UNCCD : Global Desertification Meeting Yields Mixed Results (Google Alert / EarthTrends

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Global Desertification Meeting Yields Mixed Results

By Amy Cassara on Monday, September 17, 2007.


On Saturday, the governing body for the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) concluded its 8th Conference of Parties (COP) meeting in Madrid. While organizers were happy to report the passage of a new 10-year plan of action and the appointment of a new Secretary-General, the conference’s failure to approve a final budget inspired criticism from some environmental groups.

The UNCCD entered into force in 1996 and is dedicated to addressing the problems of land degradation in the world’s drylands. Along with two other international agreements–the Convention on Biodiversity and the Framework Convention on Climate Change–the UNCCD was created in response to a call from the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) at the 1992 Rio de Janeiro “Earth Summit.”


Unlike its sister agreements, however, the UNCCD has faced funding insecurities since its inception. The convention was not able to secure a consistent funding mechanism until 2002, when an agreement was reached to use Global Environment Facility monies, and its core budget was cut significantly in 2006-2007. Last week, the proposed budget failed to pass because the Japanese delegation was unable to approve a 5% increase in Euro terms (IISD 2007). This may have been due to the surprise resignation of Japan’s prime minister. The budget discussions will resume at an extraordinary meeting during the upcoming UN General Assembly meeting in New York.


Some participants to the convention are hopeful that the proposed budget will pass easily at this session based on the strength of the UNCCD’s new 10-year plan and the promising appointment of a new Secretary-General. Others worry that the Convention, which primarily represents developing country concerns, will continue to experience the resource cuts that have become increasingly common in development aid and multilateral processes (IISD 2007).


The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment defines desertification as “a persistent reduction in the services provided by dryland ecosystems.” Drylands cover more than 40 percent of the earth’s surface and are home to at least 2 billion people; more than 10-20 percent of these lands are considered degraded. Considered a “crisis of global proportions” by the United Nations, desertification could displace more than 50 million people in the next decade. The 10-year strategic plan adopted by the UNCCD last week will work to reverse desertification through awareness-raising, improved policy frameworks, science and technology, and capacity-building exercises.


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Author: Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.

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