Windhoek, Namibia - 16/09/13. The eleventh session of the Conference of the Parties (COP11) to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) opened this afternoon in Windhoek, Namibia.
During the two-week session, the 195 parties will define the action needed to improve land management at all levels. They will also review the progress made in the last two years to combat desertification and drought, and to mitigate the effects of drought.
Opening the Conference, COP11 President and Minister of Environment and Tourism, Uahekwa Herunga, welcomed delegates to the "the land of the Brave, especially at a time when Namibia is experiencing its worst drought in over 30 years."
Noting that combatting desertification presents some operational challenges, Herunga said he expects COP11 build on the moment generated from the last COP and to take the Rio+20 [known as the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development] outcomes further.
Overall, he stressed the importance of the outcomes on the targets for a land degradation neutral world, the review of the UNCCD 10-Year strategy, and that stakeholders strengthen their endeavors to reduce the levels of global land degradation.
"We would like to see issues of desertification, land degradation and drought mitigation pushed high on the global agenda and post 2015 millennium development goals framework. We would also like to encourage the greater involvement of and support from the private sector on issues of desertification, land degradation, and drought," Herunga said.
Luc Gnacadja, Executive Secretary of the UNCCD, stated that at the mid-point of the implementation period of the Convention's 10-Year Strategy, the UNCCD was becoming a more authoritative institution, and it is time to fully settle it in that dimension.
"The time is ripe to capitalize on our achievements and lessons learnt and adopt a higher level of ambition for ourselves and for this process," he said.
"We need to move beyond a political agreement and bring land degradation to the forefront of national policy. This will help all parties to effectively deliver on critical policy issues at the nexus of food-energy and water security, as well as eradication of poverty," he added.
He underlined the importance of the COP with regard to turning the agreement on striving for a land- degradation neutral world reached at Rio+20 into practical action for the future, strengthening the scientific basis of the Convention, and a target setting approach.
Gnacadja thanked outgoing COP10 President, Dr. Don Koo Lee of the Republic of Korea, which he said will be remembered and admired by stakeholders because of the Changwon Initiative, an innovative way to support the implementation of the Convention.
During the first week, participants will build upon the results of the second UNCCD scientific conference and review the progress after the completion of the first half of the 10-Year Strategy of the UNCCD (2008-2018). They will also work on the way forward for the next five years.
In addition, COP11 sessions will follow up on the outcomes of the Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development held in Brazil in 2012. World leaders agreed on the concept of a land degradation neutral world and on the development of a set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that build on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and meet with the post-2015 development agenda.
In the second week, a high-level segment for Ministers and other senior representatives will take place on 23-24 September through a series of round table meetings on critical policy questions.
Other items on the agenda of the COP11 include: the mid-term evaluation of the 10-Year Strategy; improving mechanisms to facilitate regional coordination of the implementation of the Convention; programme and budget; progress in the implementation of the comprehensive communication Strategy; provisions for an interdisciplinary scientific advice and private sector representatives in meetings and processes of the UNCCD; and maintenance of the roster of experts.
The conference is being held in Namibia, Southern Africa, for the first time. COP11 ends Friday, 27 September.