1 March 2023, Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire
It is a pleasure to be back in the wonderful city of Abidjan, at the kind invitation of our President. I have always enjoyed visiting Abidjan, but this visit has a special significance, as it is the first since our memorable COP15. So there is now in my calendar a pre-CoP15 and a post-CoP15.
Much progress has been made since we last met in Bonn (in October). I would say that our beating of the “drought and land restoration” drums seem to be bearing fruit. This is good news as we certainly need to do much more, at scale.
Indeed, despite our past efforts, more land is being degraded, more rivers drying up, more wetlands and more forests destroyed. Simply put, the additional demand on natural resources imposed by our lifestyle is not commensurate with the capacity of our planet to regenerate itself. Our relative prosperity (if ever the extraordinary inequality in the world allows us to use the word prosperity) our prosperity, I said, is nothing but an ecological illusion. Land, water, ecosystems and natural environments are all showing signs of weakness, if not collapse. Never - since the industrial revolution - has the world been hit by such strong and violent gusts of drought (often followed by floods). Never have we destroyed as many forests, degraded as much fertile land or extracted as much water for our agricultural, industrial or basic human needs.
On the positive side, we have never had access to so much science and knowledge about how to reduce the pressure on resources; how to live better in harmony with nature; how to ration water use for irrigation; how to regenerate soils and promote more respectful practices. It is in this way that the decisions adopted by our COPs serve as political reference; as a gauge of the willingness of the Parties to contribute to solutions; of the political will of the Parties to collaborate to mitigate the effects of land degradation and drought.
It is also in this regard that we appreciate the decisions of the Group of 20 richest countries in the world to engage in land restoration, in collaboration with other interested Nations. We see this as an expression of political will. The first meeting of the Steering Committee of the G20 Land Restoration Initiative held in Saudi Arabia, is a clear signal of proactive cooperation in this area.
At the recent COP of the Climate Change Convention in Egypt, the International Drought Resilience Alliance (IDRA) was created! Spurred on by the President of the Republic of Senegal and The Prime Minister of Spain, IDRA is a high-level global alliance, to promote international cooperation and collaboration to mitigate the effects of drought. The first meeting of the Alliance's Steering Committee is scheduled to take place in a few days in New York. The International Drought resilience Alliance, which brings together more than 30 countries, Development Banks and financial mechanisms, UN entities, inter-governmental and non-governmental organizations. IDRA signals world leaders’ commitment to making drought resilience a priority in national development and cooperation policy. It is a partnership to address the increased centrality of the land and drought agendas in the global multilateral agenda. It responds to your calls at COP15 that we need to shift from reactive to preventive – so it will help transition quickly from the current emergency response to build drought resilience.
Very much in line with this, and as decided by our COP15, the Inter-Governmental Working Group on Drought had its first meeting also in November of last year; a second meeting is scheduled for 13 and 14 March in Yerevan – with many thanks to Armenia for hosting this important meeting.
But several other important UNCCD processes have kick started since we last met. The Science Policy Interface held its first meeting this past December. The Midterm evaluation of the UNCCD Strategic Framework is underway. Its own Intergovernmental working group met from 13-15 February to agree on the set-up for this comprehensive review of the progress made since 2018. Another positive development to note is the National Reporting. A total of 115 UNCCD Parties (the vast majority) have already submitted their national reports. The team is busy compiling the data in time for the next session of the Committee of Review of Implementation. The next CRIC session, scheduled to take place in Samarkand (Uzbekistan) in October, will consider the results of these reports.
Now turning to the Global Mechanism, COP 15 requested that the Global Mechanism develop a methodology and conduct a needs assessment to determine the financial requirements for the implementation of the Convention and develop a time-bound strategy to increase fund mobilization based on this needs assessment. We are pleased to report that the methodology will be tested and show-cased at CRIC with results made available at COP 16. Progress was also made on the LDN TSP 2.0 – your plan to improve LDN targets (to ensure they are more quantitative, specific, policy-coherent, linked to the integrated land use planning and gender responsiveness).
Now let me turn to external developments which are helping boost our agenda. As you know, COP15 the Convention on Biological Diversity took place in December in Montreal, where Parties adopted the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework to galvanize halting and reversing biodiversity loss. Of particular relevance to UNCCD is the Goal which makes explicit reference to land restoration. Notably the ambition to achieve at least 30% of restoration of degraded areas by 2030. This is a good complement to the various land restoration projects across the world, including the Great Green Wall of the Sahel, the Middle East Green Initiative, the Dry Corridor of Latin America, the AFR100 in Africa to name just a few.
Which brings me to The G20 Global Land Restoration Initiative. The Coordination office is now fully staffed. The Steering Committee (made up of G20 representatives, UNEP and FAO) held its first meeting in November in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and discussed the Initiative Strategy as well as the terms of Reference for the Committee.
Now allow me to be a bit more forward looking. I recently returned from a trip to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia who will graciously host UNCD COP 16. You will have received a more detailed briefing in writing on the status of the organization of COP16, so I just wanted to stress how engaged our future host country is in receiving us in 2024. I am sure our Bureau member from Saudi Arabia will elaborate more on this. On my part, I came back from Riyadh convinced that we will have a great COP 16.
I look forward to your deliberations and guidance on the different items of the draft agenda in front of you.