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Convention on Desertification

16 September 2013 - Press Release of the Secretary-General
Secretary-General appoints Monique Barbut of France Executive Secretary of UN Convention to Combat Desertification

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, following consultation with the Bureau of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), announced today the appointment of Monique Barbut of France as Executive Secretary of the UNCCD. She will replace Luc Gnacadja. The Secretary-General expressed his gratitude for Mr. Gnacadja’s outstanding contribution and commitment in spearheading the Organization’s work.

Ms. Barbut brings to the position extensive expertise in a range of sustainable development issues coupled with international diplomatic and political experience. She played a key role in the French government delegation to the 1992 Rio Earth Summit, in financing negotiations, and later as a negotiator in the creation of the Global Environment Facility (GEF), subsequently becoming the first Chief Executive Officer of the French Global Environment Facility.

Since 2012, Ms. Barbut has been the Special Adviser to the Chief Executive Officer of the Agence Française pour le Développement (AFD). She previously held the position of Chief Executive Officer and Chairperson of GEF from 2006 to 2012. Before that, she served as Director of the Division of Technology, Industry and Economics at the United Nations Environment Programme from 2003 to 2006. From 1996 to 2003, Ms. Barbut held various positions in the AFD related to the French aid system, particularly sustainable project financing activities in the French overseas territories, and activities relating to ex-post evaluation.

Ms. Barbut holds a Master of Philosophy in Economics and a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Paris.

Born in 1956 in Morocco, she is married and has three children.

1. Latest development in New York: High-Level Meeting on Desertification, Sept. 2011 Retour à la table des matières

On 20 September 2011 a High-Level Meeting on Desertification was held at the UN. The event entitled "Addressing Desertification, Land Degradation and Drought in the Context of Sustainable Development and Poverty Eradication" took place ahead of the opening of the 66th general debate of the UN General Assembly.

The Secretariat of the United Nations Convention to Fight against Desertification (UNCCD, 1994) and Germany issued, on that occasion, a draft project to evaluate the global economic impact of desertification: the economic costs of soil degradation as well as the economic benefits of sustainable land management. This conference also resulted in a summary of the Presidency, which will be used during the Rio +20 Conference.

2. United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) Retour à la table des matières

The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), signed in Paris on 17 June 1994, entered into force in December 1996. This convention resulted from the discussions at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) (the “Earth Summit”) held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. France, which ratified the Convention in March 1997, played a key role in the negotiation of this Convention, which is the only one of the three that came out of Rio (namely the Convention to Combat Desertification, the Convention on Biological Diversity, and the Framework Convention on Climate Change) to give special priority to Africa. It has been ratified by 193 countries and constitutes the main pillar of the fight against desertification at the international level.

According to the UNCCD, “the term "desertification" means land degradation in arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid areas resulting from various factors, including climatic variations and human activities.”

In 2007, the Conference of the Parties to the Convention adopted a ten-year strategy (2008-2018) in Madrid with 4 main objectives:

- to improve the living conditions of the populations affected by desertification;

- to improve the conditions of the degraded ecosystems;

- to generate global benefits (fight against hunger, migrations, environmental conflicts, preservation of biodiversity, carbon sequestration, etc.)

- to mobilize resources to support the implementation of the Convention.

According to the UN Convention to Combat Desertification, 250 million people are directly affected by desertification, and around 1 billion people in more than 100 countries are threatened by this phenomenon. The countries at greatest risk are the African countries to the north as well as to the south of the Sahara. The desertification process leads to the inability of the land to support the population living on it, which justifies putting it at the top of the international agenda with regard to sustainable land management and the fight against desertification. The desertification process is in fact a major obstacle to achieving the Millennium Development Goals.

The UN had turned its attention to the issue of desertification before the adoption of the UNCCD. In 1982, the United Nations proclaimed the World Charter for Nature aimed at rehabilitating natural environments in accordance with their ecological potential, and then promulgated the World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought which is observed every year on 17 June.

World Day to Combat Desertification (17 June 2011) :

The celebration of the World Day to Combat Desertification corresponds to the anniversary of the signing in Paris, on June 17, 1994, of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification.

The fight against desertification and land degradation is a key challenge with respect to agricultural and rural development, poverty reduction and food security for a third of the global population.

Arid zones, which are extremely sensitive to the land degradation process, account for 41% of the earth’s surface. 2 billion people live in these zones and are dependent on natural resources for their survival. 10 to 20% of these arid zones have already suffered serious degradation and, if nothing is done, an area equivalent to 1/5 of France will continue to be lost every year. 72% of these zones at risk are in developing countries.

In order to meet this challenge, France is focusing on providing financing for field projects, research and institutional support directly to the countries and the regional and multilateral institutions.

