Starting on a high note with a number of Heads of State and Government attending the Presidential Summit, the fifteenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP 15) to the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) opened on Monday, 9 May, at the Sofitel Hotel in Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire.
In opening remarks, Côte d'Ivoire President Alassane Ouattara called for a “summit of hope” and stressed the need for a broad mobilization of new partners and finance, saying that each dollar invested in land restoration can generate USD 7 to 30 in return.
UNCCD Executive Secretary Ibrahim Thiaw highlighted the economic risks from continued loss of fertile land and the vulnerability of small producers, women and youth to environmental degradation, as well as their important role in finding solutions.
Speaking on behalf of Indigenous Peoples, Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim reminded how Indigenous communities have used their traditional knowledge to combat the effects of desertification, land degradation and drought (DLDD), and called for a move from talk to support, saying “we cannot do this alone.”
Amina J. Mohammed, UN Deputy Secretary-General pointed to the multiple effects of an escalating climate crisis, rising food prices and the detrimental impacts of fossil fuel use, calling for a transformation of food systems.
The opening ceremony was followed by official declarations by Heads of State, Heads of Government and heads of delegation, in which statements focused on:
- The policy response to safeguard human security in the face of the multifaceted consequences of drought and land degradation;
- Partnership with the private sector in the restoration of degraded land; and
- The mobilization of the resources necessary for the advent of a land restoration industry.
The morning culminated in a presentation of the Abidjan Initiative and adoption of the Abidjan Call.
In the afternoon, Dominique Claudine Ouattara, First Lady of Côte d'Ivoire chaired the Gender Caucus. Denise Nyakéru Tshisekedi, First Lady of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, reminded participants that women account for half the labor force in Sub-Saharan Africa’s agricultural value chain, yet hold only 18% of land titles. Lorena Aguilar Revelo, former Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs, Costa Rica, presented a study on DLDD’s differentiated impacts on women which, among others, analyzes structural problems like inequitable access to land.
During the second segment, Vicky Ford, UK Ministry for Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, said that women are often excluded from decision making, disinherited and left without land when their husbands die, and prevented access to and control over the land needed to feed their families.