The eleventh session of the conference of the parties to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification opened on Monday, 16th September 2013 in Windhoek Namibia. COP 11 is considering the results of the second scientific conference and reviewing the progress of the completion of the first half of the 10 year strategy of the UNCCD (2008-2018). Parties will also take decisions on financing, knowledge brokering and the Rio+20 outcomes on land degradation, desertification and drought. COP 11 is convened under the theme “a stronger UNCCD for a land degradation neutral world”

The UNCCD Second Science Conference recommended that more attention be given to the indirect economic values of sustainable land management. Sustainable land management, by its very definition, conserves biodiversity: it conserves the ecological processes on which food production depends; it conserves habitat and maintains connectivity across landscapes; it promotes nutrient cycling and particularly enhances sequestration and storage of soil carbon. In other words, Sustainable Land Management contributes to the goals of all three of the Rio Conventions and yet we are greatly under-achieving.

Much greater emphasis therefore needs to be placed on the synergy between sustainable land management, poverty reduction, conservation of biodiversity, climate change adaptation and climate change mitigation. We recommend that the UNCCD fosters activities that promote biodiversity and that champion ecosystem based approaches, such as Forest Landscape Restoration. For this reason, the spot-light that is currently focussed on Land Degradation Neutrality is to be welcomed as a new impetus for progress and change. Care is recommended in establishing targets for land degradation neutrality that ensure safeguards are in place to mitigate potential risks to biodiversity and to ensure equity and good governance in sustainable land management.

This should be considered in the context of the current discussion about the sustainable development goals. The legal aspects of Land Degradation Neutrality formed the subject of discussion at an IUCN event on Wednesday 18th September at 15:15 in the Rio Conventions Pavilion.

IUCN organised a side event titled “Drylands Biodiversity: Bridging the gap between UN (environmental) conventions and national legislation”. The event was be moderated by Sergio Zelaya (UNCCD) and the panel consisted of Pablo Manzano (IUCN), Jorge Luis Garcia Rodriguez (Mexico Delegate), Walter Knausenberger (USA delegate), Uriel Safriel (Israel delegate), David Ainsworth (UNCBD).