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Fourth Special Session of the Committee on Science and Technology (CST S-4) and
UNCCD 3rd Scientific Conference

9-12 March 2015 | Cancún, Mexico

Summary of the Conference

ENB Meeting Coverage


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Daily Web CoverageAbout | 9 Mar | 10 Mar | 11 Mar | 12 Mar | Summary

A view of the Cancún Center Conventions & Exhibitions, venue of the events (photo courtesy of the Cancún Center Conventions & Exhibitions)
CST Chair Uriel Safriel declared the CST S-4 meeting closed at 5:11 pm.

A view of the Cancún Center Conventions & Exhibitions, venue of the events (photo courtesy of the Cancún Center Conventions & Exhibitions)
Pier Paolo Roggero, DesertNet International, moderating the parallel session on monitoring and assessing processes of degradation

Highlights for Monday, 9 March 2015

On Monday morning, 9 March 2015, Chair Uriel Safriel (Israel) opened the fourth special session of the Committee on Science and Technology (CST S-4) of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), noting that combining a scientific conference with a meeting of policy-making country representatives is unique to the UNCCD process, and expressing high expectations for the forthcoming recommendations. Three opening speakers – Roberto Borge Angulo, Governor of the State of Quintana Roo, Jorge Rescala Perez, General Director of the Mexican National Forestry Commission, and UNCCD Executive Secretary Monique Barbut – welcomed participants and drew attention to some of the challenges presented by desertification, land degradation and drought. They highlighted that 5 million people are affected annually by drought, food demand is expected to increase by 60% by 2050, 75% of poorest people live in rural areas and are fully dependent on land, 2.5 billion people live on small farms and depend entirely on agriculture for survival, and 12 million hectares of land are lost annually due to land degradation, compounded by a 2% decline in agriculture as a result of climate change.

Following a short break, participants reconvened as the UNCCD 3rd Scientific Conference. The Conference is convening from 9-12 March, and focusing on the theme, “Combating desertification/land degradation and drought for poverty reduction and sustainable development: the contribution of science, technology, traditional knowledge and practices.” On the first day of the Scientific Conference, participants engaged in its theme through keynote speeches, poster presentations and workshops on themes addressed in the research presented in the posters. Participants continued their discussions during an evening reception, hosted by the Government of Mexico. The Scientific Conference will continue from Tuesday to Thursday, following which the CST S-4 will reconvene to consider the outcomes from the four-day meeting in Cancun, Mexico.

Visit the web coverage for Monday, 9 March 2015.

Jorge Rescala Perez, General Director, National Forestry Commission, Mexico

UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) Executive Secretary Monique Barbut

Participants applauding the speakers during the opening plenary

Roberto Borge Angulo, Governor, State of Quintana Roo, Mexico

Dais during the opening of the UNCCD 3rd Scientific Conference

Tarja Halonen, UNCCD Drylands Ambassador, and former President of Finland

William Albert Payne, Chair, Conference Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC), Dean and Professor, College of Agriculture, Biotechnology and Natural Resources, University of Nevada, US

Highlights for Tuesday, 10 March 2015

On Tuesday morning, 10 March 2015, Matthias Magunda, CST Bureau member and National Agricultural Research Institution, Uganda, opened the second day of the UNCCD 3rd Scientific Conference and chaired a session on responses to desertification and land degradation through land-based approaches to adaptation. Richard Thomas, Dryland Systems CGIAR Research Program Director, and the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA), Jordan, delivered a keynote address on ways to enhance responses through collaboration. He noted that the main objective should be concentrated on reducing poverty and increasing food security through sustainable land management practices. He urged participants to adopt systems approaches that include comprehensive understanding, diagnosis and decision making in order to transition to research-for-development communities. Thomas emphasized that breakthroughs in science will not come from traditional scientists; they will come through interdisciplinary science.

Also during the morning, five parallel workshops considered poster presentations that scientists had prepared on the workshop topics, followed by a discussion among workshop participants on recommendations for further action. The workshops considered the following themes: Crops, livestock, genetics and seed systems; Agro-ecosystems; Soil and water issues; Knowledge and knowledge transfer; and Desertification, land degradation and restoration.

Mariam Akhtar-Schuster, Member, Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC), Member, UNCCD Science-Policy Interface (SPI), and Coordinator, Advisory Board of DesertNet International, chaired an afternoon plenary on the role of local knowledge in addressing land degradation, desertification and drought, during which Úrsula Oswald Spring, Professor, Regional Multidisciplinary Research Centre, National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), gave a keynote address. Underscoring the interconnections between climate change, biodiversity loss and water stress, Oswald Spring presented on how indigenous and peasant societies in Latin America have combatted land degradation and called for integrated management of land, soil, water, food, biodiversity and human settlements that uses biocultural knowledge and builds on preventive conflict resolution. She concluded by highlighting the need for HUman, Gender and Environmental security, or ‘HUGE security’ that requires a systemic approach dealing with the nexus of water, energy, biodiversity and food.

At the close of the day, rapporteurs for the workshops on Monday and Tuesday reported on the discussions and recommendations from each workshop. Also on Tuesday, seven side events convened, allowing participants to consider topics such as “Making a network of networks work to achieve land degradation neutrality: improving UNCCD stakeholders’ use of scientific knowledge,” “The use of satellite data to measure and monitor land degradation over time at multiple scales,” “The Global Land Outlook” and “COP 12 in Turkey and Turkish Experiences in Combating Desertification.”

Visit the web coverage for Tuesday, 10 March 2015.

