“The COP15 summit in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire, which was focused on desertification and its impacts, closed with commitments by 196 countries to restore one billion hectares of degraded land between now and 2030. They also agreed to enhance drought preparedness, response and resilience.”

Even with these commitments, a number of groups felt left out, particularly the smaller NGOs and civil society groups who are not part of the policy process.

There were very few civil society groups officially invited to attend COP15, and their absence was obvious.

“These platforms are only for high-level people, and they don’t listen to us. I come from a rural area, and even for me to come here, I had to fight, and I came late,” says Mailes Zulu Muke of Save Environment and People Agency, a grassroots NGO in Zambezi, Zambia.

A number of attendees RFI spoke with said that the people on the ground were not acknowledged, or included.

“[At] these high-level conferences here, there are just [academics], and ministers, not people from the ground. Most of the policies without implementation [plans] are just as good as dead,” one attendee said.

Read more: Desertification Summit Ends with Promises to Restore a Billion Hectares of Land