Desertification Convention Nears Completion

UN Chronicle, June 1994 | Go to article overview

Desertification Convention Nears Completion


The International Negotiating Committee charged with creating a new UN instrument to combat desertification continued work on a 42-article draft convention at its third (17-28 January, New York) and fourth (21-31 March, Geneva) sessions. The new convention is scheduled for adoption at the Committee's June meeting in Paris.

With the preliminary official name of "International Convention to combat Desertification in Those Countries Experiencing Serious Drought and/or Desertification, Particularly in Africa", the treaty was called for by the UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), which met in Rio de Janeiro in June 1992.

At that "Earth Summit", participants adopted "Agenda 21"--a comprehensive programme of action aimed at promoting the principles of sustainable development. The action programme highlighted ways to combat desertification through alternative livelihood systems.

In support of "Agenda 21", the General Assembly, in resolution 47/188, established the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee that drew up the new draft convention.

"I hope that we can develop through the convention a truly global partnership to bring desertification under control, to move to sustainable management of dryland areas and to reclaim arid lands", James Gustave Speth, Administrator of the UN Development Programme (UNDP), told the Committee on 17 January.

With population increasing at a rate of about 40,000 people per day, world food output must triple over the next half century, Mr. Speth pointed out. "From this perspective, the goal of achieving sustainable food security in the decades ahead emerges as one of the greatest challenges humanity has ever faced."

According to the draft (A/AC.241/15/Rev.1), the primary aim of the new instrument is to halt the spread of desertification and "mitigate the effects of drought", with the hope of "achieving sustainable development in affected areas". Beyond defining key technical terms like "land degradation", the draft convention identifies national and regional action programmes, technological cooperation, and public awareness campaigns as measures to combat the problem.

Parties to the convention should develop "partnerships among all levels of government, communities, non-governmental organizations and landholders to establish an understanding of the nature and value of land resources in affected areas and to work towards their sustainable use", the draft states.

Affected countries also are urged to "promote awareness and facilitate participation of local populations" and to develop action programmes that include measures to reduce poverty, improve land and water management, and promote food security. …

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