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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 22nd, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

Towards CSD-16 Via Crutches Provided By The UN Convention on Combating Desertification.

As we wrote in: “Will The UN Try To REVIVE The COMMISSION on SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT So It Can Take Its Right Place In A World That Is Supposed To Re-Engage At Bali?” – Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on December 11th, 2007, CSD 16 will happen one way or another in May 5-16, 2008, and is tusked with: “The Review Session of The CSD Third Implementation Cycle that Will Focus on Agriculture, Rural Development, Land, Desertification, and Africa.”

According to the decisions taken at CSD 11 in 2003, for the Multy-Year Programme of Work for the UN CSD 2004/2005 to 2016/2017, the third cycle that is for the years 2008/2009, is to cover AGRICULTURE, RURAL DEVELOPMENT, LAND, DROUGHT, DESERTIFICATION, AFRICA. Now, because of the system of topics in cycles, these issues will not be taken up again by the CSD by 2017, and there are no clear plans for after this date.

Furthermore, the third cycle is tusked to deal with “Cross-cutting Issues” as follows:
Poverty eradication,
Changing unsustainable patterns of consumption and production,
Protecting and managing the natural resource base of economic and social development,
Sustainable development in a globalizing world,
Health and sustainable development,
Sustainable development and SIDS,
Sustainable development for Africa, Other regional initiatives,
Means of implementation, Institutional framework for sustainable development,
Gender equality. and Education.

We are now in mid-January, so there are less then four months left to the CSD meeting. Usually there are preparatory meetings, but this time only small Regional meetings will be happening. In effect the Economic Commission for Africa held a Regional Implementation Meeting (RIM) in Addis Ababa October 2007, November 4-6, 2007, the Joint Committee on Environment and Development in the Arab Region (JCEDAR), in Cairo, Constituted the Arab RIM, the Asia/Pacific RIM happened in Jakarta, November 26-27, 2008, The ECLAC RIM was held the end of November 2008, and the UN Economic Commission for Europe will hold its RIM January 28-29, 2008.

Ambassador Daniel Carmon, the WEAG CSD Vice-Chair from Israel, announced to a New York, December 19, 2007 meeting of the CSD-16 Bureau, that WATEC, the Tel Aviv October 30-November 1, 2007 Water Technologies & Environmental Control Conference and Exhibition, was an initiative the government took in support of CSD-16. He highlighted the importance of the thematic issues on the agenda of CSD-16 and in particular, the need for supporting Africa and other developing countries, including in the area of agricultural technologies, as highlighted in resolutions of the UN General Assembly. We understand that the ativities of the Israelis prompted Iran to leave the Bureau, and they were replaced by Indonesia. Mr. Tri Tharyat, from Indonesia, is now Vice-Chair from Asia/Pacific. The Arab region seems to be represented by Ms. Kathleen Abdalla, an employee of the CSD Secretariat. An outcome of interest from the above is that the CSD-13 document on water and sanitation will now be reviewed during the second week of CSD-16, under the option of monitoring and follow up of previous decisions.

But the only large meeting, I was told, will be the “International Conference on Combating Desertification” January 22-24, 2008 – Beijing, China. That is this week – and we received the program thereof.

Day 1 (January 22, 2008):

After the Host Government will speak the head of UN DESA, Mr. Sha Zukang, UN USG for Economic and Social Affairs, who hails from China.
Then Mr. Luc Gnacadja, Executive Secretary of UN Convention on Combating Desertification.

Then Regional presentations on Desertification – from Africa, Asia, Latin America, and “Other Regions.”
Followed by Ecosystem Challenges of Desertification – Barriers and Constraints – again per region.
Day 2 (January 23, 2008):

Social, Economic and Financing challenges of Desertification: Barriers and Constraints. – per region.
Followed by – Measures to combat desertification including scientific and technological measures, economic and financial measures and capacity building: Lessons learned and best practices from Africa, Asia, Latin America and other Regions.
Day 3 (January 24, 2008)

Multi-Stakeholder Participation: Contributions of Local Governments and Major Groups, including NGOs – per regions.