France’s bilateral aid increased to €100 million per year from 2008 to 2009 and focused on Africa and the Mediterranean countries; in terms of multilateral funding, France contributed almost €353 million in 2008 and more than €423 million in 2009.

In addition to this day, 2011 and 2012 are marked by major international events in support of the fight against land degradation and desertification.

- A high-level meeting on the fight against desertification and land degradation, on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly on September 20, 2011;

- The 10th Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention to Combat Desertification which will take place in Korea in October;

- The World Water Forum in Marseille in March 2012;

- The “Rio+20” Conference in June 2012.

In this context, France will continue to mobilize its efforts to encourage improved international environmental governance, and to give the fight against land degradation and desertification the attention it deserves.

- Every year the UN General Assembly presents a resolution on the fight against desertification.

- A resolution was adopted by the UNGA in 2010 which makes provision for the holding of a high-level meeting on desertification on 20 September 2011 in New York, just ahead of the opening of the 66th UN General Assembly Ministerial Week.

- The 10th Conference of the Parties (COP) to the UN Convention to Combat Desertification took place in Changwon in South Korea from October 10 to 21, 2011.

Several key decisions were taken during this conference:

— the adoption of an ambitious and pragmatic work program aimed at strengthening the scientific basis of the Convention with, notably, the establishment of indicators to measure desertification and the organization of the Convention’s second Scientific Conference in 2012 under the theme “Economic Assessment of Desertification.”

— the strengthening of the role of civil society in the work of the Convention,

— improved monitoring of the projects by the country Parties

— the launch of the mid-term evaluation of the Convention’s 10-year strategy.

UN Photo/Martine Perret

3. France’s position Retour à la table des matières

France, in contrast to its Mediterranean neighbors such as Italy, Spain and Greece, has not declared itself affected by desertification. However, support for the implementation of the International Convention to Combat Desertification is a major and continuous thrust of France’s cooperation policy with respect to the environment and development aid.

France’s main actions in this area are specified in the “French strategy for combating desertification” finalized in 2006 by all of the actors concerned – civil society, development ministries and agencies. This strategic document defines the actions to be undertaken at all relevant levels (global, regional, sub-regional, national and local) together with development actors and civil society in order to establish conditions that are conducive to the implementation of local actions that will directly benefit the populations affected by desertification.

France believes that one of the major challenges is incorporating soil concerns into sectoral policies, particularly agricultural policies, and into the poverty reduction strategies of the affected developing countries.

France also encourages increased synergy between the three Rio Conventions in order to promote an integrated approach to the “climate,” “biodiversity,” “desertification” and development challenges, and in particular to recognize the role of sustainable soil management and the fight against desertification in climate change adaptation.

French ministries (the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs and the Ministry for Ecology, Sustainable Development, Transport and Housing) have developed solid partnerships in the area of desertification control and are working in collaboration with French civil society and the scientific community. Civil society expresses its views through the Working Group on Desertification, a platform for international solidarity stakeholders mobilized in the fields of desertification and land degradation control and natural resource management. The scientific community is represented by the French Scientific Committee on Desertification (CSFD) which actively contributes to the work of the Scientific and Technical Committee of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD).

France’s action therefore focuses on several areas:

— technical and financial support for the institutions of the Convention on Desertification, with an active role in the Convention’s organs and its work;

— support for sub-regional coordination in Africa: France provides financial and/ or technical support to the Sahara and Sahel Observatory and the Permanent Inter-State Committee on Drought Control in the Sahel;

— support for multilateral initiatives: France provides technical support to the World Bank/ NEPAD TerrAfrica initiative aimed at increasing investment in sustainable land management in sub-Saharan Africa, and improving the effectiveness of this investment;

— projects in the field: the French Development Agency (AFD) provides funding to local development and rural development projects in the Sahel countries (sustainable pastoralism, conservation agriculture, etc.). France also supports micro-projects which are identified and implemented by civil society actors. The French Global Environment Facility (FFEM) contributes to the funding of development projects which have a sustainable impact on global environmental fields, and in particular land degradation and desertification control (e.g. funding of the Regional Initiative for the Global Environment and the Fight against Desertification (IREM-LCD), supported by the Inter-State Committee for Drought Control in the Sahel, has allowed us to support local micro-projects aimed at combating desertification, identified and implemented by Sahelian civil society actors).

(October 2011)

4. Reference documents Retour à la table des matières

- 2 March 2010 - Resolution A/RES/64/202 - “Implementation of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification in Those Countries Experiencing Serious Drought and/or Desertification, Particularly in Africa”

- October 2007 - The 10-year strategic plan and framework to enhance the implementation of the Convention (2008–2018)

- June 1994 - United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD)

- October 1982 - World Charter for Nature

- French strategy for combating desertification

5. Useful links Retour à la table des matières

- Consult our file on the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development

- Consult our file on Climate Change Negotiations

- Official UNCCD website

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