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Press Release

Desertification Convention breaks new ground

​Changwon City, Republic of Korea, 22 October 2011. "This session will be remembered as the session that has brought a lot of innovation both in the actions proposed and the way parties interact among themselves. We have brought together the pieces that will enable the engine called science to move this process forward. We have dealt with knotty issues of institutional governance. The COP's high level segment showed an unmatched level of political will and there is a renewed spirit of international cooperation," said UNCCD Executive Secretary, Luc Gnacadja.

Some of the COP10 achievements mark a first among the three environmental conventions of climate change, biodiversity and desertification that emerged from Rio in 1992.

Speaking at the end of the two week COP in Changwon City on Saturday morning, Mr. Gnacadja commended the parties for agreeing on a set of tools to measure the impact of their work, a first for the Rio Conventions, and the frameworks to address the foremost effects of climate change, food security and gender among the affected populations.

"We have brought on board this process, business community, which is part of the problem, but can be a greater part of the solution, and we have put forward a strong message for the Rio+20 process to ensure sustainable land management is a cornerstone of the green economy," he added.

Mr. Gnacadja said the COP10 outcomes will have a positive impact on the situation of the over 1.5 billion people who directly depend on degrading land for their livelihoods, and on the ecosystems affected by land degradation. Every year, 12 million hectares of land are lost through desertification and drought.

Policy-making in the climate change and biodiversity Convention processes is backed by a strong independent science and knowledge community. Without a similar mechanism, policy-making in the desertification and land degradation process has often faltered. Progress has also been constrained by an institutional governance arrangement that has the left parties divided on crucial questions such as the accountability and financing of its bodies, and the support they give to affected developing country Parties. Both challenges were largely addressed at COP10.

In what was widely seen as a very positive COP, attended by more than 6,000 people including over 80 ministers, deputy ministers and civil society representatives, as well as nearly 100 businesses representatives, Mr. Gnacadja said "the Changwon Initiative introduced by the COP10 Presidency will ensure that these outcomes do not end up on the shelves. They will be carried forward both in future scientific work and complement activities that could be considered in line with the Strategy laid out for 2008-2018."

Highlighting what he termed one of his favorite outcomes because it strikes at the heart of the problem, Mr. Gnacadja said the Land for Life Award unveiled at the session "is for the 21st Century Heroes," who are conserving the land and preventing its degradation "against all odds of life. The odds of nature, such as climate change…of policy failure, such as neglect...of poverty, with no financial investments and incentives."

In another first among comparable international environmental treaties, the emerging economies of Turkey, the Republic of Korea and Qatar made commitments to support the implementation of the Convention in affected developing countries. Under the treaty, these countries have no obligation to support other developing countries.

The President of COP 10, Lee Don Koo, Minister, Korea Forest Service, said "the Conference performed its role as the place for environmental diplomacy. Countries from Africa, South Asia, Central and South America showed deep interest in Korea's greening success and asked to share our technology, knowhow and support in afforestation."

"It provided an opportunity for raising awareness of desertification in the northeast Asian region such as China, Mongolia, and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. Till now, the awareness of the desertification problem has been mainly focused on Africa," he said.

Further, Dr. Lee said, "COP10 will be remembered as a turning point for the Convention both on the key topics and process." Stressing that he will make every effort to concretize the Changwon Initiative, he said "it will bring a paradigm shift" that could lead to the achievement of a global target of zero net land degradation.

The Land for Life Award, which was launched during this COP, is for emulation in order to promote proactive actions that deserve global recognition, he said. The participation of the business community will serve as a major platform to drive the private sector in combatting desertification, land degradation and drought, Dr. Lee added.

As the president of the UNCCD COP 10 for the next two years, Dr. Lee pledged that his country would work hard "to fulfill our duties as President and play the leading role in combating desertification, land degradation and mitigating the effects of drought."

The tenth session of the COP, held from 11-21 October, was attended by 161 Parties to the Convention, and was the first to be held in Asia. It was addressed by high-raking political figures and officials, including Mr. Kim Hwang-sik, Prime Minister of the Republic of Korea, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales.

COP10 was held two weeks after a related gathering of over 100 heads of state, government and delegations at the UN headquarters in New York on 20 September, which focused on "addressing desertification, land degradation and drought in the context of sustainable land management and poverty reduction." Mr. Nassir Albdulaziz Al-Nasser, President of the sixty-sixth session of the UN General Assembly, presented the outcomes of the high-level meeting at COP10.

About the UNCCD
Desertification, along with climate change and the loss of biodiversity, were identified as the greatest challenges to sustainable development during the 1992 Rio Earth Summit. Established in 1994, UNCCD is the sole legally binding international agreement linking environment, development and the promotion of healthy soils. The Convention’s 194 signatory Parties work to alleviate poverty in the drylands, maintain and restore the land’s productivity, and mitigate the effects of drought.

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