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Following two weeks of high-level discussions and negotiations, delegates adopted 38 decisions to improve drought resilience, reduce land degradation, invest in land restoration efforts, and improve synergies with the climate change and biodiversity conventions.
Convening under a “silence procedure,” the parties to the UN Convention to Combat Desertification adopted its 2022 budget, ensuring the Convention and the Secretariat will continue to operate until the Conference of the Parties can convene in 2022.
Attendees shared experiences on desertification issues to be addressed at the next Conference of the Parties, including Land Degradation Neutrality projects and policy frameworks on drought, gender, and land tenure.
The Conference of the Parties ended on a note of optimism that there is a growing alignment of the land, climate, and biodiversity agendas, and, with its sharpened focus on land restoration, the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification can offer cost-effective and sustainable solutions to some of the most entrenched global challenges today.
CRIC 17 represented the first opportunity to assess countries’ progress in implementing the UNCCD 2018-2030 Strategic Framework. This first set of progress reports, while still lacking in detail, provided countries with a useful moment of reflection on the effort needed to ensure robust monitoring of the Convention’s five Strategic Objectives and fully comply with their reporting obligations based on the new four-year review cycle.
Both the CST and the CRIC completed their work ahead of schedule, while several decisions at the heart of the negotiations, including adoption of the 2018-2030 Strategic Framework, alignment of the Convention with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and improved reporting and monitoring procedures, were not as contentious as some expected. The heavy lifting done by the Intergovernmental Working Group on the future strategic framework―and the special methodological session of the CRIC in October 2016―appeared to have paid dividends in Ordos.
In many ways, the decision to convene CRIC 15 as a special intersessional meeting focusing on methodological issues was taken as a stop-gap measure—a compromise reached to buy more time because delegates at CRIC 14 were unable to reach agreement on the way forward in the transition from the current UNCCD implementation framework to a future strategy.
What some viewed as an intrepid direction for the UNCCD to pursue in years past turned into a potentially “game changing” accomplishment when COP 12 swiftly adopted a decision deciding that striving to achieve SDG target 15.3 is a “strong vehicle for driving implementation of the UNCCD,” and inviting countries to set voluntary targets to achieve land degradation neutrality.
The reporting process that informed the CRIC’s discussions revealed that gaps remain in implementation, and many suggested returning to the grassroots level to point the way forward to achieve the Convention’s purpose—to provide a platform on which to upscale sustainable land management— with an emphasis on the many grassroots pillars supporting the platform.
The UNCCD has proven itself to be a “learning convention” with parties exhibiting willingness to take stock and adjust structures and institutions over the years. The Scientific Conference concept perhaps best exemplifies this reflexivity, and as participants gathered for its third iteration, they were asked to engage with a new format and approach.