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January 20, 2018

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Secretariat of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD)


Land degradation occurs everywhere, and it is called "desertification” when it occurs in drylands. Desertification is the loss of biological or economic productivity and complexity in croplands, pastures, and woodlands. It is due mainly to climate variability and unsustainable human activities. The most commonly cited forms of unsustainable land use are overcultivation, overgrazing, deforestation, and poor irrigation practices.

Drylands cover 40 per cent of the world land mass. In Africa, 46 per cent of the continent is at risk of desertification. Asia, on the other hand, is the most severely affected continent in terms of the population. Desertification is not a problem for developing countries only or particular groups of people. For example, North America is the continent with the highest proportion of severely or moderately affected drylands. Thirteen countries in the European Union also suffer from desertification. Moreover, the impacts of desertification are felt within and across countries in the form of environmental migrants and in economic losses.

Developed as a result of the 1992 Rio Summit, the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) is a unique instrument drawing attention to land degradation in the most vulnerable ecosystems and vulnerable populations in the world. Today the Convention enjoys universal membership and is recognized as a tool for achieving sustainable development and reducing poverty.

The Convention pursues long-term integrated strategies that focus on improving land productivity and rehabilitation, conservation, and sustainable management of land and water resources, in order to achieve sustainable development in affected areas. As recognised by the World Summit on Sustainable Development, the Convention plays a key role in efforts to reach the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), particularly with regard to the eradication of extreme poverty and hunger.

The 10-year Strategic Plan and Framework to Enhance the Implementation of the Convention for 2008- 2018 was adopted at COP8 in Madrid, Spain, in 2007. Its aims are 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 Strategic Plan and Framework supports the development and implementation of national and regional policies, programmes and measures to prevent, control and reverse desertification/land degradation and to mitigate the effects of drought through scientific and technological excellence, awareness raising, standard setting, advocacy and resource mobilization.

(Source: Common Information Unit of the UN Organizations in Bonn)

UN Campus
Platz der Vereinten Nationen 1
53113 Bonn

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Last update: June 15, 2016



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