Executive Secretary’s Corner: May 2021

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21/05/2021 Messages

The COVID-19 situation is still dire in many regions of the world as COVID-19 mutates. As most of you already know, we lost Mr. Philbert Brown, our National Focal Point in Jamaica. He was an ardent supporter of the Convention and one of our savviest negotiators and consensus builders. Allow me to extend heartfelt sympathies and condolences, on behalf of my staff and I, to members of the UNCCD family and community who have suffered loss of (a) family member(s), colleague or friend.

UNCCD staff are holding up well, going beyond the call of duty to serve and support our stakeholder community and following prescribed government procedures of work and for vaccination. We will get through this challenge together. We are also doing our best to use this moment to inform the public, with empathy, first, about the pandemic as one of the unintended consequences of ecosystem degradation. And second, to explain the UNCCD’s contribution in building forward better post COVID-19.

UNCCD COP15 postponed to 2022

At COP 14, parties decided that COP15 will be held in Bonn, Germany, in autumn 2021, or at another venue arranged by the secretariat in consultation with the Bureau if no Party made an offer to host that session. The COP Bureau met on 8 April to discuss on COP15 considering the COVID-19 pandemic. It decided to postpone COP15 to 2022. It requested the Secretariat to plan to hold the Conference between May and October 2022 in line with the terms set out for COP15 in the COP14 decision.

Presidency of the General Assembly and G-7 leadership in land restoration

On Monday, 14 June 2021, the Presidency of the General Assembly is holding the high-level dialogue to assess progress during the decade on desertification in combating desertification, land degradation and drought. Heads of state and government, ministers and other dignitaries have confirmed their participation. Our collaborative efforts to reach the highest levels of government with the message that securing the land has multiple benefits is starting to pay off.

During last month’s G-7 meeting hosted by Italy, the leaders discussed the target of achieving land degradation at length. This month, the Biden-Harris administration proposed the intention to carry out conservation and restoration measures to protect up to 30 per cent of the land and waters in the United States. This growing interest by the world’s largest economies to achieve land degradation neutrality signals a political will to invest in the transformative programmes that combine green jobs and good land stewardship.

Plans for Desertification and Drought Day (DDD)

Costa Rica, host country for this year’s DDD global observance, is planning to organize a high-level event to build on the momentum from these events to raise the ambition for land stewardship globally. Together with the host country, the secretariat will mark the celebration through a 6-hour online webcast. A lot of assets are provided on our website for your use to promote the day locally, and the global online event. The programme includes events addressing every segment of society, policymakers, children, youth, women, the private sector, land users and scientists. Show and share your events by posting them on the UNCCD portal.

In this regard, let me draw your attention to this article prepared by Luc Descroix, Senior Researcher at the French institute for research and development, IRD, about what scientists are observing in the Sahel. The regreening of the Sahel has been confirmed year after year since the 1990 with the emergence of dense and perennial agrosystems. He reports on this phenomenon and its impacts in the region in this publication.

CRIC19 outcomes

I thank our Parties for the successful conclusion of CRIC-19, and the sacrifice most you made to participate or enable others to participate. The Report of the Meeting is available on our website on this link.

Parties to the UNFCCC and CBD are organizing virtual negotiating intersessional events in May and June. Their experiences can inform how we approach and plan our future activities.

Things to look forward to

  • UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration: We are actively engaged and supporting FAO and UNEP in promoting the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, which will be launched on World Environment Day on 5 June. One of the sessions, organized with WOCAT, will feature sustainable land management techniques. Participation is free via this link: https://bit.ly/3hqH6BSSLM specialists from around the world with expertise in mountain, coastal, grassland, forest, cropland, urban and other ecosystems will speak
  • Food Systems Summit: We are actively engaged in the Food Systems Summit taking place in July-August. In May, we have issued this briefing paper (Restored Land, Healthy People, Green Recovery) to shape the discussion. I encourage you to attend the event, and to invite stakeholders and target groups who are influential in this space and/or would benefit from the event
  • Rio Conventions campaigns: The Joint Liaison Group of the Rio Conventions (CBD, UNCCD, UNFCCC) and the Global Environment Facility are developing a joint communications campaign. We aim to promote greater collaboration among actors for a holistic and joined-up approach at the national level among practitioners, advocacy organizations and activists active in the issues our Conventions are working on
  • UNCCD website: We expect to launch an overhauled UNCCD Website in the last quarter of this year. Allow me to thank everyone who responded to the survey. Your contributions have been invaluable in guiding the developers we are working with to design a portal that is attractive, user-friendly, resourceful and demand oriented.

Author: Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.