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Desertification & Drought

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Deserts are among the "fragile ecosystems" addressed by Agenda 21, and "combating desertification and drought" is the subject of Chapter 12. Desertification includes land degradation in arid, semi-arid and dry subhumid areas resulting from various factors, including climatic variations and human activities. Desertification affects as much as one-sixth of the world's population, seventy percent of all drylands, and one-quarter of the total land area of the world. It results in widespread poverty as well as in the degradation of billion hectares of rangeland and cropland.

In addition to addressing desertification and drought in Agenda 21, the UN Conference on Environment and Development (Earth Summit) also called upon the United Nations General Assembly to establish an Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INCD) to prepare, by June 1994, an international convention to combat desertification in those countries experiencing serious drought and/or desertification, particularly in Africa.

In December 1992, the General Assembly agreed (resolution 47/188). The Convention was adopted in Paris on 17 June 1994 and opened for signature there on 14-15 October 1994. It entered into force on 26 December 1996. The year 2006 was declared by the United Nations General Assembly, in its resolution (A/RES/58/211) The International Year of Deserts and Desertification.

Combating desertification and drought has been discussed by the Commission on Sustainable Development in several sessions. In the framework of the Commission's current multi-year work programme, the third cycle, CSD 16-17 in 2008 and 2009 will focus on desertification and drought along with the interrelated issues of Land, Agriculture, Rural development and Africa.