Following two weeks of high-level meetings and negotiations, the 15th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) adopted decisions to improve drought resilience, reduce land degradation, and invest in land restoration efforts. Many delegates called for strengthening synergies among the three Rio Conventions and links with other UN agencies and environmental agreements.

The Earth Negotiations Bulletin (ENB) analysis of the meeting notes that other areas of progress achieved during COP 15 include: emphasis on the “vital role of women, youth, and Indigenous Peoples and local communities in addressing” desertification, land degradation, and drought; a new partnership model for large-scale integrated landscape investment programmes; and attention and resources for “greening initiatives in all shapes and sizes.”

Several new commitments were adopted during the COP. The Abidjan Call, issued by the Heads of State and Government, reaffirms their continued commitment to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, especially SDG 15.3 on achieving land degradation neutrality (LDN) by 2030. Leaders urge countries to place soil and land in the center of spatial planning policies that will establish healthy ecosystems and ensure global food security.

The Abidjan Declaration on Achieving Gender Equality for Successful Land Restoration, which emerged from the Gender Caucus, underscores the pioneering role of the Convention in championing women’s rights, including with respect to land tenure.

The Land, Life and Legacy Declaration, includes the Abidjan Legacy Programme – a five-year, USD 1.5 billion comprehensive approach to fight against deforestation through forest restoration, which aims to restore 20% of the Ivorian forest cover by the end of the decade.

In addition, UNCCD COP 15 adopted 38 decisions, including agreement to:

  • Accelerate the restoration of one billion hectares of degraded land by 2030 through improved data collection, monitoring, and reporting;
  • Improve national policies and early warning, monitoring, and assessment, in particular as related to sand and dust storms, and drought;
  • Improve efforts around capacity building, sharing of knowledge and lessons, and coordination towards these efforts at the regional level;
  • Establish an Intergovernmental Working Group on Drought for 2022-2024 to support a shift from reactive to proactive drought management;
  • Develop policies to reduce the impact and occurrence of sand and dust storms through early warning, risk assessment, and reducing man-made causes;
  • Ensure greater synergies among the three Rio Conventions, including complementarities in the implementation of these treaties through nature-based solutions and target setting at the national level; and
  • Strengthen the participation of civil society organizations (CSOs) and youth in the work and meetings of the UNCCD.

COP 15 convened in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, from 9-20 May 2022. UNCCD’s flagship Global Land Outlook informed the discussions on land restoration. [ENB Summary Report of UNCCD COP 15]