Restore land to sustain life

COP14: 2-13 September New Delhi, India

Families and communities are breaking up, losing their homes and sources of livelihoods, often from single instances of droughts, flashfloods and forest fires. These negative impacts of unpredictable and extreme climatic conditions are now recurrent, more frequent and intense in many parts of the world. Today, over a million species are on the verge of extinction, threatening global food security, largely due to habitat loss and land degradation. Three out of every 4 hectares of land have been altered from their natural states and the productivity of about 1 in every 4 hectares of land is declining. Poor land health is on the rise, and is impacting 3.2 billion people all over the world. Land degradation working in tandem with climate change and biodiversity loss may force up to 700 million people to migrate by 2050. 

UNCCD is reducing these impacts by promoting investment in the land to unlock opportunities for change, deliver hope and action, and help build a more sustainable path for the future.

We are especially focused on the over 1.3 billion people who rely directly on the land to survive, and suffer the most from the biophysical impacts of land degradation and drought. They can enjoy a better, healthier future if they are able to protect, manage and restore their own land. Communities that rely solely on the land should be supported to become resilient in the face of environmental, social and climatic pressures. 

Reversing land degradation and its outcomes while accelerating positive achievements for people and for ecosystems with a view to deliver on Sustainable Development Goals is the core agenda of the fourteenth session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (COP14). COP14 will take place on 2-13 September 2019 at the India Mart and Expo, in the Greater Noida area of New Delhi, India.

The UNCCD’s Conferences of the Parties (COP) is the place where governments agree on strategic and effective land use and sustainable land management goals to ensure nature and ecosystems thrive. COP14 will focus on the critical gaps in land management and planning, but also on practical actions to ensure the successes we are achieving, which are becoming more evident on the biophysical level, increase human well-being everywhere. 

Over 3,000 participants from all over the world are expected to participate in COP14. The Parties to the Convention will agree on the actions each will take over the next two years and beyond to get us on a sustainable development path. 


Ministers from 196 countries, scientists and representatives of national and local governments, non-governmental organizations, city leaders, the private sector, industry experts, women, youth, journalists, faith and community groups will share their expertise, and agree on the most viable solutions. New actions will be guided by an assessment of the outcomes of the decisions they took two years ago.

Desertification, land degradation and drought are huge challenges. But investing in the land and its stewards can open up vast opportunities for the economy and environmental resilience. COP14 is aiming to help countries achieve Land Degradation Neutrality by delivering tools and resources that are fit for purpose. Tools that are built on accurate and reliable science and data, participatory processes and compromise, and benefit everyone. Countries can withstand future environmental challenges better by optimizing land management and massively scaling up sustainable practices and the restoration of degraded land. 

To stay up to date, information on and from COP14, including documentation, will be available through a conference app and social media. 

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Highlights of the official conference agenda

The Conference is expected to agree on about 30 decisions to ramp up and elaborate further actions needed on the ground to ensure that the Convention’s goals for 2018-2030 are achieved. These are to improve the lives of the populations affected by desertification and land degradation and to improve the affected ecosystems, to mitigate the effects of drought and to mobilize sufficient resources to achieve these goals, and ensure the outcomes benefit all people, everywhere. These decisions will focus on the following aspects.

People first

The health and well-being of 3.2 billion people is directly or indirectly impacted by desertification and land degradation. Land degradation and drought reduce the area of productive land. At the same time, urban expansion is consuming more and more prime agricultural land. There is an urgent need for more effective land use policies. But this will require a policy environment that engages with people – local communities, indigenous peoples, men, women, youth – and is responsive to their needs on issues such as land rights, urban planning and land management decisions. What innovations have emerged can be scaled up to address these critical issues and create an environment where people and species thrive?

Security and Stability

Healthy land is for some the only form of capital that they have. It is a natural storage for fresh water. When degraded, land loses these functions. Close to half of the global population is living in potentially water scarce areas. As the livelihoods, including jobs that are based on natural resources, become increasingly precarious, young people are left with few prospects for work and survival in the rural areas. Land degradation could force millions of people to migrate. How and where is land degradation linked to and helping to drive instability and insecurity, and what can be done to turn the situation around?

Turning plans into action

Over 100 countries have established their land degradation neutrality targets. Some 70 countries that suffer droughts are participating in the UNCCD’s Drought Initiative to improve their preparedness, management and response to drought. Are these actions enough? Is there an indicator of drought vulnerability that could enhance these changes? What further actions are needed? 

Enhancing Resilience

The land-based solutions envisioned for implementation under LDN could contribute up to 30 percent of the emissions gap needed to meet the 1.5 degrees Celsius target under the Paris Agreement and provide a solid foundation for the post-2020 global biodiversity framework. What actions on the ground will make these initiatives transformative and accelerate the recovery of nature?

Science at the service of nature

Uniform indicators on the condition of our land resources are now being monitored at the national, regional and global levels as part of the Sustainable Development Goals indicator framework. What improvements can be made to provide better and actionable information for decision-makers and increase performance on the ground?

Pulling together on a global scale

About 2 billion hectares of land – an area twice the size of China – are degraded but can be restored back to health. We have only one Earth and land restoration on a large scale will create jobs and opportunities for rural youth as well as people fleeing their lands. It will boost urgently needed collaborative action on a global scale to cool the Earth and to restore a healthy environment fit for animals, plants and people. Delayed action will come at a higher and greater cost to us and our children. By contrast, immediate efforts to achieve land degradation neutrality, will accelerate the achievement of many of the Sustainable Development Goals and help integrate the solutions needed. What commitments and actions can we imagine at large scales to support the resilience of the environment and livelihoods?

Special events and the Rio Conventions Pavilion

To shed light on and support this inter-governmental event, stakeholders, working in collaboration with their government partners, will hold side events. About 80 percent of the over 150 applications submitted for side events will take place. The events feature case studies, concrete actions or new knowledge that is related to the issues under consideration at the Conference. Side events take place every day, when the official meetings are closed. For instance, during lunch, before the day’s meetings begin or at the end of the day.

In addition, the Rio Conventions Pavilion, a vibrant space for interactive all-day events and meetings, will also be held. Events in the Pavilion, which take place throughout the day, focus exclusively on synergies among the Rio Conventions on Climate Change, Biological Diversity and Desertification. Science Day, for instance, will feature the outcomes from the recent scientific assessments of Climate Change, Biodiversity and Land degradation. The Pavilion’s programme can be found here.

COP14 will also host ‘thematic days’ that focus on the different areas of work of the Convention. They include a Youth Forum (31 August), a Gender Caucus, a Climate Change and Biodiversity Day (3 September), a Science Day (5 September), a Sand and Dust Storms Day (6 September), a Business Day (7 September), a Local and Regional Governments Day (7 September), the GEF Day (9 September), the Land for Life Day (10 September) and a Drought Day (11 September).

Exhibition and Technology Fair

Many organizations will show their products at the Exhibition and Technology Fair. There will be forums exclusively organized by and for business, youth and non-governmental organizations as well as art performances and cultural events. Detailed information is available on the right-hand side.