The 12-day, 14th Session of the Conference of the Parties (COP) of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) was held at the India Expo Centre & MartGreater Noida, Delhi NCR, India from September 2-13, 2019 under the theme “Investing in Land, Unlocking Opportunities”. It was for the first time, India had hosted the conference.UNCCD COP 14i. It washosted by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) of India and presided by Prakash Javadekar, Minister of Environment, Forests and Climate.
ii. It was jointly inaugurated by Prakash Javadekar, Minister of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, India, and Ibrahim Thiaw, Executive Secretary, UNCCD.
iii.  Aim: The objective of the COP 14, accompanied with fourteenth meeting of the Committee on Science and Technology (CST 14) and eighteenth meeting of Committee to Review the Implementation of the Convention (CRIC 18), was to discuss on various issues of land such as sustainable land management, reversing land degradation, mitigating drought, halting desertification, addressing sand and dust storms, linkages with gender, tenure, etc. and guide the Convention as global and national circumstances needs change.
iv. Logo: The logo of the COP 14 was launched by Mr. Prakash Javedkar, Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change during World Day to Combat Desertification (WDCD) 2019 (Theme- “Let’s Grow the Future Together”) celebrations on June 17, 2019 in New Delhi.
v. Participants: Nearly 9,000 participants from all over the world had participated in the event.
Delegates from 197 countries comprising of scientists and representatives of national and local governments, global business leaders, Non governmental organizations, gender-based organisations, youth groups, journalists, and faith and community groups had participated in the conference.
vi. COP14 hosted ‘thematic days’ that focused on the different areas of work of the Convention.

Core Agenda
Reversing land degradation and its outcomes while accelerating positive achievements for people and for ecosystems with a view to deliver on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) was the core agenda of the UNCCD COP14.

Highlights of the official conference agenda

  • People first: The health and well-being of 3.2 billion people was given importance.
  • Security and Stability: Importance was given to the security and stability of natural resources.
  • Turning plans into action: Evaluations were made on the drought initiatives to improve their preparedness, management and response to drought.
  • Enhancing resilience:Evaluations were made on the initiatives to transform and accelerate the recovery of nature.
  • Science at the service of nature:Evaluations were made on improvements that can be made to provide better and actionable information for decision-makers and increase performance of the resources on land.
  • Pulling together on a global scale:Commitments and actions at large scales to support the resilience of the environment and livelihoods were dealt.
  • High level segment: Prime Minister of India Mr. Narendra Modi inaugurated the High Level Segment (HLS) of UNCCD COP14 on September 9, 2019 in the presence of heads of the UN and other international organizations, leaders of states and ministers from many countries.

Special events and the Rio Conventions Pavilion

  • The side events featured case studies, actions or new knowledge that is related to the issues under consideration at the Conference.
  • The Rio Conventions Pavilion also took part at COP14, hosting “thematic days” that focused on the different areas of work of the Convention and synergies among the Rio Conventions on climate change, biodiversity and desertification.
  • The events included a Youth Forum, a Gender Caucus, a Science Day, a Sand and Dust Storms Day, a Business Day, a Local and Regional Governments Day, the GEF (Global Environment Facility) Day, the Land for Life Day and a Drought Day.

India pledges to restore 50 lakh hectares of degraded land by 2030
With the provisions of New Delhi Declaration which was adopted at COP 14 UNCCD, India pledged to convert degraded land of nearly 50 lakh hectares to fertile land in the next 10 years i.e by 2030.

India takes over COP Presidency from China for the next two years till 2021

  • Shri Prakash Javadekar, Union Minister for Environment, Forest & Climate Change was elected as the COP President for the next two years.
  • India took over the COP Presidency from China for the next two years till 2021.
  • India is one among the selected few countries to have hosted the COP of all three Rio conventions on climate change, biodiversity and land.

Second day of COP14 seized deliberations on Science & Technology 

  • On the second day of the COP14 to UNCCD under the theme “Restore land, Sustain future”, a Committee meeting on Science & Technology with a focus on adoption of the COP 14 agenda and organization of work was held.
  • Items resulting from the work programme of the Science-Policy Interface for the biennium 2018-19 were discussed.
  • 18th Meeting of the Committee for the Review of the Implementation of the Convention (CRIC) and key discussions such as “Climate Co-Benefits of Programmes to Combat Land Degradation” were organized.

