We, the representatives of Civil Society Organizations, pastoralists, hunter-gathers, farmers, fisher-folks and communities from all regions of the world, attending the Eleventh Session of the Conference of Parties (COP11) to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) wish to thank the Secretariat of the UNCCD, and the Parties for inviting us to participate in this Conference. We would also like to extend our gratitude to the donors for making our participation to this conference possible.
We wish to also thank the Government and people of the Republic of Namibia for the warm welcome and hospitality accorded us since our arrival in this beautiful city of Windhoek.
From 14th to 15th of September 2013, the CSOs held meetings to prepare for effective participation in this Conference. We shared information on the activities we are doing with respect to the implementation of the Convention at local, national and global levels. We also took time to update ourselves on the critical issues at stake for the COP11.
We the CSOs have noted with concern that land degradation and desertification are on the increase, with the local and indigenous communities being the hardest hit by the effects of these phenomena. The effects include among others, water and food insecurity, loss of livelihoods and income generation activities, conflicts over scarce natural resource, forced displacement of local and indigenous people from their lands, and migration of the youth from their home regions for non-existence greener pastures.
The situation is being exacerbated by the on-going climate change, land grabbing and land tenure. Also, investments such as mining operations are becoming key drivers of land degradation and pollution in dry-lands. These factors have combined to pose a critical challenge to attainment of food security, human rights and sustainable development in our communities.
Again, we note that since the inception of the UNCCD, a number of valuable decisions and initiatives were put in place by the Parties, with the aim to address the problems of land degradation and improve the livelihoods of peoples living in affected areas. These decisions include the National Action Programmes (NAPs) to combat desertification, financial mechanisms and the 10 year Strategy, just to mention a few.
However, we are sad to report that in spite of these decisions and initiatives by the Parties and the Convention, land degradation and its impacts continue to worsen in the communities. To put it bluntly, implementation of decision plans and initiatives are slow on the ground.
We are currently in the fifth (5) year of the implementation of the UNCCD Strategy (2008-2018). However, it is our observation that there is no enough tangible progress that is visible to reach at least, the first Strategic Objective which is to improve the livelihoods of affected communities.
Over the years, CSOs repeatedly drew attention of the COP and other intersectional meetings of the Convention to a number of on-going actions like agro-business, agro-fuels, land grabbing and mining which are contributing to degradation of community lands. These practices did not help achieving land degradation neutral world.
It is therefore our expectation that this COP11 will take steps to address the above unsustainable actions in the Convention process if the UNCCD want to make any positive impact towards its objectives.
We the CSOs, indigenous and local communities are playing key roles to contribute to reversing the threat of land degradation and desertification. These include awareness raising, capacity building of communities for soil and water management, Sustainable Land Management (SLM), governance of lands, conservation and management of natural resources, promoting indigenous knowledge, Indigenous Community Conserved Areas & Territories “ICCAs” and improving CSOs coordination on DLDD.
In our efforts, we are constrained by access to financial resources to increase the pace of CSO activities.
The CSOs call on the Parties to the Conference to:
- Increase the CSOs involvement in national coordinating bodies to facilitate their participation in the process of alignment of National Action Programmes
- The alignment should be participatory and inclusive of all stakeholders including CSOs taking into account decentralization and local governance.
- We reiterate the need for increasing support to all CSOs to be represented at decision making processes including attendance to the UNCCD international meetings. We regret that only a little number of countries is committed to funding the voluntary based trust fund supporting CSOs participation. We call for setting up of a Special Fund for this purpose.
- Facilitate CSOs involvement in the reporting process, for instance by adapting templates for the PRAIS portals
- The number of accredited CSOs has decreased in an unacceptable range from 800 to 200. We request the National Focal Points of the UNCCD to play their role, increase awareness and support CSOs in their efforts.
- Access to financial support to CSOs for them to effectively carry out their activities for the implementation of the Convention;
- To address the drivers such as land grabbing, Agro –business, mining, etc. that are militating against communities ability to implement activities to combat desertification and land degradation.
- Regarding the incorporation of the private sector and corporations in the implementation of the UNCCD, there is a need for strong participatory environmental impact assessment as criteria. This is because we have had many unsuccessful results in the past and present by the private sector activities in our communities in relation to sustainable land management.
- The Global environment fund is under a process of replenishment. Considering that land, water and natural resources in drylands are key for any implementation of the mandate of the GEF in support of the Rio convention, we request the GEF council to propose and decide a significant increase of the window dedicated to land degradation and ensure the CSOs involvement in the implementation of GEF.
We the CSOs affirm our commitment to the engage in the outcomes of the Rio+20 with a view to ensuring land degradation neutral world as envisaged in the Rio+20 declaration.
We Civil Society Organizations, pastoralists, hunter-gathers, farmers, fisher-folks and communities from all regions of the world, further look forward to engaging with you in this UNCCD COP11 with a view to bringing our issues, concerns and proposals to attention of the Parties as well as ensuring a stronger UNCCD for land degradation neutral world.
We Thank you
Delivered by Victoria Haraseb