Open Dialogue Session at COP 12: Demystifying LDN


By Noel Oettle

On Thursday, 15 October the first Open Dialogue Session of COP 12 was chaired by Sedat Kadioğlu, Ministry of Forestry and Water Affairs, Turkey, and moderated by Noel Oettlé of the Environmental Monitoring Group, South Africa.

In the keynote address, Jonathan Davies of IUCN affirmed the need for a Land Degradation Neutral world and the needs of both restoration and monitoring. He argued that the situation called for a focus on strengthening natural resource governance and ensuring human rights, gender equity and tenure security.  Although target settings is being undertaken in a number of countries, sound evidence of the extent and degree of land degradation is often absent, and there is thus a risk of misdiagnosis and ineffective resource allocation. In many cases assessments that do take place often neglect biodiversity and other indicators of sustainability. Crude analysis and poor policies could lead to trade-offs between dissimilar ecosystems, pointing to the need to monitor outcomes at the ecosystem scale. The LDN concept should not be seen as a ‘license to degrade’. LDN also poses risks to communities with weak land tenure, and its pursuit could lead to socially inequitable outcomes.

In the light of these concerns, Davies argued that Land Degradation Neutrality should be achieved in a way that respects biodiversity and ecosystems. Progress towards LDN should be supported by significant efforts to strengthen natural resource governance, and to ensure human rights, gender equality and tenure security. LDN should be treated as complementary to existing multilateral agreements, both contributing to and benefiting from their achievement, and target setting should be carried out on the basis of evidence in the form of appropriate assessments.

In conclusion, Davies proposed that sustainably managed land provides a range of benefits to society, including food security, disaster risk reduction, poverty reduction, adaptation to climate change, carbon capture and storage, regulation of water, protection of watersheds and biodiversity conservation. In the achievement of LDN, a range of SLM practices should be used synergically, for example, Ecosystem based Adaptation, agro-ecology, forest landscape restoration, sustainable pastoralism, agroforestry, catchment management, community conserved area and protected areas.

On behalf of African CSOs Aissatou Billy Sow (AGUIPER, Guinea) emphasised the importance of CSO involvement in NAPs and Integrated Investment Frameworks (IIFs). For Latin American and Caribbean CSOs, Marioldy Sánchez Santivañez (AIDER, Peru) provided an overview of the wide range of work undertaken by civil society organisations in the region, and emphasized that any LDN initiative must be an opportunity to strengthen NAPs. On behalf of Asian CSOs Tanveer Arif (SCOPE, Pakistan) presented work undertaken in the arid areas of the continent and called for balanced social and ecological approaches to attain LDN to be undertaken with the consent of affected communities. Serkan Aykut (Foresters’ Association of Turkey) provided visual evidence of greening activities undertaken by the sector in Turkey with community involvement. Gloria Musowa (Kasisi Agricultural Training Centre, Zambia) drew attention to the 2014 Equator Initiative Prize for SLM in SSA, which identified 12 CSO projects covering activities such as ecotourism, community reforestation and water harvesting. Patrice Burger (CARI, France) urged achievement of the SDGs, noting that uncertainties around the LDN concept should be addressed.

In the ensuing discussion, Namibia shared some of that country’s experiences of piloting LDN on a national scale, including achieving LDN targets focused on reducing bush encroachment and improving livelihoods;. Other parties noted the need for a paradigm shift towards LDN in managing degraded lands and the importance of a focus on community engagement to support SLM in rural areas. Closing the meeting, Kadioğlu called for an “inclusive process” to support LDN.

The CSOs Statement on Drought adaptation can be viewed here.

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