Participants during plenary

Jose Jacobo, FEMAT, Mexico

Zalia Yacouba and Adamou Didier Tidjani, University of Niamey, Niger


Vivek Saxena, Ministry of Environment and Forests, India


Krishnamurthy Laksmi Reddiar, Universidad Autonoma Chapingo, Mexico


Graciela Metternicht, University of New South Wales, Australia


Raul Ponce-Hernandez, Trent University, Canada

Highlights for Wednesday, 11 March 2015

On Wednesday, 11 March 2015, the UNCCD 3rd Scientific Conference considered the topic of “Monitoring and Assessment: How to Evaluate the Effectiveness of Adaptation Interventions” during the morning. Tao Wang, Chinese Academy of Sciences, and SAC/SPI Member, chaired the discussion of this topic, which involved a keynote address by Elena Maria Abraham, Director, Argentine Dryland Research Institute (IADIZA), and five parallel workshops. Abraham said the objective is to assess the adaptive capacities and resilience of affected ecosystems. Stressing that no single tool, indicator or analytical model can reliably measure the complexity of links between climate change and land degradation, she noted the importance of integrating outcome-oriented methodologies with context-oriented methodologies through knowledge co-production processes. The workshops addressed: indicators; remote-sensing and mapping; drought, water, hydrology; sustainable land management/land degradation neutrality; and processes of degradation.

CST Chair Uriel Safriel chaired an afternoon session during which three speakers discussed linkages and the possibilities for synergies with other multilateral environmental agreement processes. Graham Von Maltitz, Researcher, Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), South Africa, via skype, provided an overview of the progress on the proposed land degradation and restoration assessment to be undertaken by the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES). Tomasz Chruszczow, Chair, Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA), UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), discussed the institutional structure for addressing climate change and noted entry points for synergies with the UNCCD. Graciela Metternicht, Director, Institute of Environmental Studies, University of New South Wales (UNSW), Australia, discussed some governance, research and operational “imperatives” for improved synergies among the Rio Conventions. Also on Wednesday, six side events convened.

Visit the web coverage for Wednesday, 11 March 2015.

Tao Wang, Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC), UNCCD Science-Policy Interface (SPI), Director and Research Professor, Key Laboratory of Desert and Desertification, Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), China

Elena Maria Abraham, Director, Argentine Dryland Research Institute (IADIZA), National Scientific and Technical Research

Reynaldo Pascual Ramirez, Ana Huaico Malhue, Universidad Autónoma de Baja California, and Raquel Vargas, (CONAGUA)

Octavio Perez Pardo, College of Agricultural Engineering of Santiago del Estero, Argentina

Highlights for Thursday, 12 March 2015

On 12 March 2015, the UNCCD 3rd Scientific Conference convened in the morning to hear keynote presentations on Mexico’s efforts to combat desertification and to consider conclusions from the Conference. Norma Salome Munguia Aldaraca, Director General, Primary Sector and Renewable Natural Resources, Secretaría de Medio Ambiente y Recursos Naturales (SEMARNAT), Jorge Rescala Perez, Director General, National Forestry Commission (CONAFOR) and Mexico’s UNCCD Focal Point, and Jesus David Gomez Diaz, Mexico’s UNCCD Science and Technology Correspondent, discussed Mexico’s national programmes to monitor and address desertification, land degradation and drought, among other activities. William Payne, SAC Chair, and Mariam Akhtar-Schuster, SAC/SPI, presented the final outcome of the UNCCD 3rd Scientific Conference, as contained in document ICCD/CST(S-4)/L.2. Payne noted that the Conference used a “novel, participatory approach” to explore links between biophysical and social systems, with an emphasis on vulnerability. Akhtar-Schuster highlighted policy recommendations, and informed participants that the outcomes would be transmitted to the 12th session of the CST and would be further synthesized by the SPI in a policy brief, which will be finalized in time for UNCCD COP 12 taking place from 12-23 October 2015, in Ankara, Turkey.

Aldrin Martin Perez Marin, Researcher, Research Coordination, National Institute of Semi-Arid (INSA), Brazil and Kherraz Khatim, Executive Secretary, Sahara and Sahel Observatory, Tunisia, reported on workshops and respective regional perspectives.

In the afternoon, CST S-4 reconvened to consider the report of the UNCCD 3rd Scientific Conference and the preliminary CST S-4 report. Following an update from the UNCCD Secretariat on progress towards mainstreaming the concept of land degradation neutrality in the context of the SDGs and statements from delegates, the meeting adopted the report of CST S-4. CST Chair Safriel declared the meeting closed at 5:11 pm.

Visit the web coverage for Thursday, 12 March 2015.

Jesus David Gomez Diaz, Professor, Chapingo Autonomous University (UACh), Science & Technology Correspondent to the UNCCD, Mexico, Norma Salome Munguia Aldaraca, Director General, Primary Sector and Renewable Natural Resources (SEMARNAT), Mexico, Jorge Rescala Perez, Director General, National Forestry Commission (CONAFOR), UNCCD Focal Point, Mexico, Matthias Magunda, Vice-Chair CST, Uganda

Jorge Rescala Perez, Director General, National Forestry Commission (CONAFOR), UNCCD Focal Point, Mexico

Norma Salome Munguia Aldaraca, Director General, Primary Sector and Renewable Natural Resources (SEMARNAT), Mexico

Victor Louro, in conversation during the session

Uriel Safriel, Chair, Committee on Science and Technology, and Klaus Kellner, South Africa


Delegates from Ukraine



Daily Web CoverageAbout | 9 Mar | 10 Mar | 11 Mar | 12 Mar | Summary