Sixth Session of the COP of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification 
Havana, Cuba, 25 Aug.- 5 Sept., 2003




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Hama Arba Diallo, CCD Executive Secretary with Cuba's President Fidel Castro

Cuba's President Fidel Castro

Hama Arba Diallo, CCD Executive Secretary


The Sixth Conference of the Parties (COP-6) to the Convention to Combat Desertification (CCD) opened on Monday afternoon, 25 August in Havana, Cuba. In an opening ceremony, delegates heard statements from the President of Cuba’s National Assembly and the CCD Executive Secretary. In the opening Plenary delegates elected the COP-6 President and other officers including the Chairs of the CST and CRIC, and adopted the agenda and the organization of work. Parties also considered accreditation of observer organizations.

COP-6 opened with a musical presentation by Cuban children. Ricardo Alarcon de Quesada, President of the National Assembly, stressed his country’s commitment to combating desertification and supporting the CCD Secretariat in order to ensure success for COP-6. He hoped the final outcome of the meeting would be marked not only by good intentions, but also by concrete commitments. He outlined the impact of desertification and drought in developing countries, noting that these are closely linked with underdevelopment, poverty and environmental degradation. He said desertification is an economic, social and environmental problem that “tests human survival.” He noted that despite a “very obvious ecological debt,” there are few commitments on the part of developed countries to comply with their responsibilities under Principle 7 of the Rio Declaration on common but differentiated responsibilities. He outlined successful efforts by Cuba to combat soil erosion and degradation since 1959, and underscored the role of governments and civil society in combating land deterioration to improve the quality of life.

In his opening statement, Hama Arba Diallo, CCD Executive Secretary, expressed his appreciation to the Cuban Government for hosting COP-6, and commended the Cuban experience in dealing with rural poverty. He also thanked other governments, UN agencies and NGOs for contributing to the session. He highlighted the WSSD and other processes that “converge” to provide Parties with “the building blocks of a credible implementation process,” and singled out the importance of the Global Environment Facility (GEF) becoming a financial mechanism of the CCD. Finally, he lauded the CCD’s “quasi-universal” membership.

COP-5 President Charles Bassett (Canada) opened COP-6 and requested the observation of a minute of silence for Sergio Vieira de Mello, Special UN Representative to Iraq, and the other UN staff members who lost their lives in the attack on the UN office in Iraq on 19 August 2003.
Noting that the WSSD recognized combating desertification as a major contribution to the reduction of poverty, he stressed that there is scope for action to reduce poverty and prevent environmental degradation, and to create opportunities for the poor to enjoy safer, healthier and more prosperous lives. He said delegates would work toward better defining the partnership between the CCD and the GEF in order to provide Parties to the CCD with the necessary tools to reach effective results. Emphasizing the need to shift from policy advocacy and institution building to implementation, he noted that political will should be translated into the integration of desertification issues with broader development planning so that national and international resources could be accessed and used more effectively.

Delegates then elected Rosa Elena Simeón Negrín, Cuba’s Minister for Science, Technology and the Environment, as President of COP-6 by acclamation. President Simeón Negrín expressed hope that COP-6 would make real progress towards creating a better world, and emphasized that present unsustainable consumption patterns, especially in the developed world, must be reversed. Expressing confidence in the ability of humans to overcome the most difficult of obstacles, she drew attention to the fact that: 54 countries are poorer today than in the 1990s; 1.2 billion people live in absolute poverty; 1.3 billion people live on fragile land that does not provide them with stable livelihoods; food distribution continues to be unequal; and natural resources are depleted.
CCD Executive Secretary Hama Arba Diallo noted that COP-6 provides the context to assess the progress of implementing the CCD, and expressed hope that Parties will take appropriate measures to translate into action the political commitment to address desertification and mitigate the effects of drought. He noted that the ultimate goal is to provide affected countries with the basic means necessary to implement the CCD and conditions in arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid areas are degrading in many countries.

Observing that climatic and anthropogenic factors increase desertification and droughts, he said that they must be countered by a more effective implementation of the CCD. He noted that some 30 African, 16 Asian and seven Latin American and Caribbean countries have finalized their NAPs. He said the Secretariat has focused on assisting affected developing countries in the elaboration of their NAPs, preparation of the national reports submitted to CRIC-1, and development of a wide range of activities pertaining to SRAPs and RAPs. He noted that several developing countries continue to rely on the voluntary contributions channeled by the Secretariat. He said the Secretariat provided assistance for all affected countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America and the Caribbean to participate at CRIC-1. Executive Secretary Diallo noted that the Secretariat has, inter alia, supported African countries in preparing for donor consultations aimed at concluding partnership agreements, and facilitated the preparation of project proposals on combating desertification under the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD).

Listen to:

The UNCCD logo

Ricardo Alarcon de Quesada

COP-5 President Charles Bassett (Canada) opened COP-6

Cop-6 president Rosa Elena Simeón Negrín, Cuba’s Minister for Science, Technology and the Environment

Cuban children dressed in colorful costumes performed for president Fidel Castro and conference delegates during the opening ceremony


Opening plenary front dais with members of the CCD Secretariat and COP5 and COP6 Chairs

  Above: the Cuban display in the foyer (left) and delegates registering for the COP-6 (right).

Links to further information:  

*The UNCCD COP-6 official site

*The UNCCD COP-5 report

*ENB summary of COP 5

*ENB summary of the First Committee for the Review of Implementation of the Convention (CRIC):
1st week CRIC summary

2nd week CRIC summary

*Linkage's Coverage (audio and photos) of UNCCD Cop-5

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