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Iceland and Namibia Launch Group of Friends on Desertification

​06/09/2013. The Group of Friends (GoF) on Desertification, Land Degradation and Drought, an initiative of the Ambassadors Permanent Representatives of Iceland and Namibia together with the UNCCD Executive Secretary, was launched Thursday evening, 5 September 2013, in New York.

GoF is an informal interest group and forum that aims to maintain the momentum generated by the UN Conference on Sustainable Development, popularly called Rio+20, around Desertification, Land Degradation and Drought (DLDD) in the context of post-2015 development agenda.

Among Rio + 20’s key outcomes was the agreement to strive for a “land-degradation neutral world” and to develop a set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that build on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and converge with the post 2015 development agenda.

GoF’s stated purpose is to draw the attention of Member States to the importance of having an SDG on DLDD in the set of goals under development.

Speaking at the GoF launch, Luc Gnacadja, outgoing Executive Secretary of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification, who was chief guest at the event, said “land is central to the “nexus” that links energy, food, water, environmental health and poverty in an interdependent loop.”

“If the international community does not take bold action to protect, restore and manage land and soils sustainably, it will not achieve commitments for climate change adaptation and mitigation, biodiversity conservation, forest and MDG targets. It will not alleviate rural poverty and hunger, ensure long‐term food security nor build resilience to drought and water stress,” he added.

“A land-degradation neutral world is the final piece of the puzzle that unites the challenge of DLDD with the tools at our disposal and the level of ambition needed to achieve “the future we want”. The GoF has a crucial role to play in creating awareness that striving for a Land-Degradation Neutral World is doable,” he said.

Gnacadja noted that several countries among the GoF initiators already have policies to offset degrading land through rehabilitation and other measures.

“Such best practices need to be scaled up. I stand ready to support and assist you, in whatever capacity you deem appropriate, to translate our common vision into a sustainable development goal for the post 2015 development agenda,” he stated.

Speaking at the launch, co founder of the Group of Friends on DLDD,  H.E. Ambassador  Wilfried Emvula of Namibia stated that “ the government of Namibia has identified land degradation as a serious problem which demands remedial intervention and has recognised that integrated sustainable land management strategies are needed, to effectively address the underlying causes”. In this regard, he noted that various attempts have been implemented to halt, and reverse, desertification in the context of the United Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD)”.

Ambassador Emvula further expressed the hope that “the Group of Friends on DLDD will be a vibrant group of Ambassadors ready to work together to share experiences and maintain the momentum of the importance of DLDD generated by Rio plus 20 in the context of post 2015 development agenda, for the common good of humanity”.

H.E. Ms. Gréta Gunnarsdóttir, the Permanent Representative of Iceland pointed out that "in 1907 a unique legislation was passed in Iceland aimed at halting soil erosion and restoring lost and degraded woodlands. Iceland’s 100 years of such nationally concerted effort is one of the longest standing in the world”.

Against the backdrop of ongoing discussions in the UN to develop a post 2015 development agenda, the Ambassador of Iceland stated that “Iceland will continue to emphasize the importance of Land Restoration – especially in the context of the Post 2015 Development Agenda and the discussions around the Sustainable Development Goals. We must draw to the attention of Member States the importance of having Desertification Land Degradation and Draught in the set of goals in the new development framework in 2015."   
According to its initiators, GoF is expected to have a structure and will prepare a road-map of events initially running up to the end of 2013. The secretariat of the Group of Friends will be based in the UNCCD Liaison Office in New York.

Gnacadja’s term as head of the UNCCD Secretariat is set to end on 30 September 2013, following the eleventh session of the Conference of the Parties, which will take place from 16-27 September in Windhoek, Namibia.

During his six-year at the helm of the Secretariat, he steered the implementation of the Convention’s first strategic plan and framework for the implementation of the Convention for 2008-2018, and is credited with moving the Convention and global land stewardship on a new path.

For more information on the GoF contact:
Melchiade Bukuru
Chief, UNCCD New York Liaison Office
Email: bukuru@un.org

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