Followed by Plenary Session on the Way Forward Combating Desertification in the Broad Context of Sustainable Development: implementing Long-term, Integrated and Comprehensive Strategies, With International Support.
Above is surely a laudable activity under the UN Convention on Combating Desertification (UNCCD) that is a separate activity from the UN Commission on Sustainable Development (UNCSD) – though both organizations, and activities, originate with the 1992 UNCED or the Rio Summit.

While Luc Gnacadja, from Benin, is running an active UNCCD, there is nobody, since September 2007, in charge at UNCSD and no spokesman for this organization was contemplated for the opening session, unless you count on the head of DESA to represent this orphaned organization that is part of his roost. But, to call above meeting an activity of the CSdD boggles my mind – as indeed, the topic of desertification, as important as it really is, covers only a part of the concerns of what should be the larger area of interest of the CSD. We know what we are saying here – because in 1986 I wrote the UNITAR submission for The UN General Assembly Special Session on Africa: “The Potential of A Desert Economy.” That submission became later the basis for the Chapter on Arid and Semi-Arid Lands in The Club of Rome Volume on Africa Beyond The Famine.” Later, after the Rio convention, I also discussed problems of Synergy between the three separate Conventions that resulted from Rio – the Conventions on Climate Change, Biodiversity, and Desertification, and the larger concept of Sustainable Development. It was the Israelis, that under the leadership of Ambassador Israel Eliashiv, with the help of UNDP, organized in Sde Boker, at the Ben-Gurion University of the Desert, a workshop to act on those synergies. It is quite interesting now, how after two and a half days dedicated completely to combating desertification issues, the final plenary looks indeed to the Sustainable Development needs for a strategy of dealing with those subjects.

Again, we think that the results of the Beijing meeting can be a terrific addition to the topics to be discussed at CSD 16, but we must ask nevertheless – addition to what?

The fact is that the Beijing meeting covers clearly Desertification. With added climate change implications this can cover draught. With added social issues it could cover parts of rural development problems in Africa – but it does not cover agriculture at large in a sustainable development context as required from a CSD that is supposed to cover Land topics – presumably in countries that want to increase productivity; think perhaps in terms of agricultural industrialization, and try to compare this with time honored traditional ways.

We believe that we do not just point a finger by saying – that to us, piggybacking on the UNCCD shows the present bankruptcy of the leaderless UNCSD. And this hurts.

It hurts because we believe that when the UNFCCC – the climate convention – finally finds its way on the Road from Bali, and does indeed come up with a post-2012 CO2 emissions’ control program, it will have to be implemented via a Sustainable Development Roadmap. So, reducing to naught the CSD body now, will create serious delays in these programs later.

As we were present at the 5/11/2007 event in the UN basement, and we wrote about that night at that time, we understand why UN donor countries have allowed the CSD to fall into what may become disrepair.

Thus, we think it is for those countries that suffer most from climate change, for their own self interest, they must speak up and ask for a resumption of leadership at the CSD. This leadership has to be an enlightened, a forward looking leadership that is different from the influences of those that thought to drive the organization by looking exclusively at their rear-view mirror, as evidenced by the carrying of colonial time grief into a body – that could have helped their present day poor.

Perhaps by way of exaggeration, we compared that 5/11 evening to the 3/11 and 9/11 symbolic dates. Yes, when all what is being prepared for May 2008 CSD 16, is the outcome of the Beijing meeting, we may be witnessing an outcome of that 5/11 event.

Furthermore, we understand that on the fringe of the Beijing International Conference on Combating Desertification, which has been declared also as an inter-sessional event in contribution to CSD-16, it is the wish of the CSD-16 Bureau, we guess in order to cement this relationship, to declare the occasion also as the place to reconvene itself in Beijing during those days, sometimes during January 22-24, 2008.

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