After every Conference of Parties (COP), the negotiations and deliberations on the affairs of the Convention (be it the UNFCCC, UNCCD or UNCBD), a “declaration” is released that outlines the decisions taken by the “parties” (the countries) that are signatory to the Convention and have participated in the decision making process of the COP.
The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) COP14 concluded today (Sept 13) in New Delhi, India, following which the New Delhi Declaration was released.
Here are 5 important decisions agreed under the New Delhi Declaration for UNCCD:
1. The link between land restoration and economic opportunities
Land restoration and sustainable management of land can directly lead to economic opportunities in the form of green jobs, access to natural resources, self-employment opportunities for the vulnerable populations, predominantly the rural poor. Essentially, a business case for land restoration has been established.
2. Encourage the development of community-driven transformative projects
A powerful point, the UNCCD COP14 gives encouragement to community-driven projects at the local, state and national levels with a key focus on gender-responsiveness. In the context of implementing this project, the UNCCD encourages the extension of access to energy to rural and urban communities to achieve Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) targets.
3. Invite stakeholders to boost investments and technical support for land degradation neutrality
The focus of the UNCCD COP14 was to find ways to bring private capital into achieving LDN targets of member countries. In this regard, the Declaration has recognized and invited development partners, international financial mechanisms, the private sector and other stakeholders to participate in LDN targets, specifically by creating green jobs and sustainable commodity value chains for products sourced from land.
4. Reaffirm the relevance of the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure (VGGT) of Land, Fisheries and Forests
One of the decisions that proved extremely contentious, it was reaffirmed that access, control and stewardship of land and tenure rights would be according to the respective national legislation.
5. Consideration for urban land use and urban transformation
The New Delhi Declaration for UNCCD encourages local governments to adopt sustainable land use management practices and enhanced land governance to rehabilitate the natural resource base in cities, particularly focusing on by reducing rates of land consumption and soil sealing along with biodiversity and ecosystem loss.
In addition to these decisions, the 35-point Declaration has recognized the need to reduce losses from Desertification, Land Degradation and Droughts (DLDD) by undertaking drought preparedness plans and identify risk mitigation strategies for drought and sand/dust storms. Further, the Declaration recalled the Sharm El Sheikh Declaration, which called for synergies between strategies to combat land degradation, climate change and biodiversity loss, which has been given special mention by UNCCD executive secretary, Ibrahim Thiaw.
Where did the New Delhi Declaration fall short?
There were three major shortcomings in the Delhi Declaration, especially when you compare the final text and the draft:
- In the draft Declaration, the land tenure rights for women and indigenous communities were considered as a critical element of the enabling environment to achieve the objectives of the convention. The specific mention of women, indigenous communities as well as the critical role they play in safeguarding land use has been downplayed in the final text.
- The draft talked about scaling up finances for combating DLDD, achieving LDN and implementing the Convention, including the keen involvement of Green Climate Fund (GCF), Adaptation Fund and Global Environment Facility (GEF). These financing sources have been grouped under “development partners” and there is no mention of scaling finance and investments into combating land degradation in the final text. Synergies between such existing financial instruments and the LDN Fund are also conspicuously missing.
- Land use management is considered to be the single biggest factor to adapt to climate change, and improve resilience of local communities. Climate change has been acknowledged as having a like to land management, but no mention of climate change mitigation or adaptation is present in the draft or the final text.
The New Delhi Declaration gives onus to the importance of land degadation, particularly by recognizing the business case which should bring private investments into land use management. Importance is being given to reducing losses, signified by the recognition of the importance of a multi-stakeholder disaster risk reduction strategies to be developed within each country. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, representing India as the host nation, has pledged a voluntary target of restoring 26 million hectares of land by 2030, as opposed to 21 million hectares in the previous target. The contentious points regarding land rights and scaling financial resources, however, remain problems to be tackled.