Address by Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe at the Land Day 5 Event of the United nations Convention to Combat Desertification, Rio Pavilion, UNFCCC COP17, Durban

06 December 2011

Photo of: Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe
Programme Director;
Executive Secretary of the UNCCD, Mr Luc Gnacadja;
Ministers and Deputy Ministers;
Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC, Ms Christiana Figueres;
Executive Secretary of the CBD, Dr Ahmed Dhjoglaf;
Heads of delegations, Agencies and Governmental Organisations;
Distinguished Guests;
Ladies and Gentlemen:
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to make a contribution to the discussions on climate change and its co-attended effects on desertification, land degradation and drought (DLDD).
On its own, the fact that we are meeting for the seventeenth time as the Conference of Parties, and 19 years after the Earth Summit, should shock us into the realisation that the world can no longer afford to participate in multilateral forums without taking the steps to implement agreements reached at such meetings.
We meet at a time when there is growing despondence about the multilateral world governance system, where the world community has lost patience with too much talking and no action.
The discord within the climate change negotiations is a microcosm of the broader challenges facing the multilateral system of global governance.
Understanding that the stakes in this conference are at an all time high, we must be alive to the reality that failure to reach an outcome one year before the Kyoto Protocol is due to expire, will undermine various agreements in a number of areas including trade and sustainable development.
Drawn to its logical conclusion, failure to succeed in reaching an agreement will demonstrate little regard for our commitment to the co-dependence of the three UN pillars of Security, Development and Human Rights.
The intersection between these UN pillars cannot be overemphasised.
The compounded effects of climate change, not only compromise people’s livelihoods, but also go to threaten the existence and balance of the ecosystem itself.
The socio-economic impact of land degradation is felt throughout Africa with indications pointing to significant loss in opportunities for sustainable development.
In a world experiencing food shortages and rising food prices, where nearly a billion people go to bed hungry, depleting our earth’s basket of productive soil resources is a luxury we cannot afford.
Left unmitigated, our ways of life not only threaten our livelihoods, but also the future that rightfully belongs to our children.
It is for this reason that we must highlight the inextricable link between food security, poverty, and climate change to other discussions about sustainable development and our path towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
Doing so requires that all must recognise the importance of the intersection between mitigation of climate change on the one hand and the goals for the attainment of the MDGs on the other.
Thus the over-riding priority for developing countries remains searching for socio-economic development methods to reduce inequality and eradicate poverty. 
However, it is becoming increasingly clear for Africa that our ability to deliver on these fundamental developmental priorities, at all levels, is being undermined by desertification, land degradation and drought.
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is in this context that we welcome the Rio Pavilion initiative that consists of the Conventions on Biodiversity, Climate Change and Desertification.
The Pavilion offers immense opportunities to highlight a number of cross-cutting issues relevant to the attainment of the MDGs.
It should be encouraged and supported by all through fair and equitable treatment of the three Conventions to ensure their effective implementation.
As you are aware, embedded in the UNCCD are vital issues of improved productivity and sustainable management of land and water resources.
With its focus on the land, the UNCCD complements the sustainable development framework addressed by its sister Rio Conventions.
The effective implementation of UNCCD thus requires dedicated resources from the global development funding mechanism.
We therefore seek to impress upon you that the Land Day deliberations should continue to build on the momentum of the global political attention given to desertification, land degradation, and drought.
In moving towards achieving zero net land degradation, synergies need to be maximised between agriculture, adaptation, sustainable development, food security and poverty eradication with integrated strategies at the national level to address land degradation.
Another area that is fundamental is the further development of institutions and legislation for sustainable land-use management.
It is encouraging that legislation and policies of many countries embrace the principle of sustainable development particularly in as far as matters of land-use management are concerned.
It is also clear that while numerous best practices exist, the need for large scale support towards the implementation of these three Rio Conventions is obviously a matter of exceptions.
Drawing from our South African experience, we submit that the attainment of the MDGs is anchored on a number of factors and enabling conditions such as:
•  The fair and equal treatment of these three Rio Conventions in terms of allocation of resources; appropriate technology transfer and incentives that are needed to manage land sustainably such as payment for ecosystem service;
• security of tenure and the integration into decentralised planning and decision-making processes; and
• legal frameworks that need to be made conducive for investing in sustainable land-use management.
For our part as Africa, ministers meeting at the preparatory conference for Rio+20 unanimously agreed that the time has come for the international community to commit itself to zero degradation of land.
Achieving such targets will go a long way in addressing climate change adaptation and mitigation, thus building the resilience of the populations and the ecosystems affected by desertification and land degradation.
Such action will also support efforts at preserving the resource base for food security and accelerating poverty eradication.
In this regard, we are hopeful that Rio+20 to be held next year presents the opportunity to canvass for structured and coordinated national responses for the effective implementation of the Rio Conventions.
We all need to enhance the implementation of the UNCCD as a global policy and monitoring framework to address issues of soil and land degradation.
We also need to invest in infrastructure and services that support sustainable land use and management.
The actions that are required on the ground to achieve a zero net rate of global land degradation are in line with the Sustainable Land Management (SLM) approach.
This approach could be effectively streamlined into the Green Economy initiative and become a tool for attaining sustainable development in rural areas worldwide.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Allow me to conclude by reminding this gathering of the necessity to factor in the lived experiences of the ordinary people, who are often marginalised, into Climate Change discussions.
I am encouraged that this Land Day, held on the side-lines of COP 17, is but one of the means of addressing this gap.
I would therefore like to urge you all as participants in this session to be ambassadors of all progressive measures aimed at mitigating the effects of climate change.
You must at all times, starting here in Durban, Rio+20 and beyond, advocate the need for urgent agreement on action and funding for sustainable development and  mitigating the effects of climate change.
I thank you for your kind attention and wish you well in your further deliberations.

Issued by: The Presidency

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