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2010–2020: UN Decade for Deserts and the Fight against Desertification

Background Information


With more lands around the world facing increasing deterioration and degradation, the United Nations General Assembly declared the United Nations Decade for Deserts and the Fight Against Desertification, which runs from January 2010 to December 2020 to promote action that will protect the drylands. The Decade is an opportunity to make critical changes to secure the long-term ability of drylands to provide value for humanity's well being.

The goals and objectives of the Decade flow directly from the General Assembly's resolution A/RES/64/201. The motivation for this resolution was the Parties' concern about the deteriorating situation of desertification in all regions, which has far-reaching implications for the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals, particularly the eradication of poverty and ensuring environmental sustainability.

In this regard, the resolution mandates the pursuit of three objectives, which are:

Origins of the Decade

Building on the successful celebration of the International Year of Deserts and the Fight Against Desertification (IYDD) in 2006, the United Nations General Assembly, by its resolution A/RES/62/195 of 2007, declared 2010 to 2020 the United Nations Decade for Deserts and the Fight Against Desertification (UNDDD).

The Assembly acknowledged the persistence of desertification, despite past and on-going global efforts, and a slow response to poverty eradication among drylands populations, and declared the Decade a period for concerted global action.

During the Decade, all actors are called upon to raise awareness about desertification, land degradation and drought and their solutions. The Decade campaign is intended to reinforce the implementation of the ten-year strategy for 2008-2018, on the implementation of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification.

At the 69th session of the UN General Assembly, the UN Secretary-General will report on progress made to implement the resolution.

Key Challenge

The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment of 2005 estimates that 10% of the drylands suffer from one or more forms of land degradation. Poverty is one of the causes as well as a consequence of desertification. Recent assessments showing that poverty eradication is lagging most in the arid areas suggest that it is not only undermining the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals but may also hinder ongoing efforts to recover degraded land. With climate change drought will emerge in new areas, making them more vulnerable to degradation, while areas already prone to drought will suffer more frequent and intense droughts.


The Decade events and campaigns are open to all. They are spearheaded by the UN agencies tasked with this role by the UN General Assembly in December 2009. These are UN Department of Public Information (DPI), International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), UN Development Programme (UNDP) and UN Environment Programme (UNEP).

Key Terms

Drylands refer to arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid areas, and excludes deserts, when used in the context of sustainable development. Desertification refers to the land degradation in arid, semi-arid and sub-humid areas resulting from various factors, including climatic variations and human activities. When land degradation happens in the world’s drylands, it often creates desert-like conditions.