Desertification, land degradation and drought
Paragraph 33 of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development focuses on the linkage between sustainable management of the planet’s natural resources and social and economic development as well as on “strengthen cooperation on desertification, dust storms, land degradation and drought and promote resilience and disaster risk reduction”.

Sustainable Development Goal 15 of the 2030 Agenda aims to “protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss”.

The economic and social significance of a good land management, including soil and its contribution to economic growth and social progress is 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, catalyse 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 addressed.

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

In accordance with its multi-year programme of work, CSD-8 in 2000 reviewed integrated planning and management of land resources as its sectoral theme. In its decision 8/3 on integrated planning and management of land resources, the Commission on Sustainable Development noted the importance of addressing sustainable development through a holistic approach, such as ecosystem management, in order to meet the priority challenges of desertification and drought, sustainable mountain development, prevention and mitigation of land degradation, coastal zones, deforestation, climate change, rural and urban land use, urban growth and conservation of biological diversity.

The sectoral cluster of land, desertification, forests and biodiversity, as well as mountains (chapters 10-13 and 15 of Agenda 21) were considered by CSD-3 in 1995 and again at the five-year review in 1997.

The UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) 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. 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.

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 sub humid 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.

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, water and biota that land comprises. This broad integrative view of land resources, which are essential for life-support systems and the productive capacity of the environment, is the basis of Agenda 21's and the Commission on Sustainable Development's consideration of land issues.

Expanding human requirements and economic activities are placing ever increasing pressures on land resources, creating competition and conflicts and resulting in suboptimal use of resources. By examining all uses of land in an integrated manner, it makes it possible to minimize conflicts, to make the most efficient trade-offs and to link social and economic development with environmental protection and enhancement, thus helping to achieve the objectives of sustainable development. (Agenda 21, para 10.1) The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) is the task manager for chapter 10 of Agenda 21.
Copyright United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs