UN desertification conference kicks off in China with focus on new efforts to tackle land degradation

September 6, 2017

Farmers working in a desert landscape in Ethiopia.
The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD COP 13) is taking place in Ordos, China from 6-16 September, 2017.

The 13th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD COP 13) opened today in Ordos, China.  

According to UNCCD, the 196 country Parties attending the meeting, which runs from 6-16 September 2017, are expected to agree on a 12-year strategy to contain runaway land degradation that is threatening global food and water supply.

Ministers are expected to announce their targets for land restoration and agree on measures to address the related emerging threats of forced migration, sand and dust storms, and on actions to strengthen resilience to droughts.

The Global Environment Facility (GEF) serves as financial mechanism to the UNCCD and provides funding to assist developing countries in meeting the objectives of the convention. The GEF CEO and Chairperson, Naoko Ishii, will attend the high-level segment, scheduled for 11-12 September.

The GEF will present a report to the COP, and host a number of events, including a session on partnerships in action at the Rio Conventions Pavilion (September 8), GEF support to UNCCD (September 13), and enabling activities (September 14).

It has also produced an update on its work on land degradation neutrality, a key organizing principle of the UNCCD (see below). 

On the margins of the COP, GEF partners including  UNDP and the GEF Small Grants Programme will also launch publications about their work to combat land degradation.

Moving towards a land degradation-neutral world

The last UNCCD Conference of the Parties (COP 12) in Ankara, Turkey set out objectives to bring the world closer to Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN). The concept of LDN responds to an immediate challenge: intensifying the production of food, fuel and fiber to meet future demand without further degrading our finite land resource base. In other words, LDN envisions a world where human activity has a neutral, or even positive, impact on the land.

As a financial mechanism for UNCCD, the GEF provides financial support to help countries formulate national voluntary targets to achieve LDN and to integrate them into UNCCD National Action Programs. The GEF has positively responded to the invitation from COP12 in Ankara to consider technical and financing support related to LDN, and has financed a number of projects since then.

Following Ankara, the GEF has supported voluntary LDN target setting in 60 countries, built capacities for LDN, catalyzed the role of the private sector, and has already invested $60 million to address LDN. Altogether, 60 projects totaling over $580 million of GEF resources have been programmed in the past two years.

To know what is discussed, follow IISD Coverage of UNCCD COP 13.