2018WDCD global observance in Ecuador

UNCCD Ecuador GEF FAO

 

The 2018 WDCD global observance was held in Ecuador, hosted by the Ministry of Environment. The country promotes the bio-economy through sustainable land management (SLM) in its 2017-2021 National Development Plan. Bio-economy, or bio-technology, is the knowledge-based production and utilization of biological resources that uses innovative biological processes and principles to sustainably provide goods and services across all economic sectors. By hosting the WDCD global observance this year, Ecuador showcases its nation-wide efforts in making SLM the principal tool in the development of bio-economy.

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Global observance report

The global observance event for World Day to Combat Desertification was hosted by the Government of Ecuador on 17 June 2018 in Ciudad Mitad del Mundo – “the city in the middle of the world,” located 26 km from Quito. 

The opening session started with the greetings from H.E. Mr. Jose Valencia, a newly appointed Minister of External Relations and Human Mobility of Ecuador. He emphasized Ecuador’s commitment to the fight against land degradation, desertification and drought (DLDD) in partnership with other countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. The Minister also stressed the importance of achieving land degradation neutrality (LDN) for empowering vulnerable population groups. The country promotes bio economy as a sustainable alternative to common consumption schemes – an approach which reflects this year’s WDCD slogan “Land has true value. Invest in it.” 

H.E. Mr. Tarsicio Granizo, Minister of Environment of Ecuador, expressed his hope to reinvigorate the country’s implementation of the convention, saying that hosting this year’s global observance is one of the indications of the country becoming more active in combating DLDD. In Ecuador, about 40 per cent of land are degraded, of which 20 per cent is severely degraded. DLDD is relevant not only as an environmental issue, but as an important aspect in Ecuador’s food security and sovereignty. To ensure that the fights against poverty and DLDD go hand in hand, the Ministry of Environment is implementing a number of projects that address both dimensions. He also mentioned the importance of greater synergies among the three Rio Conventions

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Mr. Pradeep Monga, Deputy Executive Secretary of the UNCCD, delivered a statement on behalf of the Executive Secretary Ms. Monique Barbut. Highlighting the cultural significance of the festivities that took place during Inti Raymi, the ancient festival of Sun, Ms. Barbut recalled the Inca traditions that renewed and strengthened people’s connection with Mother Nature. As the Earth’s population urbanized and industrialized, the ties to the land have almost disappeared, while demands on soils kept growing. We must reconnect with the Earth in a meaningful way, Ms. Barbut suggested, by being mindful of how our everyday choices affect finite land resources. The private sector also needs to see SLM and the restoration of degraded land not only as the social responsibility, but as a wise long-term investment. Saluting the efforts of Latin American countries in addressing DLDD, Ms. Barbut highlighted the commitment of Ecuador to recovering seven million hectares of degraded land with restoration potential and the focus of the National Development Plan on becoming less dependent on non-renewable natural resources through the bio-economy model.  

Mr. Arnaud Peral, UN Resident Coordinator in Ecuador, indicated the significance of holding the WDCD global observance, a celebration for Mother Earth, on Father’s Day. While recognizing the decrease of natural resources due to DLDD, he suggested the participants also seek out the opportunities such as actions on bio-economy to address DLDD. He also recognized the strong political will of Ecuador to fight DLDD reflected in the National Development Plan. Quoting the SDG report title, “Leave no one behind,” he stressed the importance of tackling DLDD, which has the most effect on vulnerable groups – in particular, rural women. Mr. Peral also mentioned that the SDGs can be achieved by governments alone, requiring the alliance between the public and the private sector through a variety of partnerships. He also commended Ecuador on signing the Framework Agreement for Cooperation for Sustainable Development 2019–2022 with the UN. 

The opening session concluded with the remarks of Mr. John Preissing, FAO representative in Ecuador, who said that the celebration of WDCD has three objectives – recognize the achievement of the progress made, communicate to the public the importance of the desertification and catalyze concrete action. SDGs are the commitment by the countries that cannot be achieved without involvement of the society at large.  Currently, over 800 million people are suffering from hunger and the food production needs to be increased by 60 per cent by 2050. Therefore, DLDD is an important topic, and the clear message that everything starts with the land needs to be delivered. FAO supports countries in coping with pressures on land from deforestation and livestock. Mr. Preissing expressed hope that the MOU between FAO in Ecuador and KFS will promote new initiatives for implementing best practices that reduce land degradation and recover degraded land. 

