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Opening statement by the representative of South Africa on behalf of the Regional Implementation Annex for Africa (Annex I)

12 October 2015


Mr President, the Executive Secretary, Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentleman

On behalf of the African Group, I would like to extend our appreciation to the Government and the people of Turkey for the hospitality extended to the delegates since our arrival in this beautiful city of Ankara, in spite of your own unfortunate circumstances. We express our deepest condolences to the government and people of Turkey for the lives lost during the recent bomb attacks.

I would like to start by congratulating you Mr President on your appointment and look forward to working with you in the next biennium. Please be assured of the African Groups’ support and cooperation.

We also want to extend our gratitude and appreciation to the outgoing COP President, the Minister of Environment and Tourism, Republic of Namibia, and the people of Namibia for the wonderful job and achievements during their Presidency. We are proud of what Namibia has accomplished for this Convention, especially the leadership towards the adoption of the Land Degradation Neutrality target.

We also thank the Executive Secretary and her team for organizing the twelfth session of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification particularly the documentation put at our disposal to guide proceedings in this conference. We are very certain that this COP will be a success. Africa stands ready to contribute to the positive outcome of this COP.

We look forward to meaningful engagement with all of you and we hope to adopt decisions that will lead to the effective implementation of the Convention for the betterment of the World’s poorest people. As you all know Africa is the most affected continent and for us and it remains in our interest  to ensure that this Convention, its decisions and promrammes lead to a better Africa and a better world.

Mr President, the African Group welcomes the adoption by the United Nations General Assembly of the LDN target which is aimed at combating desertification; restoring degraded land and soil, including land affected by desertification, drought and floods, and striving to achieve a land degradation neutral world by 2030. We thank the international community for recognising the importance of addressing land degradation. This is an ambitious target but it is achievable, as long as we all focus and genuinely redirect our development efforts towards achieving the target. All that it requires is a two-pronged approach; i.e. preventing and/or reducing land degradation by adopting sustainable land management approaches while at the same time rehabilitating already degraded areas. In striving to achieve a land degradation-neutral world, we need to upscale our collective efforts and make available the necessary means for implementation, including finance and technology. It is therefore imperative for the global community to commit the necessary resources in order to achieve the best results for the implementation of the Convention.

As the UNCCD family, we have to lead the way towards achieving this target while recognising that we need other strategic partners. It must also be at the back of our minds that you cannot achieve much in terms of sustainable development if we do not address issues of land degradation, biodiversity loss and climate change. Effective synergies among the three Rio Conventions, at all  levels, are thus critical for the achievement of the LDN target. We therefore need to work with all relevant stakeholders  in order to achieve the Land Degradation Neutrality target.

Mr President, the adoption of the LDN target by the UN General Assembly provides an opportunity for Parties to develop national LDN targets to further improve the implementation of the Convention. Given that the LDN target now provides new impetus towards enhanced implementation of the UNCCD, it will also be important to mainstreaming the LDN target into COP decisions.  The African Group is of the opinion that there is  need to engage in this discussion early and openly in the course of this session, including frank discussions on those key issues that affect the future direction of this Convention..  

Mr President, we look forward to constructive deliberations at this meeting in order to enable us to conclude the COP12 business timeously. Weonce again assure you of our full support and cooperation in this regard.

I thank you