NEW DELHI :
After 12 days of talks, the 14th Conference of Parties (COP14) of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) ended on Friday, with 196 countries and the European Union adopting the “New Delhi Declaration".
The participating countries agreed that land degradation is a major economic, social and environmental problem, and welcomed strengthening of the adoption of voluntary “land degradation neutrality" targets that include restoration of degraded land by 2030.
“It’s a powerful document. Parties have finally woken up to the challenge of droughts which are set to become more frequent and more intense in coming years," said UNCCD executive secretary Ibrahim Thiaw, adding that signatories to the declaration endorsed 35 decisions, including commitments to combat land degradation, desertification and drought.
While the New Delhi Declaration is a statement of consensus, the 35 decisions are legally binding on each the 197 signatories. Activities would be carried out over the next two years and monitored by India, which has the presidency of COP till 2021.
Highlighting the key points of the conference, Thiaw said countries have found clear links between land restoration, biodiversity and climate change.
“The business case has been made very clear, that we need to manage land restoration, so communities are not deprived of land rights. We need to put ‘people’ first—women, children, health of people and create conditions of peace and prosperity," he said.
All countries recognized that desertification undermines health, development and prosperity in all regions, and were deeply concerned that the impacts would be felt most keenly by vulnerable people.
They were also convinced that participation from civil society organizations, local governments and the private sector would be crucial to achieving the objectives of UNCCD.
The document laid special emphasis on community-driven transformative projects that are gender-sensitive at local, national and regional levels to drive implementation.
Thiaw said all decisions involved lengthy deliberations, as each country had different expectations. “However, land tenure and drought were the most difficult decisions, which were pending till the last day," he added.