About a quarter of the Earth's surface and more than a billion people are affected by desertification and land degradation. The UNCCD is one of three conventions that came out of the 1992 Rio Earth Summit.
The parties take various positions on how to broach the topic in the new development and sustainability goals (Post-2015 Agenda). Many African states parties to the convention would like to formulate a goal for a land-degradation neutral world. Other countries are concerned that such a goal exceeds the geographical and ecological scope of the convention, and that, for example, deforestation could become the sole focus of discussions on degradation and land regeneration.
A breakthrough for Switzerland
Switzerland can consider the recognition of WOCAT by the states parties to the convention a major breakthrough. WOCAT is a global network for the documentation of technologies and approaches for sustainable land management. Its secretariat is currently based at the Centre for Development and Environment (CDE) at the University of Bern and has received funding from the SDC for many years. WOCAT provides the UNCCD with an effective instrument for the exchange of information on sustainable land management. Recognition of WOCAT as a reference platform will allow the network to be further enhanced and will enable new partnerships to be forged. It is also an important milestone in the long-standing commitment of the SDC and the University of Bern.
The Swiss delegation was led by Assistant Director-General of the SDC, Ambassador Michel Mordasini. The Directorate of Political Affairs and the Federal Office for the Environment were also represented in the delegation, as was the University of Bern (CDE). The Swiss ambassador to Namibia, Christian Meuwly, travelled to the conference from Pretoria and supported the delegation in networking with high-level contacts.
At the conference, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appointed Monique Barbut of France as head of the UNCCD. As the former CEO of the Global Environment Facility (GEF), Barbut is ideally qualified for the position.
The next conference of the parties to the convention is scheduled for 2015 in Turkey.