Numerous events took place in 1996 related to soil and desertification. Nearly 60 countries met under the auspices of the UN to look at revising international law as it relates to landmines. A hemispheric Summit for the Americas provided recommendations for land and agriculture. The FAO helped develop action plans that address the importance of conserving traditional farming practices, planting genetic resources, and feeding the 800 million people who are undernourished. Also, a global summit was held to address urban habitats, including the impact of urbanization on the landscape.
In 1996, the UN Convention to Combat Desertification entered into force. Desertification affects about 70 percent of all drylands and one-quarter of the total land area in the world. Its most obvious impacts are poverty for one- sixth of the world's population, the degradation of 3.3 billion hectares of the total area of rangeland, a decline in soil fertility and soil structure, and the degradation of irrigated cropland. Several international agreements address approaches to dealing with the consequences of soil degradation, coastal erosion, and desertification. The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, for example, provides a basis for global discussions on greenhouse gas emissions, one of many human activities influencing desertification. In 1996, scientists in North Carolina determined that soil plays an important role as a carbon sink, helping account for the one-quarter of carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel combustion currently missing from the atmosphere.
The Convention to Combat Desertification entered into force on 26 December, 90 days after receipt of the 50th ratification. Two meetings of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee for the Convention to Combat Desertification (INCD) were held in 1996 to review current developments and implementation programs and to prepare for the First Conference of the Parties in Rome, 29 September through 10 October 1997. The INCD met for its eighth session in Geneva in February, and for its ninth session in New York in September.
The INCD sessions reviewed the status of ratifications, the situation as regards extrabudgetary funds, and the implementation of the Resolution on Urgent Action for Africa as well as interim measures in other regions. In particular, delegates requested the Secretariat to prepare negotiating texts on the Committee on Science and Technology, communication and information, the Global Mechanism, arrangements to house the Permanent Secretariat, draft rules of procedure for the Conference of the Parties (COP), and draft finan