Shri CK Mishra, Secretary (MoEF&CC) chairs Open-Dialogue session on inclusion of activities of civil society organizations 

  • The 4th day of COP14 was observed as “Science Day”. Shri CK Mishra, Secretary,(MoEF&CC) chaired an Open-Dialogue session on inclusion of activities of civil society organizations within the official programme of work of the Conference of the Parties (COP) at the UNCCD COP 14.
  • To address migration driven by land degradation, 14 African countries launched the Initiative of Sustainability, Stability and Security (3S) which aims at restoring land and creating green jobs for migrants and vulnerable groups.

5th Day of COP14 reflected upon the importance of organic agriculture in combating land degradation

  • The fifth day of the COP14 to UNCCD discussed on important matters concerning how to reverse land degradation.
  • The UNCCD, the World Future Council (WFC) and the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM – Organics International) pointed out the importance of agroecology and organic agriculture in India.
  • The India Pavilion discussed on Renewable Energy in India – towards sustainable energy transition & combating Desertification- conducted by the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE).
  • The Rio Conventions Pavilion held a technical session on mapping of Sand and Dust Storms (SDS).
  • An interactive session was also held by Committee of the Whole (COW): A working group set up by COPto facilitate discussions on issues concerning land management.

Local and Regional Governments Day observed on Day 6 of the COP14

  • “Local and Regional Governments Day” was observed on day 6 of COP 14 providing a platform for key stakeholders to interact with global peers on matters concerning land degradation.
  • Network for Certification and Conservation of Forest (NCCF) hosted a side event Panel Discussion on “Certification of Natural Resources to Combat Desertification and Restoring Landscapes”.
  • The global Youth Caucus on Desertification and Land convened its first official gathering in conjunction with the UNCCD COP14.

Union Environment Minister holds bilateral meeting with China on Day 7 of COP14

  • The Union Minister for Environment, Forest & Climate Change , Shri Prakash Javadekar held a bilateral meeting with China. Both countries discussed in length and explored opportunities for bilateral cooperation in the area of combating desertification within the framework of UNCCD.
  • Mr. Ibrahim Thiaw, Executive Secretary UNCCD; Mr. L I Bijian, Minister of Chinese Embassy in India; Mr. Ohn Win Union Minister, Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation of Myanmar and Mr. Zhang Jianlong National Forestry and Grassland Administration, China, were amongst other dignitaries present during the discussion.

3 animal species in India are extinct due to desertification

  • Researchers at UNCCD COP 14 informed that 3 species of animals – the Indian cheetahpink-headed duck, and the Great Indian Bustardhave become extinct due to desertification in India and many more are on the verge of becoming extinct.
  • The specimens have been reduced to less than 150.
  • There is a database of more than 5.6 million specimens, collected from all over India and from the neighbouring countries before independence.
  • India also has a growing crisis of land degradation. More than 30% of its land area has been degraded through deforestation, over-cultivation, soil erosion and depletion of wetlands.

Launch of UNCCD Drought toolbox
On the 10th day of UNCCD COP 14 under the theme of Drought, the UNCCD Drought toolbox was launched. It is a sort of knowledge bank which contains tools that strengthen the ability of countries to anticipate and prepare for drought effectively and mitigate their impacts.

  • India Pavilion witnessed a panel discussion by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) on Agriscapes. Mr. Deepak Kumar Sinha, IGF, Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change and Dr VivekSaxena, Country Representative, IUCN India were among the panelists of the session.
  • Important sessions on issues related to Land Degradation Neutrality, Sustainable Development Goals etc. were also conducted.

PM Modi addresses COP 14 to UNCCD 
On September 9, 2019, The Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi, inaugurated the High-Level Segment Meeting of the COP14 to UNCCD in the presence of Mr.Ralph Gonsalves, Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines; Ms. Amina Jane Mohammed, Deputy Secretary-General United Nations; Mr. Ibrahim Thiaw, Executive Secretary, UNCCD; Shri Prakash Javadekar, Union Minister for Environment, Forest & Climate Change (MoEF&CC); Shri Babul Supriyo, MoS, MoEF&CC and other dignitaries.

