The 15th Session of the Committee of the Review of Implementation of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (CRIC 15) concluded its three-day meeting on Thursday in Nairobi, Kenya, with the adoption of an outcome that would ramp up global efforts to curb desertification and drought.
Two issues were deemed particularly important for CRIC 15.
First, the elaboration of a strong strategy for implementation from 2018-2030. The current strategy expires in 2018. Parties agreed that the 2008-2018 strategic objectives are still relevant and should be retained. But they differed on the reporting procedures and the weight that should be given to Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) target 15.3, on land degradation neutrality. These changes would also affect the mandate of the CRIC itself.
Land degradation neutrality refers to the condition where a country maintains or enhances the health and productivity of its land resources. Through SDG target 15.3, all countries committed to strive to become land degradation neutral by 2030.
The CRIC 15 outcome document on the proposed strategy provides the Intergovernmental Working Group (IWG) with a clear idea of the issues that must be resolved before the Conference of the Parties meets in 2017, and the weaknesses of that need to be corrected.
The IWG is a small group of regional representatives that was chosen last year by the countries to draft the strategy, and is staying on in Nairobi for a further two days, to revise the text based on the CRIC 15 outcomes.
The second important issue CRIC 15 dealt with is an ongoing exercise where countries are setting their voluntary national targets on land degradation neutrality. At the start of CRIC 15, more than 100 countries had committed to set a national target, exceeding the ambition for at least 60 countries to do so within the first year of the adoption of the SDGs.
Some parties have expressed concern that the focus on land degradation neutrality could turn the limelight away from other issues mandated under the Convention, such as drought, drylands populations or building the capacity of developing countries to combat desertification and drought.
Monique Barbut, the Executive Secretary of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), reassured delegates that would not be the case.
“We are making progress on drought. The Africa Drought Conference hosted by Namibia in August 2016 was, I believe, a turning point. We will present you with options for a decision at COP next year. As requested by Parties, I am also driving forward a new agenda to enhance capacity for implementation at country level,” she said.
CRIC 15 delegates commended the commitment by countries to set voluntary national targets on land degradation neutrality and requested for UNCCD support to monitor, evaluate and report on these efforts. They also requested the UNCCD’s guidance on the methodologies to be used in the exercise, and to mobilise the participation of other relevant stakeholders, such as the private sector.
CRIC 15 also considered the issues of the financing of the activities mandated under the Convention, gathering and sharing of information and the lessons learned, and the mandate of the CRIC.
Regarding the outcomes of CRIC 15, Ms Barbut said: “We will have a bold exciting COP (Conference of the Parties) where the adoption of a revised strategy will be complemented with decisions on drought, sand and dust storms and capacity building, among others.”
CRIC 15 took place from 18-20 October at the United Nations Office in Nairobi. The Committee brings together governmental experts knowledgeable in land degradation and drought issues to prepare the ground for the decisions that are taken by the Conference when it meets.
The next UNCCD Conference of the Parties will meet in Fall 2017, in Ordos, Inner Mongolia, China.