Windhoek, Namibia

23 September 2013

Secretary-General's message to 11th Conference of Parties to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification [Delivered by Ms. Veerle Vanderweerd, Head of delegation of United Nations Development Programme]

I am pleased to send greetings to all participating in the eleventh Conference of Parties of the United Nations Convention on Desertification, and I thank Namibia for hosting. 
I commend the leadership of outgoing Executive Secretary, Mr. Luc Gnacadja, and welcome his successor, Ms. Monique Barbut.

You meet as Namibia faces severe drought.  The United Nations system stands ready to continue to support your efforts to mitigate its effects and build resilience.  Desertification and land degradation threaten the livelihoods, well-being and sustainable development of at least
1 billion people.  In the drylands of Africa, climate change is already having an impact.  Temperatures have risen by some 2 degrees Celsius in some areas.  Long periods of drought, famine and deepening poverty are impoverishing and depopulating vast areas.

Healthy land is a prerequisite for food and water security and necessary to avert political instability.  We need it for climate change resilience and preserving valuable biodiversity.  World leaders at Rio+20 acknowledged the threat of desertification, land degradation and drought in all regions, and especially for developing countries.  As we define the post-2015 development agenda, we need to be able to measure progress towards the commitment to halt and reverse land degradation.

We need a paradigm shift to land stewardship.  We need to work with countries and local communities to protect and sustain the world’s fragile drylands and restore degraded land.  This conference, under the theme “A Stronger UNCCD for a Land-Degradation Neutral World”, can make a valuable contribution in defining the way forward. 

I wish you a successful meeting.