CoP14: UNCCD’s New Delhi Declaration dilutes role of international funding bodies and tenurial issues

New Delhi, September 13, 2019: “The New Delhi Declaration, signed today in Greater Noida at the 14th Conference of Parties (CoP) of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), has turned out to be a damp squib. It has diluted the role of international funding bodies in combating desertification. It has also sidestepped the contentious issue of tenurial rights to land” – Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) has said in a statement.  

The finalised Declaration – ‘Investing in Land and Unlocking Opportunities’ -- agreed to by the Member Parties has removed the mention of international financial institutions like Green Climate Fund (GCF), Global Environment Facility (GEF) and Adaptation Fund. These institutions had been specifically named in the draft which was being discussed among the Parties. 

The Declaration has also removed the mention of “legal recognition” of tenurial rights. The issue of these rights was one of the most contentious ones being discussed at the Convention.

The Declaration also dilutes the importance of land tenure and user rights of indigenous communities, youth and women. A paragraph in the draft which talked about these concerns has been deleted from the final document. India’s minister for environment, forest and climate change and the CoP14 president, Prakash Javadekar, however, announced that the Indian government was committed to giving land titles to all eligible forest dwellers. 

CSE researchers point out that the Declaration does not mention any specific measures that can be used for adaptation. In fact, it does not use the word “adaptation” even once. A paragraph in the draft document which talked about adaptation as well as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) reports and their relation to adaptation, has been removed. 

When the CoP14 had begun a week ago, CSE director general Sunita Narain had written: “This Convention is not about desertification. It is about fighting desertification. The fact is that every way in which we choose to fight desertification or land degradation or water scarcity, we will end up improving livelihoods and mitigating climate change.” 

She went on to write: “It is the global agreement that will make or break our present and future. There is no doubt that desertification today is a global issue, and requires cooperation between nations. The fact is that management of our natural resources, particularly land and water — what this Convention is concerned about — is at huge risk today; our own mismanagement is being exacerbated by weird weather events, which is making millions more vulnerable and more marginalised. We are only just beginning to see the impacts of climate change. These will become more deadly as temperatures continue to spiral. 

Will this watered down Declaration do anything to mitigate this impending catastrophe? Doubtful, says CSE. 

The finalised New Delhi Declaration: 

See an exhaustive special coverage by Down To Earth magazine

For the deliberations of CSE’s Global South Media Briefing on Desertification

To reach an expert or for any other information, contact Souparno Banerjee of The CSE Media Resource Centre, 9910864339,