leadership for The Future We Want; address drought mitigation as a matter of priority; advance the science-policy interface; focus on local communities; engage with the private sector; and to empower women.
“Important decisions were taken at COP11 that will have positive impacts going forward,” Gnacadja said, also citing: the alignment of the national action programmes with the 10-Year Strategy; adjustments to be made on how Parties report progress under the Performance Review and Assessment of Implementation System; and communication and awareness raising.
The next COP will be held in Turkey in 2015.