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United Nations Convention to combat desertification in countries seriously affected by drought

The European Union has adopted the United Nations Convention to combat desertification in countries seriously affected by drought and/or desertification. The aim of the Convention, which was signed in 1994, is to combat desertification and mitigate the effects of drought in those countries experiencing serious drought, particularly in Africa, through international cooperation and effective action at all levels.

ACT

Council Decision 216/98/EC of 9 March 1998 on the conclusion, on behalf of the European Community, of the United Nations Convention to combat desertification in countries seriously affected by drought and/or desertification, particularly in Africa.

SUMMARY

The European Community (EC) adopted the United Nations Convention to combat desertification in countries seriously affected by drought and/or desertification by means of this Decision.

The Council of the European Union, acting by qualified majority on a proposal from the Commission, has adopted the position to be taken by the EC at the Conference of the Parties where that body is called upon to adopt decisions that have legal effect.

The EC is represented at the Conference of the Parties by the Commission in the case of matters coming within Community powers.

The Convention

The aim of this United Nations Convention is to combat desertification and mitigate the effects of drought in those countries experiencing serious drought/or desertification, particularly in Africa through effective action at all levels. These measures are underpinned by international cooperation and partnership arrangements, under an integrated approach complying with Agenda 21, to contribute to sustainable development in the areas concerned. Action 21 is an international action plan designed to achieve sustainable development in the 21st century.

The Convention consists of 40 articles and 5 annexes defining the arrangements for implementing the Convention in Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Caribbean, Northern Mediterranean and Central and Eastern Europe.

Desertification is due primarily to human activity and climatic variations. It does not mean the advance of current areas of desert. It is the result of the extreme vulnerability of the ecosystems in arid areas to over-exploitation and inappropriate use of land. Poverty, political instability, deforestation, overgrazing and bad irrigation practices are all factors which have a deleterious impact on the productivity of the land.

Under the Convention measures to combat desertification include action to promote the integrated development of land in arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid areas to:

  • prevent and/or reduce land degradation;
  • rehabilitate partly degraded land;
  • reclaim desertification areas.

The Convention is being implemented through national, sub-regional and regional programmes which are designed to form an integral part of a country's national sustainable development policy. They are updated under an ongoing participative process in the light of work on the ground and the results of research.

Local communities play a key role in the formulation and implementation of these action programmes as they are dependent on the land.

Closer international cooperation between developed and developing countries is essential to implement the Convention. Nevertheless, the governments of the countries affected by desertification retain responsibility for the creation of an enabling environment to help local populations themselves bring an end to the process of land degradation. Governments must make politically sensitive changes such as greater decentralisation of decision-making, improvement of land tenure systems and empowerment of women and farmers.

The Convention does not have a centralised financial mechanism for projects but there is a Global Mechanism to help mobilise substantial financial resources from existing sources and to rationalise and improve their management.

The Conference of the Parties is the Convention's supreme body. It is responsible for taking the decisions necessary to promote its effective implementation.

Desertification poses the greatest threat in Africa. The disappearance of forest cover at a rate of 3.7 to 5 million hectares a year has an impact on surface and underground water, and 50 % of agricultural land on the African continent is affected by soil degradation and erosion.

The Convention was drawn up at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, was signed in 1994 and came into force on 26 December 1996. To date over 170 countries have ratified the Convention which is a legally binding instrument.

In October 2001 the 5th session of the Conference of the Parties set up a subsidiary body, the Committee for the Review of the Implementation of the Convention (known under the acronym CRIC). The Committee reviews and analyses the national progress reports on the Convention's implementation submitted to the Conference of the Parties by the Parties and by observers. Its aim is to use these examinations and analyses to improve the consistency, impact and efficiency of policies and programmes to restore the agro-ecological balance of dry areas.

REFERENCES

Act Entry into force Deadline for transposition in the Member States Official Journal
Decision 216/98/EC [adoption: simple consultation CNS/1997/0211] 19.3.1998 - Official Journal L 83 of 13.3.1998
Last updated: 30.05.2007
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