The opening session was followed by the video message of H.E. Ms. Tarja Halonen, former President of Finland and the UNCCD Drylands Ambassador, who congratulated the government of Ecuador on being at the forefront of sustainable bio-economy. The healthy land is a necessary pre-condition for human well-being, including the stability of societies, as well as protection of biodiversity, Ms. Halonen reminded. She stressed the importance of achieving LDN as one of sustainable development targets that can contribute to a multitude of SDGs, such as eradication of poverty. Ms. Halonen emphasized the crucial role that female farmers can play in promoting SLM, since they constitute the majority of small farmers in Asia and Africa. It is essential to empower women’s participation in the SDG process by improving their access to training, information and technology, Ms. Halonen said. Moreover, each of us should play a role in fighting DLDD by changing our daily behaviors to consuming, producing and living in a more sustainable way. 

After the video message by the UNCCD Drylands Ambassador, a signing ceremony was held between UNCCD and FAO for the Memorandum of Understanding on "Implementation of the Sustainable Land Management (SLM) project in Ecuador, within the framework of the Greening Drylands Partnership – II Phase." The project is part of the UNCCD COP10 Changwon Initiative by Korea Forest Service in cooperation with the UNCCD, FAO and Ministry of the Environment, Ecuador. The project is designed to take place in the provinces of Loja and Manabí over the course of two years, aiming to improve the capacities of local communities for SLM through good agricultural practices, efficient use of water and reforestation processes. 

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After a group photo session, the event moved to the Ministerial round table on “Policies and practices to invest in sustainable land management”:

First, H.E. Mr. Tarsicio Granizo, Minister of Environment of Ecuador, spoke about the country’s bio-economy approach to sustainable development, one of the Ecuador’s seven green pillars. The country adapts bio-economy through sustainable use of natural resources and biodiversity for business and income-generation activities.  

Then, Mr. Bolivar Beltran, National Secretary of Water, presented the linkages between water and land resources management. Identifying DLDD as an illness, he said that Minga, the solidarity among people and joint work to protect nature, is what needed to heal the malaise. 
    
H.E. Ms. Yolande Bain-Horsford, Minister of Agriculture, Lands, Forestry, Fisheries and Environment, Grenada, linked the land resources conversation effort of Grenada to the country’s empowerment of women. Grenada has outstanding statistics on women’s representation at decision-making levels in both public and private sectors. Ms. Bain-Horsford also pointed out the importance of empowering young women to promote part sustainable land management practices. 

H.E. Mr. Joseph Harmon, Minister of State, Ministry of the Presidency, Guyana, said that despite the fact that 85 per cent of his country are covered by forest, the economy heavily depends on agriculture and mining. Further, the recent discovery of massive oil resources might transform the country in a significant way. Therefore, the country should move strategically towards a sustainable future under the Green State Development Strategy. In addition, Mr. Harmon assured Guyana’s commitment as the host country to successfully organizing the next Committee for the Review of the Implementation of the Convention (CRIC14).

H.E. Mr. Desmond McKenzie, Minister of Local Government and Community Development, Jamaica, first praised the participation of Caribbean states in the round table. Identifying DLDD as a global issue, he pointed out the particular vulnerability of the Small Island Developing States (SIDs). In Jamaica, bauxite mining is expediting land degradation and tackling DLDD is a critical component of the government’s policy. However, the implementation measures such as reforestation and solar energy are costly and require assistance from the international community.

Finally, H.E. Mr. Sławomir  Mazurek, Undersecretary of State in the Ministry of the Environment, Poland, spoke about the role of improving land use and management in creating a climate-resilient society and strengthening synergies among the three Rio Conventions is particularly important. Mr. Mazurek shared an example of synergistic implementation of forestry management through the forest carbon farms concept. As forests occupy almost one third of Poland’s territory, the country envisages achieving climate neutrality through balancing the emission level with the quantity of CO2 absorbed by national forests. Mr. Mazurek invited participants to join the next Climate Change Conference (UNFCCC COP24) which will be held in Katowice, Poland.

Active exchanges among the panelists were followed by two participants, who reflected on various subjects covered by the panelists. Dr. Joao Campari, WWF International, mentioned food system as an issue that unites all subjects identified by the panelists. He said there is a need for new business models to tackle areas where land rehabilitation can reduce further degradation and called for all stakeholders in the food system to work together. Ms. Dalia Vargas, Forest Director, Ministry of Environment, Panama, commented on water regulations, pointing out the need for regulations updates. 

The questions and issues raised by other participants included south-south cooperation, urbanization and rural-urban migration, indigenous culture and knowledge, and health problems related to water quality. 

The ministerial round table was followed by the presentation of Ecuador’s bio-economy and investment for sustainable land management, presented by Mr. Alfred Lopez, Ministry of Environment, Ecuador

Several videos were shown between the sessions: the stories of women who became agents of change for sustainable land management in Ecuador and the stories of bio-economy entrepreneurs. 

Afterwards, the participants were invited to attend Bio-economy Fair and the cultural programme.  

The day before, the international participants have the fair-trade market in Quito, where more than twenty bio-economy entrepreneurs presented their businesses.