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SVG contributes to SDGs as Chair of GRULAC in Ankara

SVG contributes to SDGs as Chair of GRULAC in Ankara

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Fitzgerald Providence, chief forestry officer, spent the two weeks from October 11 to 24 representing SVG in Ankara, Turkey.

The occasion was the 12th Session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 12) to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD).{{more}} The UNCCD is one of the three sustainable development treaties, otherwise known as the Rio Conventions – the other two being the climate change and bio-diversity conventions.

This COP 12 of the UNCCD was a very special session indeed, as it was being held immediately after the adoption of the sustainable development goals (SDGs), and the Post-2015 agenda by the United Nations General Assembly, this past September.

SDG 15 (there are 17 in all) aims to “Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss,” and therefore has to do with the question of ensuring sustainable land management (SLM). Addressing this issue of SLM is the main objective of the UNCCD. Consequently, the 12th Session was, inter alia, about the role of the UNCCD in helping Country Parties in achieving land degradation neutrality in accordance with point 3 of SDG 15.

Providence, as the representative of SVG, chaired all sessions of the Group of Latin America and the Caribbean (GRULAC). These sessions took place at least once each day, for the entire duration of COP 12. Here the SVG chief forestry officer played the key role in facilitating the compromises necessary, so that GRULAC could reach common regional positions on all of the important issues deliberated and negotiated at the COP. This was not always an easy task especially with many countries having very different positions on crucial issues such as the understanding of land degradation neutrality, and what are the indicators to be used to measure achievement of the same.

As chair, the SVG delegate had to take the lead in addressing all sessions of the plenary on behalf of GRULAC. Providence also had to take the positions of GRULAC into the broader developing world grouping of G 77 and China. Here the regional Latin America and Caribbean positions had to be reconciled with those of Africa and Asia. This meant that the SVG delegate operated both as technical expert and diplomat not only on the behalf of SVG, but the entire Latin America and the Caribbean region.

From all reports, Providence delivered and SVG can be justly proud of its role at the UNCCD COP 12 in Ankara, Turkey, and indeed, its contribution to bringing more clarity to, and agreement on a workable and practical understanding of the concept of land degradation neutrality.

It should be noted that the Vincentian delegate did not return home empty-handed. SVG will be one of eight CARICOM countries to benefit from a land degradation neutral project to be done under the auspices of the UNCCD Secretariat.

The project, conceptualized by another Vincentian, Dr Richard Byron-Cox, should see implementation by the spring of 2016. Byron-Cox, who is the UNCCD’s Action Programme Alignment and Capacity Building Officer, indicates that the main goal of the project is to help participating countries in the setting of national targets to achieve land degradation neutrality by 2020.

The Forestry Department, being SVG’s National Focal Point to the UNCCD, is expected to play the leading role in the implementation of the project. Consequently, Providence will be doing more work for SVG in its efforts to achieve SDG 15.

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