  • India would raise its ambition of the total area that would be restored from its land degradation status, from 21 million hectares to 26 million hectaresbetween 2019 and 2030.
  • India faces a severe problem of land degradation, or soil becoming unfit for cultivation. About 29% or about 96.4 million hectares is considered degraded.
  • India has a proposal to setup a global technical support institute for the member countries of the UNCCD for their capacity building and support regarding the Land Degradation Neutrality Target Setting Program.
  • Prime Minister Modi exhorted UNCCD to include A Global Water Action Agenda which is central to the Land Degradation Neutrality strategy and condemned the use of single-use plastic.
  • PM Modi took India’s remote sensing and space technology to the world stage by mentioning it at the COP14 to UNCCD.

Statistics on land

  • India lost 31%, or 5.65 million hectares (mha), of grassland area in a decade. The total area under grasslands reduced to 12.3 mha from 18 mha between 2005 and 2015.
  • Grasslands in the Aravalli range in Rajasthan underwent severe degradation. Other states where land has been severely destroyed include Maharashtra, Karnataka, Gujaratand Uttar Pradesh.
  • India lost around 19% of its common lands. The area under common lands decreased to 73.02 mha from around 90.5 mha between 2005 and 2015.
  • Around 4.74 mha of grazing land was diverted as agricultural land.
  • 29.11 mha of common land was diverted for croplands in the decade.
  • Area under cropland saw nearly an 18% increase to 134.5 mha from 113.6 mha.
  • Productivity of at least 26 mha of land has decreased and of this, close to 0.8 mha was grazing land and 5.9 mha common lands.

Launch of biggest tribal movement at ‘COP 14 UNCCD: TRIFED-GIZ’ 
Union Minister for Tribal Affairs Shri Arjun Munda launched the biggest Tribal movement to promote tribal enterprise through Bamboonomics for combating desertification and climate change at “The Indian Perspective through Bamboonomics” session at ‘COP 14 UNCCD: TRIFED-GIZ’ organized at Greater Noida Expo.

Delhi Declaration adopted to combat land degradation
i. The outcome of the COP 14 of UNCCD was the ‘New Delhi Declaration’, which lays down measures to combat desertification was released.
ii. It forms the future course of action.
iii. Delhi Declaration is an ambitious statement of global action by each country on how to achieve Land Degradation Neutrality.
iv. A call was made for synergy between all three Rio Conventions- UNCCD, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).
v. In Delhi Declaration, the parties expressed support for new initiatives aiming to improve human health and well-being, the health of ecosystems and to advance peace and security.
vi. In an unprecedented global campaign to save productive land, country parties have agreed to make the Sustainable Development Goal target of achieving land degradation neutrality by 2030 a national target for action.
vii. The 12 main points in the Delhi Declaration highlighted the following:

  • Promoting projects to prevent land degradation at local, national and regional levels.
  • Promote projects to prevent drought and erosion, and to make barren land cultivable.
  • Plan to prevent drought, so that land degradation can be prevented.
  • Creating green jobs by promoting technology and investment in collaboration with all stakeholders.
  • Need to work towards preventing land degradation taking forward Paris Agreement.
  • Implementing UN Ecosystem Restoration (2021-2030) program on behalf of all countries.
  • To further programs initiated by African countries to prevent land degradation .
  • Peace Forest Initiative benefits accepted. Appeal to work together to prevent land from becoming barren.
  • Appeal to make local governments more accountable to prevent land degradation and make right to land transparent.
  • To make local governments more accountable for maintaining natural resources and ecosystem.
  • COP-14 member countries appreciate India’s efforts.
  • PM Modi’s efforts to achieve the major goal of land restoration and increase south-south cooperation were praised.

About UNCCD
UNCCD was adopted in Paris on 17 June 1994 and was ratified by 196 countries & European Union. India ratified the UNCCD Convention on 17th December 1996. This convention can be called as “Mother convention” of the other two Rio Conventions that emerged as a major outcome of the 1992 Rio Earth Summit viz. United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). UNCCD is located in Bonn, Germany.

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