In December 2010, the General Assembly adopted a resolution on the “Implementation of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification in Those Countries Experiencing Serious Drought and/or Desertification, Particularly in Africa” [A/RES/65/160] and decided to convene a high-level meeting on the theme: Addressing desertification, land degradation and drought in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication on 20 September 2011.
- Drylands occupy 41.3% of the global terrestrial area and are home for 34.7% of the global population
- Two billion hectares of land for crop production are lost every year
- Desertification affects 2 billion people
- More than 50% of agricultural land is moderately to severely degraded
- Land productivity is declining at an alarming rate of 1% per year in some areas
- Droughts have negative knock-on effects on the condition and the treatment of women
Since 1996, the international community has sought to combat desertification, land degradation and drought through the implementation of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD). At the turn of the century in the year 2000, the international community launched an aggressive campaign to combat poverty through its global campaign for the Millennium Development Goals to eradicate poverty by 2015.
We are four years away from this target date, but poverty persists, especially in the areas affected by desertification. Last year, the UNCCD and the UN Development Programme conducted a study entitled, The Forgotten Billion , which examined the spread of poverty across different ecosystems.
As you move from areas with more natural resource endowments to those with less:
- poverty increases with aridity;
- female adult literacy decreases,
- and child mortality increases as you move from the sub-humid to the arid regions.
The study attributes this pattern of poverty not to the lack of resources per se. Rather, the remote physical location of the drylands, political marginalization and the associated lack of infrastructure have partly led to a limited access to markets, education and health facilities.
And yet, some of the world’s primary cereal producing regions are located in the semi-arid areas: North America’s Great Plains, the Pampas in Argentina, the wheat belts of the Russian Federation, Ukraine and Kazakhstan.
Resolution A/RES/65/160 expresses concern over the increasing vulnerability of poor communities in the arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid areas in Latin America and the Caribbean, Asia, Northern Mediterranean and Central and Eastern European regions. It notes that the 10-year (2008-2018) strategic plan and framework for the implementation of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification is not being fully implemented in these regions. The resolution also notes the negative economic impacts of desertification, land degradation and drought on the affected populations.