Making good sense more attractive than nonsense

19.10.2011. This second week of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention to Combat Desertification has seen an escalation of activity, as Ministers arrived in town. Parties have worked into the night to resolve differences of opinion and develop a text for adoption by the Conference, writes Jonathan Davies, Coordinator of IUCN’s Drylands Initiative.

Jonathan Davies

The High Level segment has witnessed a number of strong statements by government ministers and experts on global challenges, such as poverty and health, and their link with land. Big numbers are being reeled off, such as the estimated 12 million hectares of land that is degraded every year, and the 43 billion dollars per year that is cost by desertification. Yet misunderstanding of this issue called “desertification” is rife. There are exhibitions and films advocating tree planting in deserts – beautiful places that need protection from environmentalists, in many cases it would appear. There are also some interesting, not to say off-the-wall, technologies being promoted that have little to do with the way people in most of the world’s drylands live, and everything to do with the way scientists in laboratories in the rich world make a living.

But at the same time there is a lot of good sense being talked, and this is exciting stuff. How do we make the good sense more attractive than the nonsense? This is my biggest headache right now.

One opportunity might be to generate greater interest in drylands biodiversity and try to “sell” drylands as somewhere loveable and worthy of our attention. We have been doing this for years through economic valuation work, but I think something more eye-catching is needed. Let’s see if we can do something on this at the IUCN World Conservation Congress next year to showcase the wonderful biodiversity of drylands.

IUCN’s efforts here have not been wasted. The gallant efforts of the Gender team appear to have paid off, with adoption of a text in support of the Gender Policy Framework written and led by IUCN. In fact, the UNCCD secretariat seems interested to get IUCN to document its experiences and explain what we did so well, so that others can benefit from this in future. On the other hand, our efforts to get tenure adopted through the CRIC (the Committee for the Review of the Implementation of the Convention) have been less successful and all the miscellaneous extra Advocacy Policy Frameworks were being called into question. We’ll see if this is the final decision on the matter.

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