WHAT IS UNCCD? HOW DOES IT ENGAGE STAKEHOLDERS?
United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) is one of the three conventions, together with the UNFCCC and UNCBD, the process for which was initiated at the Rio Earth Summit 1992, together with adoption of Agenda 21. UNCCD itself was adopted in 1994. Its primary areas of focus are desertification and land degradation, with several further layers of thematic focus such as Land & Human Security, Droughts, and Climate Change. It is an intergovernmental process, which has biennial Conference of Parties (COP), bringing together world governments to negotiate and take action on issues related to Desterfication. The next COP (COP14) will take place in New Delhi, India in from 2 September 2019 - 13 September 2019 .
WHAT IS DESERTIFICATION?
Desertification is not the natural expansion of existing deserts but the degradation of land in arid, semi-arid, and dry sub-humid areas. It is a gradual process of soil productivity loss and the thinning out of the vegetative cover because of human activities and climatic variations such as prolonged droughts and floods. What is alarming is that though the land's topsoil, if mistreated, can be blown and washed away in a few seasons, it takes centuries to build up. Among human causal factors are overcultivation, overgrazing, deforestation, and poor irrigation practices. Such overexploitation is generally caused by economic and social pressure, ignorance, war, and drought.
IS DESERTIFICATION A GLOBAL PROBLEM?
Desertification is a worldwide problem directly affecting 250 million people and a third of the earth's land surface or over 4 billion hectares. In addition, the livelihoods of some one billion people who depend on land for most of their needs and usually the world's poorest in over one hundred countries are threatened.
Though desertification affects Africa the most, where two-thirds of the continent is desert or drylands, it is not a problem confined to drylands in Africa. Over 30 percent of the land in the United States is affected by desertification. One quarter of Latin America and the Caribbean is deserts and drylands. In Spain, one fifth of the land is at risk of turning into deserts. The growing severity of the threat in the Northern Hemisphere is also illustrated by severe droughts in the United States and water scarcity in southern Europe. In China, since the 1950s, sand drifts and expanding deserts have taken a toll of nearly 700,000 hectares of cultivated land, 2.35 million hectares of rangeland, 6.4 million hectares of forests, woodlands and shrublands. Worldwide, some 70 percent of the 5.2 billion hectares drylands used for agriculture are already degraded and threatened by desertification.
WHAT IS THE UNITED NATIONS CONVENTION TO COMBAT DESERTIFICATION (UNCCD)?
On a global plane, the issue of desertification was first discussed at the UN Conference on Desertification held in Nairobi, Kenya in 1977. But due to a lack of support, both administrative and financial, attempts to efficiently tackle the problem of desertification were crippled. Therefore in 1992, the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) or so called Rio Earth Summit recommended the elaboration of a United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD). The Convention, the only convention stemming from a direct recommendation of the Conference's Agenda 21, was adopted in Paris on 17 June 1994 and entered into force in December 1996. It is the first and only internationally legally binding framework set up to address the problem of desertification. The Convention is based on the principles of participation, partnership and decentralization - the backbone of Good Governance. It now has more than 180 country Parties to the Convention, making it truly global in reach.
WHAT IS THE CONFERENCE OF THE PARTIES (COP)?
The Conference of the Parties is the supreme decision-making body. It reviews the implementation of the Convention; promotes and facilitates the exchange of information; approves the budget and activity programmes of its subsidiary bodies; cooperates with international organizations, NGOs & other related conventions; and meets on a biannual basis. You can learn about the outcomes of the latest COP here.