Tshwane Municipality Executive Mayor: Cllr Kgosientso Ramokgopa on behalf of Minister Molewa, addresses Africa Regional Preparatory Meeting to UNCCD CoP12

Protea Hotel Fire and Ice Menlyn, 01 September 2015


Programme Director;
The Executive Secretary of the UNCCD, Ms Monique Barbut;
Honourable Minister of Environmental Affairs (South Africa): Ms Edna Molewa (In absentia);
Honourable Minister of Environment and Tourism; Republic of Namibia and UNCCD COP 11 President: MP, Pohamba Shifeta;
Honourable Deputy Minister of Environmental Affairs (South Africa): Ms Barbara Thomson (In absentia);
Deputy Director-General and staff of the Department of Environmental Affairs;
UNCCD Staff;
UNCCD Focal Points from the African Region and Partners;
Representatives of different organisations and partners present here today;
Distinguished Guests;
Ladies and gentlemen.


On behalf of the Government and the People of the Republic of South Africa, let me welcome all our visitors to our country. We find ourselves greatly honoured to be the host of such an important meeting where the African Focal Points to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) will discuss issues in preparation for the upcoming twelfth session of the Conference of the Parties to the UNCCD (CoP 12) in Ankara, Turkey in October this year. I hope you will be able to find our environment and facilities suitable for thorough preparations for the CoP. South Africa, the cradle of humankind, welcomes you home!

As you are aware, Africa’s desertification is strongly linked to poverty, migration and food security. South Africa, being the chair of the African group, would like to see a situation where concrete common positions will be reached during this meeting. This will make our coordination task easier during the upcoming UNCCD CoP 12 negotiations. We hope that those of you who are party to this Africa Regional Preparatory meeting will also be present in numbers during CoP 12 to ensure that the ideas we share here and the common positions we reach here will have champions and defenders in Turkey in October 2015.

Meeting objective

As already mentioned, this meeting has been organised to bring together all African Focal Points and experts on the UNCCD to come together and formulate regional positions on the different agenda items of the CoP. The meeting is also expected to develop coordination mechanisms and agree on task divisions among those African Focal Points who will lead and provide support to our group in the negotiations of different agenda items.

Critical agenda issues

Programme Director, Distinguished participants;

Going through the proposed agenda for CoP 12 one can already tell that the negotiations will not be easy. We have issues that are outside the normal trend of our agenda and these issues will determine the future of this Convention. For instance, the COP will have to come up with a strategy on the integration of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) targets into the UNCCD implementation. This is very critical as global financial flows will now focus on the SDGs. It is therefore important that we position ourselves correctly to benefit from resources available. The report of the Intergovernmental Working Group (IWG) on Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN), which I am told has some issues not fully agreed on will have to be aligned with the implementation of the SDGs moving forward.

Linked to the above agenda item, the CoP will also consider the implication of the post 2015 development framework and the SDGs for the delivery of the UNCCD science and policy efforts, including the review of the report of the Committee on Science and Technology (CST) and its recommendations to the COP. As we are all aware, the work of the CST provides us with the technical strategies and methodologies to engage as we fight Desertification, Land Degradation and Drought (DLDD). Therefore, it is important that as we move beyond 2015 with our global agenda, programmes of work for CST should be recognised and supported.

Potential discussions on the above-mentioned issues may call for the formulation, revision and implementation of action programmes differently from the current arrangement following the post 2015 sustainable development framework. This may require a review or recrafting of the UNCCD Ten Year Strategic Plan and Framework. A strong African Position has to be crafted to properly guide our negotiators on this crucial subject.

Programme Director, Ladies and gentlemen.

The Secretariat has made a proposal under the subject on, “additional procedures or institutional mechanisms to assist the CoP in regularly reviewing the implementation of the Convention”. When the proposal was presented during the thirteen session of the Committee for the Review of the Implementation of the Convention (CRIC 13) no one was ready to discuss it as it is a sensitive issue touching on the institutionalised Convention procedures. The CoP will deliberate on this proposal and a resolution will be taken. Let us then take the available opportunity and deliberate on this very important issue with the aim of finding the best solution for the Convention.

There are many other agenda items which are equally important for Africa to deliberate on and develop its common position, but I just thought I should only touch on the few discussed above.

As I conclude, let me thank the Executive Secretary for making time to attend this important meeting. Madam, Africa is the backbone of this Convention and with your support; its implementation can change lives of millions of our people. We are well aware of the different opinions regarding the housing of the Regional Coordination Unit for Africa. There is an urgent need to resolve these issues and the office needs to be strengthened so that it can deliver according to its mandate.

Due to other pressing matter I will not be able to attend the upcoming UNCCD CoP 12. In this regard, I would like to introduce the new Deputy Minister of Environmental Affairs, Ms Barbara Thomson, who will lead the South African Delegation during the upcoming UNCCD CoP 12 in Turkey.

I also wish to extend our sincere gratitude to the Honourable Pohamba Shifeta, our UNCCD CoP 11 President for taking time to be with us here. You’re wise Council to our African UNCCD Focal Points and negotiations is very much appreciated. 

I now wish all our National Focal Points and different experts in this room the best as they deliberate on the agenda items. You must remember that the outcome of this meeting will determine our effective engagement in the upcoming COP. Being the once that stand to gain a lot from the effective implementation of this Convention, we must strive to work together at all times and embrace the principle that what seeks to unite us is always greater than what seeks to divide us.   

I cannot end my speech without thanking our partners who have generously supported this meeting. Our appreciation goes to the African Union (AU), New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD); the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN); the Permanent Interstate Committee for drought control in the Sahel (CILLS); the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). 

I wish you a fruitful and successful meeting, as I believe that reaching a common understanding on these relevant issues can help to advance the region.

I thank you!