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Deputy Minister's speech on behalf of the G77 and China at the twelfth session of the Conference of Parties to the UNCCD during the High Level Segment

Ankara, Turkey, 20 October 2015


Mr President,
Distinguished guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen;

I have the honour to speak on behalf of the Group of 77 and China.

Deputy Minister Barbara Thomson during the COP 12 High-Level Segment meeting

Allow me to start these remarks by expressing sincere condolences to the Government and the people of the Republic of Turkey and register our collective condemnation of the brutal acts of terrorism against innocent civilians which took place on Saturday 10 October 2015.

We wish to express the Group’s congratulations to you for your appointment as the President of the 12th Session of the COP. We also take this opportunity to thank the Government and People of Turkey for hosting this Conference and the hospitality extended to all of us since our arrival in the country. The Group further wishes to pay tribute to the Executive Secretary, Ms Monique Barbut, for her leadership and dedication since she has been at the helm of the Secretariat of the Convention.

Mr President,

The Group of 77 and China attaches the utmost importance to the challenges of desertification, land degradation and drought (DLDD). As you may recall, the Group served as the backbone for the establishment of the UNCCD in Rio 23 years ago and has always been at the forefront in all developments related to the Convention thus far.

The Group is particularly encouraged by the prominence given to desertification, land degradation and drought in the recently adopted 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. This development attests to the fact that the international community is unanimous in its resolve that for any development to be sustainable, it must invest resources that focus on addressing DLDD issues which was not the case with the MDGs. As the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the Group of 77 and China noted at their annual meeting in New York in September last year, desertification, land degradation and drought corrode the three dimensions of sustainable development.

In this respect, they ascertained that addressing DLDD and dust storms enables countries to deal with several global policy challenges such as food security, loss of biodiversity, forests, wetlands, climate change, and forced migration. This last aspect was further highlighted by the UN General Assembly last year. In its Resolution 69/221, the General Assembly noted that combating DLDD, including sustainable land management, can ease forced migration flows which is influenced by a number of factors, including economic, social, security and environmental concerns, which can in turn reduce the current and potential conflict over resources in degraded areas. This aspect is of particular concern for the Group, also because the nexus between DLDD issues and political instability is still overlooked, especially in Africa and the Middle East.

Mr President,

At their annual meeting last year, G77 Ministers also stressed that sustainable development goals and targets on DLDD should address the drivers of DLDD. The Group is happy that the international community heeded this call.

We are also happy that DLDD issues are now part and parcel of the SDGs and there is a specific target that strives to achieve a land degradation neutral world by 2030. The Group welcomes this milestone, which will be a game-changer if implemented effectively. In fact, this is the first time the Convention has a basis to operate under the realm of measurability. With the land degradation neutrality target included in the 2030 agenda for susta─▒nable development, we have a useful tool to assess whether we are making progress in the way we address land degradation. The Group had introduced the concept of land degradation neutral world in the context of sustainable development at the Rio+20 Conference in 2012, and it was retained in the “Future We Want”. With its adoption as part of a sustainable development target, we are confident that its achievement will impact positively on the livelihood of affected populations and improve the conditions of ecosystems.

If dealt with appropriately and comprehensively, achieving land degradation neutrality will contribute to achieving other sustainable goals ranging from food security, poverty, health, climate change, biodiversity, to name a few. The Group of 77 and China is therefore ready to have this COP endorse the General Assembly resolution on the SDGs and the universality of its land degradation 15.3 target. The Group also commends the work done by the Intergovernmental Working group in this regard and will endorse it when it comes up with an unambiguous COP decision on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Mr President,

The Group of 77 and China would like to express its satisfaction to the COP organizers for having devoted one of the high-level interactive roundtables to the issue of drought. Even though drought is not a “charismatic” disaster, which exerts a sudden heavy toll on affected populations, it is insidious and a slow killer. So far the approach of the international community to drought has been largely reactive, with post-impact interventions and relief measures in the form of emergency assistance programs aimed at providing funding or other specific types of assistance such as food, livestock feed or water to those experiencing the most severe impacts. It is the hope of the Group that the discussion should focus on the urgentneed to design mechanisms to increase the resilience against drought at local and international levels, and the importance of having drought policies in all drought-prone regions.

Mr President, on other issues on the COP agenda, the Group is ready for constructive discussions and to contribute to COP decisions that will advance the implementation of this important Convention. This is particularly important because the Convention can from now on, with its sustainable development target, present itself as a cost-effective and efficient instrument to address several challenges, including climate adaptation and mitigation, as well as the necessary reforms to make the UNCCD institutions as efficient as possible. We therefore support the endorsement of LDN as a universal target as adopted by our Heads of States at the Summit last September in New York and requests the UNCCD Secretariat to act as the Chef de File and rally other stakeholders in its implementation.

By drawing on past experiences, the Group of 77 and China expects that the COP will be able to formulate appropriate mechanisms to give added impetus to the Convention. We believe that addressing these challenges and common objectives should be facilitated by more ambitious, fully inclusive and non-discriminatory provision of means of implementation, particularly finance and transfer of technology and associated knowledge towards achieving meaningful global partnership.

With the upcoming Climate Change COP taking place in Paris next month, our discussions here must send a strong message on the need to upscale land-based approaches to addressing climate change including an emphasis on Soil Carbon Approach.

I would therefore like to end this statement by reiterating the Group’s appreciation to the host country for all its efforts in sharing its experiences in its successful fight against desertification, and to have availed these excellent facilities to enable Parties to carry out their meeting obligations.

Mr President, I wish to assure you of our support and readiness to contribute to the positive outcomes of this conference.

I thank you, Mr President!