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CARI shares its assessment of the Abidjan COP15 “desertification” with European Union countries
COP15 side event

CARI shares its assessment of the Abidjan COP15 “desertification” with European Union countries

Following on from the preparatory work undertaken by CARI and its partners as part of Désertif’actions 2022, and their participation in the fifteenth Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, held in Abidjan (Côte d’Ivoire) from May 09 to 20, 2022, CARI, through its President Patrice Burger, travelled to Brussels on June 15, 2022, to share its assessment of COP15. He came at the invitation of the French presidency of the European Union, to share his experience with representatives of European Union member countries grouped in the Working Party on International Environmental Issues (WPIEI).

Drawing on more than 20 years’ experience in monitoring this instrument, CARI reviewed some of the highlights of the COP, but also gave its views on the negotiations and their outcome, as well as on initiatives such as the side-event, the various debates in the Africa Pavilion and the Rio Pavilion.

While COP15 attracted almost 7,000 registrations, 300 people representing over 100 civil society organizations (CSOs) were on hand. COP15 was mainly an African edition, with Asia, America and Europe less well represented. Organized in a hotel in Abidjan at the hottest time of the year, the event required the deployment of an impressive number of electric generators to ensure a sometimes wintry temperature inside the tents set up for the debates: the incoherence with the overall climate issues didn’t really serve the cause defended. An organization that doesn’t seem to make negotiations any easier.

At this meeting with WPIEI, CARI felt that certain changes in the way the Conference was run, such as the high-level segments at the start of the COP, had done little to demonstrate their added value, and had even disconcerted the participants. Although 38 decisions were taken, some of them by the Scientific and Technical Committee and others by the Convention’s Review Committee, CARI felt that the whole was not vigorous enough to rise to the challenges, or to the pace imposed by the changes underway in the world. One example is drought: the renewal of a new intergovernmental working group is rather a way of postponing the deadline for more drastic decisions on adaptation obligations and measures in the face of the multiplication of episodes, their increasing intensity and their extension to temperate zones. Developing countries, expressing above all needs and expectations for external support, are constantly coming up against the reluctance of developed countries to commit themselves more strongly to such support.

On the research side, there has been some disappointment that the work of the political science interface has been published too late to be really read and understood. The research team stressed the need for better dialogue with other players, in particular the UNCCD country focal points. Nevertheless, it should be emphasized that support for young people and progress on gender issues are among the subjects that have made progress. It should also be noted that “nature-based solutions” have entered the vocabulary, although CSOs remain vigilant, believing that this term is not a guarantee in itself, as the meaning that each and everyone attributes to this expression may not be the same.

The Abidjan initiative is also a good example of a country committing to ways of implementing neutrality in the fight against land degradation. Agroecology, put on the agenda by civil society organizations.

Regarding the organization of CSOs within the COP, since 2019 CARI has hosted the CSO representative of WEOG (Western, a group that includes Europe and other developed countries) and chair of the CSO panel, Manon Albagnac. Remarkable, but demanding, facilitation work among the CSOs present enabled the delivery of 18 plenary statements on the various topics under negotiation. Numerous important debates were held on agroecology in various forums – including some in plenary during the “open dialogues” – drawing in particular on the work of the 17 country workshops organized by CARI prior to the COP, as well as the online survey and the summary webinar in anticipation of the Désertif’actions 2022 summit. This work also served as inspiration for the civil society declarations.

However, despite these efforts, a certain lack of consultation with the negotiating parties prevented agro-ecology from being highlighted in the text as an approach advocated by the Convention to combat land degradation. CARI also deplored the near-absence of local authorities and parliamentarians in the Convention, and the lack of representation of European NGOs. For the latter, it called on member states to provide greater support and mobilization of EU countries to engage their civil societies in the cause of combating land degradation as the “mother of all environmental battles”. For example, by mobilizing national or European official development assistance budgets for public awareness programs and involvement in territorial actions, as well as support for stakeholder networks. After a few questions and answers, the speech concluded with the French Presidency of the European Union thanking CARI for its commitments, and encouraging its President Patrice Burger for his long-standing commitment to the cause of land.

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