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The 2013 Caux Dialogue on Land and Security was attended by over 200 people from all continents - representing government, business and civil society - to explore the potential of sustainable land management as a driver of peace, development and climate change mitigation. The event promoted a holistic approach to poverty conflict and environmental degradation.
All of us depend on a thin dusting of topsoil scattered over the continents. History shows how the rise and fall of civilizations stem from the state of the ground beneath their feet. Yet every year an area three times the size of Switzerland is now lost to agriculture. Already 80 per cent of the world’s conflicts take place in the drylands, as people compete for land. And this will get worse as, with population growth, more people will have to be fed from less of it.
Yet this is a reversible crisis. Land can be restored – and this is already happening, at remarkably little cost, all over the world as local farmers take action to re-vegetate dry and degraded land. Such re-vegetation also combats global warming by removing vast amounts of carbon from the atmosphere. Nevertheless, international conferences and negotiations over food security, water management, population growth, climate change, peace and security pay little attention to the state of our soils.
Caux has a decades-long track record of addressing the root causes of conflict, and Luc Gnacadja, the Executive Secretary of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification, asked it to examine the links between land and security. This led to two well-received full days as part of the Caux Forum for Human Security in 2011 and 2012, and such was the response that in 2013 these were expanded into the four day Caux Dialogue on Land and Security.
Eminent keynote speakers, featured on the previous pages of this report, were complemented by grassroots practitioners presenting spectacular successes, leaving their audiences asking if before/after slides were shown in the correct order. Many different techniques were presented, but everyone agreed that the hardest task is not restoring the land but establishing the human relationships of trust needed if it is to succeed.
‘Through ingenuity and cooperation we can still restore degraded lands and ecosystems.... The Caux Dialogue has become an important global platform to make this happen.’
This became particularly clear during the focus day on the Sahel, where participants from governments to nomadic communities identified the loss of land as the biggest single driver for conflict in the region and stressed that any effort to build lasting peace and security must start with restoring it. Indeed rehabilitating land can become a common endeavor for conflicting groups, and the more land is brought back into production, the more competition for land is mitigated.
All this depends on a shared understanding and vision – which can only be achieved with an inclusive, multi-stakeholder approach, including such diverse actors as business, political leadership, foreign donors, the development and security communities and the people of the drylands themselves. Not least, different religious groups need to peacefully work together.
Caux’s ample experience of trust and community building based on values common to all major faiths proved to be highly relevant. Initiatives for Land, Lives and Peace will continue brokering the necessary conversations at Caux and supporting trustbuilding and community action on the ground.
The Caux Dialogue on Land and Security will be an annual meeting place to connect, equip and inspire, and we are greatly looking forward to the next one from June 30th to July 4th, 2014. Please save these dates in your diary, and get in touch here to help further develop a programme that builds on this year’s success and addresses new needs and questions.
We look forward to seeing you there.
27–28 June (Side-Event)
30 June–4 July
Caux dialogue on land and security
Just governance for human security
Seeds of inspiration
26 July–2 August
Children as actors for transforming society - CATS
Impact Initiatives for Change
International peace-builders' forum