Statement at the opening of the high-level segment Monday Sep 23th

Thank you very much for giving the CSOs the opportunity to speak about the very important matter of combatting desertification, land degradation and drought.

I would like to speak to you about the drivers of land degradation. In all the discussions here in Windhoek and in all the documents prepared for this COP, the specific drivers of land degradation are hardly mentioned. Yes, it is mentioned that the drivers of land degradation can be both natural and human induced and sometimes even agriculture is mentioned. But the discussion around which types of agriculture are driving land degradation and which are contributing to sustainable land management is completely absent from the agenda. And at the same time we all know that land degradation is not caused by millions of small scale farmers and pastoralists.

It is caused by unsustainable monocultures for short time gains, where abundant pesticides and patented expensive seeds are being used that destroy the natural nutrient cycles of soil. It is a myth that food security will be provided by agribusiness companies, as 70 %of the food in the world is produced by small scale farmers, mostly women. An investment in supporting their practices has great potential to fulfill our right to food.

Another driver that we should be talking about is land tenure and about the fact that many land users do not have secure land rights. When you don‘t know if you can use the land the coming next years, as a farmer, you will be hesitant to invest in sustainable land management, like planting trees, improving soil fertility and other practices that will only be profitable in the long term. In addition, securing land rights gives small scale farmers the opportunity to access important financial services to make these long term investments that are necessary for sustainable land management. In this regards, the voluntary guidelines for the responsible governance of tenure of land, fisheries and forest of the UN Committee on World Food Security is an excellent starting point for discussion.

Civil society notes with great concern that land degradation and sustainable and management are two topics that are not high on the national and international political agendas. In addition, the few initiatives that are taken, are not backed by financial resources of the Parties. We as civil society feel that these issues should be the highest priority, as land is the basis for all life and provides the food for people.

The Rio+20 summit attempted to put these issues higher on the agenda through the introduction of the concept Land Degradation Neutral World. Yet, this concept is not fully defined and is open to different interpretations. This means that countries can claim that they are land degradation neutral, while large scale degradation is still ongoing. And most importantly, where are the people in this concept? Where is the voice of local people in dryland communities? Let’s not only talk about land degrdation, we need to remember that there are people living on these lands and who are depending on it.

And now I come to our conclusions.

The UNCCD is full of knowledge and resources that should be more actively used by the parties. We, civil society, urge parties to secure the independence of the convention by ensuring that accredited observers are committed to sustainable livelihoods of people in dryland communities AND to healthy ecosystems that can support the right to food of the next generations.

And finally, we urge parties to take into account local realities by recognizing the important role and innovative power of local communities in sustainable land management and food security and provide them the adequate financial support to invest in theirs and our common future.

That is the future we want.

Delivered by Nathalie van Haren, Both ENDS


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