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Report of the Day: COW, CST from 19 September

​Committee of the Whole (COW)

The session opened with the resuming discussions of the GM housing arrangements. Many country Parties intervened, some in favour of the relocation, some raising concerns on a number of issues such as: the operational capacity of the GM to discharge its mandate of financial resource mobilization; whether the GM staff had been consulted during the writing of the report; some legal concerns related to the capacity of the secretariat to house the GM. The UNCCD Executive Secretary, Luc GNACADJA, made some points of clarification and reiterated that the report contains all the matters for which some country Parties had requested an explanation.

The COW CHAIR then closed the discussion on the GM and opened the subsequent agenda item on the Programme and Budget for the biennium 2014-2015 and the Performance of the Convention's Trust Funds. Some country Parties raised concerns on savings that the Convention would achieve in some areas such as Education and Communication, others underlined that they would support a scenario of a 3% decrease. Other Parties insisted on the importance of supporting the work programmes of the secretariat and the GM, calling on the COP not to strangle the UNCCD institutions and bodies so that they could carry out their activities.
Discussion then turned to follow up to the UN Conference on Sustainable Development, otherwise known as Rio +20. Some Parties noted the historic opportunity presented by Rio +20 to raise the profile of the UNCCD and to instigate concrete action for the post-2015 agenda. An inter-sessional expert group was considered by many Parties to be a good way of translating the provisions from Rio+20 into the UNCCD process. However, other countries expressed their concerns about implementing the outcomes of Rio +20 into the UNCCD process, cautioning that any action would need to be bound within the strict terms of the UNCCD mandate, in particular the issue of addressing issues beyond drylands. There was also a call by countries to clarify the concept of a ‘land degradation neutral world’ and how this concept could in practical terms be developed.
Attention then turned to the UNCCD Comprehensive Communications Strategy, where Yukie HORI, Communications Coordinator of the UNCCD secretariat, outlined some of the key activities and tools used to enhance awareness on DLDD related issues. Parties acknowledged the achievements of the Strategy in building increased awareness on the impacts of land degradation and the opportunities afforded by sustainable land management.  Some parties identified the need to disseminate information in all UN languages as vital in raising further awareness and ensuring the participation of all regions. It was also expressed that there needed to be a greater connect between implementation of the communication strategy from national to local level and that CSOs would have a key role in this regard.
Progress made on RCUs was then discussed with some Parties stressing the need to strengthen efforts of the Regional Coordination Mechanisms, in promoting ownership, participation and political buy in. Other Parties mentioned the possibility of relocating the African RCU to Addis Ababa.
The Decade on Deserts was the next item on the agenda, which was introduced by Yukie HORI who outlined the work of the Inter-agency Task Force in promoting the Decade on Deserts through the organization of best practices contests, educational programmes, revamping of decade website and key side events at international conferences, amongst others.
The final agenda item was on the procedures for accreditation of CSOs and the progress made. While civil society acknowledged that progress has been made to improve these procedures particularly with regard to transparency, the current criteria for accreditation were still a bit loose, with sustainability and monitoring in need of strengthening.
Quote of the Day
“All the time I hear from people that they come to events to network.  But how do we move from networking to forming meaningful communities of practice?”
--Martin Macphail, Conference Systems


Committee on Science and Technology
The committee opened its meeting with Jonathan Davies, the chair of Scientific Advisory Committee, giving a summary of outcomes of the 2nd Scientific Conference.  The 2nd Scientific Conference introduced several white papers as a foundation for research that should be further built upon. The conference also illuminated that more research is needed in the issues of DLDD.  Finally, it recommended that participants make use of the Economics of Land Degradation initiative, to assess the benefits of action versus inaction for sustainable land management.


The parties welcomed the knowledge introduced at the 2nd Scientific Conference, which added to further scientific basis to the issues of DLDD. To further build on this knowledge, some parties expressed that they welcomed the establishment of a Scientific Policy Interface for further timely scientific advice.
Parties raised questions about participation and geographical distribution of attendants of the conference, and wanted to know if the same model of introducing white papers would be used at the 3rd Scientific Conference. Some parties wanted clear-cut recommendations for the third scientific conference.  Other suggested that results of the scientific conference has not been fully exploited, again touching on the issue of how to translate scientific advice into policy action.
In response to questions raised by some parties, a delegate clarified that the purpose of the scientific conference is to an assessment of current research available on land degradation by science to inform policy-making.  An intervention by civil society encouraged that more traditional knowledge be included in the conference.
The chair of the Scientific Advisory Committee responded to the queries of delegates, expressing that each conference is a learning process.  He suggested that the conference could have been structured more closely around the white papers and the literature review.  He also added his hope for the creation of a stronger science-policy platform, which might allow for a permanent structure for the ongoing routine dialogue that is required to tackle the issues of land degradation.
Considerations are being made to taking the outcome of the scientific conference and preparing a policy brief, other considerations are including the information gathered into the scientific knowledge brokering portal. There are no efforts yet to make the scientific conference outcomes accessible to the grassroots level, but this issue is being considered.
An independent expert was contracted to make an assessment of the 2nd Scientific Conference, which she presented to the committee.  An estimated 500 participants attended the conference, of which 350 actively participated.  Participants came from across the regions, with highest from the EU and other states, and second highest from Africa. Roughly 30 percent were female. Parties thanked he for her report, asking various questions and encouraging more notice in the future about the location of the conference, as well as regional rotation in order to enable global participation. 
The secretariat informed the committee that there is no scientific conference funding designated, the funding came through CST funding and extra budgetary funding.  Planning and preparation meetings were very resource intensive.  Limited funds were left over for the outcome process.
Parties encouraged the secretariat to strengthen its communication strategy related to the outcomes of the scientific conference.  One suggestion was made that regional meetings should be held to do analysis of the papers of the scientific conference so that policy makers could fully integrate them in their planning.
In the afternoon, the Committee concluded discussion of the future Scientific Conferences and the multi-year plan of work. On the multi-year work programme (2014-2017), the Committee discussed how each of the Convention’s institutions contributes to the operational objectives of the Convention. Regarding the UNCCD Scientific Conferences, most of the discussion focused on two aspects. First, whether the Third Scientific Conference would be held as an intersessional event or alongside the regular sessions of the Committee, which take place during the Conference of the Parties. Second, the future of the Scientific Conferences, in light of the proposed Fourth and Fifth Scientific Conferences.
These aspects were referred to the contact group for further consultations, as they are linked to how the scientific conferences would be linked to the CST and the structures on the provision of scientific advice. The contact group, which continued meeting in the evening was also tasked with deciding the date of the Third Scientific Conference and integrating the comments of the Mid-Term Review of the UNCCD 10-Year Strategy for 2008-2018. The group is expected to prepare the draft decisions for agreement by the Committee on Friday, for subsequent transmission to the Conference of the Parties.


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