Critical juncture in global efforts to combat desertification and mitigate drought effects

Press Release

Bonn, Germany, 17 February 2011 – The UN’s top official on matters of drought, land degradation and desertification, Mr. Luc Gnacadja, claims that we are at crucial moment in history. “At the end of this year, the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) will, for the first time, have the tools to support national monitoring and vulnerability assessments on the biophysical and socioeconomic trends” in countries affected by these challenges.

“You cannot improve what you cannot measure,” he said, so for the assessment to be conducted from 2012, “the UNCCD and its stakeholders will for the first time in history of the Convention be enabled to measure actions taken to materialize the UNCCD vision.”

Executive Secretary Gnacadja made the remarks yesterday at the opening of the global gathering of scientists tasked by the Parties to the Convention, with providing guidance on how countries should measure the changes in land cover and poverty among the populations that live in the world’s drylands.

The scientists drawn from governmental, non-governmental, international, intergovernmental organizations are attending a three-day meeting of the second special session of the Committee on Science and Technology (CST S-2) of the Convention taking place at the World Conference Center Bonn, Germany.

Noting that the scientists are driving the agenda of the UNCCD process, Mr Gnacadja urged them to move the Convention to the realm of measurability. “There is a need to start already considering the development of possible targets, which will bring higher credibility to the process,” he added.

At their meeting in 2009, the Parties agreed to assess the impact of the Convention through two mandatory and nine optional indicators. It called on the Committee on Science and Technology, through its Bureau, to guide the secretariat of the Convention to refine the methodologies and approaches that will be used with these indicators.

To this end, Professor Klaus Kellner of South Africa and current chair of the CST Bureau called for the active involvement of scientists from both the countries affected and not affected by desertification in the work of refining the indicators, setting up an effective system to manage knowledge and organizing the 2nd UNCCD Scientific Conference that will take place in 2012. In this way, he said, scientists will offer their best.

The outcomes of the second special session of the CST will advance work on these issues, and the resulting recommendations forwarded to the tenth session of the UNCCD’s Conference of the Parties (COP 10), which will take place from 11-21 October 2011 in Changwon City, Republic of Korea. CST S-2 ends on Friday this week.

About UNCCD

Established in 1994, the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) is the sole legally binding international agreement linking environment and development issues to the land agenda. The Convention focuses on all the world’s drylands, home to over 2 billion people, 50% of the world’s livestock and accounting for 44% of all cultivated ecosystems. The Convention’s 194 Parties are dedicated to combating land degradation and mitigating the effects of drought in the drylands by improving the living conditions of the affected populations and ecosystems.

For more information, contact:
Wagaki Mwangi
UNCCD Secretariat
Email: wmwangi@unccd.int
Cell: +49 173 268 7593