United Nations’ Milestones for Combating Desertification, Land Degradation, and Drought


Agenda 21 (Chapters 10 and 12)

Integrated planning and management of land resources is the subject of chapter 10 of Agenda 21, which deals with the cross-sectoral aspects of decision-making for the sustainable use and development of natural resources, including the soils, minerals, and water that land comprises.

Included in the sections devoted to the management of fragile ecosystems, chapter 12 has focused on combating desertification and droughts.

The priority to keep in mind while combating desertification is identified by Chap 12.3 in the need to implement “preventive measures for lands that are not yet degraded, or which are only slightly degraded.

However, the severely degraded areas should not be neglected. In combating desertification and drought, the participation of local communities, rural organizations, national Governments, non-governmental organizations, and international and regional organizations is essential”.


United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification

The only legally binding international agreement connecting environment and development to sustainable land management, UNCCD addresses the arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid areas, known as the drylands, where some of the most vulnerable ecosystems and peoples can be found.

In 2007 the 10-Year Strategy of the UNCCD (2008-2018) was adopted and on that occasion, parties to the Convention further specified their goals: “to forge a global partnership to reverse and prevent desertification/land degradation and to mitigate the effects of drought in affected areas in order to support poverty reduction and environmental sustainability”.

The Convention was adopted in Paris on 17 June 1994 and entered into force on 26 December 1996, 90 days after the 50th ratification was received. 194 countries and the European Union are Parties as at April 2015.


Commision on Sustainable Development – 8 (Chapter 4)

As decided at UN General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS), the economic, sectoral and cross-sectoral themes under consideration for CSD-8 were sustainable agriculture and land management, integrating planning and management of land resources and financial resources, trade and investment and economic growth.CSD-6 to CSD-9 annually gathered at the UN Headquarters for spring meetings.

Discussions at each session opened with multi-stakeholder dialogues, in which major groups were invited to make opening statements on selected themes followed by a dialogue with government representatives.


International Year of Deserts and Desertification

The International Year of Deserts and Desertification was launched to highlight the threat represented by the advancing of deserts and the loss it may cause to biodiversity.

Through this International Year, the UN aimed at raising public awareness on this issue and at reversing the trend of desertification, setting the world on a safer and more sustainable path of development.


CSD-16 (Chapter 2 C, D, E)

CSD-16 focused on the thematic cluster of agriculture, rural development, land, drought, desertification, and Africa.


United Nations Decade on Desertification

Launched by the General Assembly with the adoption of Resolution A/RES/64/201, the UN Decade for Deserts and the Fight Against Desertification was designed to address the Parties concern about the worsening of the situation of desertification and its negative impact on the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.

The Decade started in January 2010 and will end in December 2020 with the aim of promoting action ensuring the protection of dry-lands.


Future We Want (Paragraphs 205 -209)

The economic and social significance of a good land management, including soil and its contribution to economic growth and social progress is also recognized in paragraph 205 of the Future We Want.

In this context, Member States express their concern on the challenges posed to sustainable development by desertification, land degradation, and drought, especially for Africa, LDCs and LLDCs.

At the same time, Member States highlight the need to take action at national, regional and international level to reverse land degradation, catalyze financial resources, from both private and public donors and implement both the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) and its 10- Year Strategic Plan and Framework (2008-2018).

Furthermore, in paragraphs 207 and 208 of the Future We Want, Member States encourage and recognize the importance of partnerships and initiatives for the safeguarding of land resources, further development, and implementation of scientifically based, sound and socially inclusive methods and indicators for monitoring and assessing the extent of desertification, land degradation and drought.

The relevance of efforts underway to promote scientific research and strengthen the scientific base of activities to address desertification and drought under the UNCCD is also taken into account by paragraph 208.


2030 Agenda Sustainable Development Goal 15

SDG 15 aims at protecting, restoring and promoting sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss.

Target 15.3 in particular reads to achieve “by 2030, combat desertification, restore degraded land and soil, including land affected by desertification, drought, and floods, and strive to achieve a land-degradation-neutral world”.

Follow United Nations Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform for the full article.

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