The New Delhi Declaration: Roadmap to Battling Desertification

Rituraj Phukan

opening-session-2The fourteenth session of the Conference of the Parties (COP14) to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) concluded with the adoption of the New Delhi Declaration which calls for land-based solutions for climate action and biodiversity to achieve the long-term goals of the Paris Agreement.

Union Minister for Environment, Forest and Climate Change Prakash Javadekar,  who was the president of COP14, presented the ‘Delhi Declaration’ at the end of the two-week conference attended by more than 8000 delegates from 196 countries and the European Union.

The Delhi Declaration has recognized that desertification, land degradation and droughts undermine health, development and prosperity in all regions with impacts felt most keenly by the vulnerable rural populations.

It also acknowledged that community-based sustainable management and focused  investments for land restoration are important for achieving land degradation neutrality and linked it with long-term health & well-being, socioeconomic development and improvement of the livelihoods of the rural poor.

remoteIn his address Prime Minister Narendra Modi talked about doubling the income of farmers by increasing crop yields through various measures including land restoration and micro-irrigation, working with a motto of per drop more crop and focusing on zero budget natural farming. He also declared that India will increase the total area restored from land degradation to 26 million hectares.

Executive Secretary General of the UNCCD Ibrahim Thiaw said that the ‘powerful’ Delhi Declaration endorsed 35 decisions that are legally binding on each the 197 signatories. India, which has the rotating presidency for two years, will be monitoring the activities to be carried out until 2021.

The parties acknowledged a clear link between land, climate and biodiversity and the need for investments on nature-based solutions and land restoration. UNCCD COP14 also recognized the need for private sector participation for innovation in sustainable land management and rewarding conservation, restoration and sustainable use of resources.

SDG_15_tachometer_2018In an unprecedented global campaign to save productive land, country parties have agreed to make the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG15) target of achieving land degradation neutrality by 2030 a national target for action, the president and secretary general of the COP announced in a joint statement after the Delhi Declaration was made public.

Although the 12-point Delhi Declaration has adopted ambitious targets with an inclusive approach to land restoration, the critical role of indigenous communities in sustainable land-use, which was in the draft, was left out of the final declaration. Interestingly,  climate change and land management were mentioned as interlinked during the parleys, but interventions such as afforestation, and mitigation and adaptation pathways were not mentioned in the declaration.

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