Speech by Minister Heidi Hautala at the High-level meeting on addressing desertification in the con-text of sustainable development and poverty eradication

High-level meeting on addressing desertification, land degradation and drought in the con-text of sustainable development and poverty eradication, New York, 20 September 2011

Heidi Hautala, Minister for International Development of Finland

UNCCD 10-year strategy 2008-2018:

Finland considers the decision taken by UNCCD COP 8 as a landmark step forward in the imple-mentation of the Convention. The objectives contribute to reaching the overall goals of sustainable development and the Millennium Development Goals. The UNCCD objectives also strengthen the goals of other Rio conventions, and enhance the complementarity and synergies between them at local, national and global levels.

It is commendable that the formal entities of the Convention now practice results-based program-ming and budgeting, and that the affected developing country Parties align their national desertifi-cation programs with the Strategy. The work done by the Global Mechanism on financing strategies for investment in sustainable land management has been particularly appreciated by Parties.

Poverty can lead to land degradation and even desertification. The Governments of countries fac-ing such risks have the responsibility to reduce poverty in the affected areas. Support to small-scale farming communities and their empowerment are pre-requisites to preventing land degradation and desertification.

Effective approaches for affected countries to mainstream sustainable land management within relevant national policy areas, taking into account human, institutional and financial requirements:

Land degradation and desertification is a global phenomenon that is aggravated by the loss of bio-logical diversity and by climate change. The drivers include unsustainable agricultural practices, land governance and tenure failures, gender inequalities and lack of empowerment of affected communities. Among effective approaches to mainstream sustainable land management are elimi-nation of unsound sectoral barriers in policies, and formulation of governance structures and fi-nancing strategies that address negative drivers and enhance environmentally and socially sus-tainable resource mobilization. One of the main drivers of land degradation appears to be policy failures in land and land-based resources’ ownership and access rights. Good governance, rule of law and and human rights are key in solving such issues, and should be seen as pre-requisites for effectively addressing desertification problems. In particular, the rights of women in land ownership and tenure should be solved.

Finland is currently supporting a number of international programmes dealing with sustainable land management, agriculture and forest management and mitigation of climate change. These include FAO activities on forests in a changing climate, on making agriculture part of the solution to climate change, as well as on integrating agroforestry practices in rural livelihoods in Africa in order to support communities’ capabilities to adapt to the effects of climate change. All these programmes also directly address desertification and land degradation.

Encouraging sustainable land use methods. Enabling “the forgotten billion”, the poorest and food insecure people living in drylands to engage in more sustainable land management. Mobilizing the business community and the market to invest in sustainable land and ecosystem management, including through pro-poor public-private partnerships:

Growing human population leads to scarcity of productive land, and land degradation makes the situation worse. At the same time, growing demand for food, fodder, bio-energy and natural raw materials may increase investment opportunities for dryland products and services, if the right enabling environment and incentives are in place and environmental safeguards are respected. Land rights and entrepreneurial initiative should be promoted, and local initiative should be sup-ported by investors, bearing in mind the potential of socially responsible business enterprise.

Good governance, cadastral systems and land registries are essential for sustainable land man-agement. Local communities’ and people’s rights to land ownership should not be by-passed in directing commercial investment to large-scale farming enterprise, but corporations should practice openness and transparency in their operations.

Mechanisms in the developed countries and international financial institutions to ensure better consideration of DLDD and land potentials in co-operation and development policies:

Thorough analysis is required to establish a renewed foundation for economic assessment of de-sertification, sustainable land management and resilience of arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid areas, as concluded by the UNCCD in an effort to reshape the scientific work carried out under the Convention. The scientific basis of directing resources and investment for addressing land degra-dation and desertification must be strengthened to better serve the needs of affected countries and communities, as well as those of the financial institutions. Development finance needs to be based on the policies, strategies and programmes of countries eligible for support, but countries affected by desertification need also to prioritize such resource allocation.

Rio+20 fostering the measurability of UNCCD implementation by quantitative target setting. Role of the international community at global level in achieving zero net global land degradation through means of prevention, land rehabilitation and reclamation:

The recent initiative on a UN network on land issues, to propose coherent system-wide responses to land challenges, is most welcome. We look forward to studying the forthcoming thinkpiece prod-uct, provisionally titled “Global drylands: a UN system-wide response” at the next COP of the UNCCD in Changwon next month. The UNCCD has its specific frame of reference, and on that basis, can make a major contribution to addressing land issues holistically, and with a global pers-pective. The UNCCD should also make a strong contribution to the preparation of the Rio+20 Conference, on sustainable land and natural resource management as a central element of green economy.