Speed-dating in the world of dryland conservation

10.10.11  Greetings to you all from the Changwon Exhibition Convention Centre in the Republic of Korea where I'm attending the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), writes Jonathan Davies, Coordinator of IUCN’s Drylands Initiative.

Jonathan Davies

Having attended the last three COPs, I am particularly excited this time around by the strong presence that IUCN has here. We are represented this year by seven delegates, including five secretariat staff and two members of the World Commission on Protected Areas. In addition there are many participants from IUCN Member organizations who are stalwarts of the UNCCD process. This is the first COP since IUCN established its Global Drylands Initiative, which should give us greater credibility in our discussions here.

For those of you who don’t know, IUCN and UNCCD recently drafted a joint action plan which forms the basis of much of our ongoing work. Some of the work in this action plan will be presented at the COP, such as UNCCD Gender Policy, the work on Dryland Protected Areas, and work on strengthening land rights and governance in drylands. Through this blog we will try to provide daily updates on what we are doing at the COP and some of the interesting things that we see or hear. Blogs will hopefully also be contributed by some of our members and partners during the next two weeks, to give you their perspective on events.

Today, Day One is taken up with the opening ceremonies and the election of officers, including the COP President. The morning is spent registering and meeting people that we only meet face-to-face at these events, and as always there will be lots to talk about. In fact I expect the COP will, like usual, be an intensive two-week conservation equivalent of speed dating.

This is one of the objectives of our participation in the COP – to catch up with a number of partners over initiatives that we have been developing for the last couple of years. The principle reason for participating in the COP is of course to influence discussions and to raise the profile of issues that are important to IUCN: issues like gender, governance and protected areas. But this COP is also an important opportunity to demonstrate that IUCN’s work in drylands is gaining momentum.

I am expecting a very smoothly organised COP, judging by the impressive preparatory work that has been conducted by the Korean Government. They have been busy during the past year raising the profile of desertification through a number of high profile public events. If the hectic schedule allows I would love to get out of the COP at some point and learn more about this fascinating country.

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