India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the UNCCD closing event.
India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the closing event. India is taking the sustainable use of natural resources more and more seriously.
Photo: Michael Brüntrup


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For ten days, the participants in COP14 of the UNCCD discussed a wide range of topics and finally established them in 36 formal decisions. These included decisions on the role of women and the significance of land rights regarding sustainable farm management, on monitoring and combating droughts, on migration and on close collaboration with the other two environmental conventions addressing climate (UNFCCC) and biodiversity (CBD).

On the 13th September 2019, the 14th Conference of the Parties (COP) of the United Nations Conference to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) drew to a close in New Delhi, India. It was an event of superlatives for the UNCCD: nearly 9,000 participants, 170 stakeholder meetings, 44 exhibitors and 126 fringe events.

While the UNCCD is still nowhere near as visible as its sister conventions, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), it has made significant gains in dynamics and the attention it receives. This is above all for two closely interrelating reasons.

The UN monitoring organisation for Sustainable Development Target 15.3

First, its focus within its mandate has shifted over the last few years from the special problems of the poor developing countries to topics that are also of growing interest to industrialised countries and emerging economies, and at global level. For example, the UNCCD has become the UN watchdog organisation for Sustainable Development Target 15.3, which states that by 2030, world-wide, for every single country and every ecosystem, land degradation neutrality is to be achieved, which means that the area of land with predominantly negative ecological changes must not be bigger than of that with positive changes. 

This is measured with three lead indicators (vegetation cover, land productivity and soil carbon) and a range of further indicators, and reported and “monitored” by the UNCCD.

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