What is the Purpose of the Convention to Combat Desertification?

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In response to the severe drought that killed 200,000 people and millions of animals in Africa in the 1960s and 1970s, the United Nations organized the first convention to combat desertification in Nairobi, Kenya in 1977. But it wasn’t until the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro that the international community committed to a concerted effort by way of the United Nations Convention […].

Ten years after it came into effect on December 26th, 1996, the results are not as encouraging as anticipated. In the southern countries, the officials from the departments of the environment secretaries generally have little sway in interdepartmental decisions. According to Liliane Ortega, who is part of an intergovernmental task force in charge of developing a new strategic plan to combat desertification, “some feel that it was a mistake to make it into an environmental convention.” She continues, “There is also an issue of technical competence.” National action plans are financed by national budgets and donor country contributions. In this way, Germany, Italy, France, and the Netherlands have been very committed to Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger, and Chad to help officials from the departments of the environment to put together sound action plans. “But this did not keep these strategies from being rather removed from the realities of the region and fairly unsatisfactory,” adds the SDC expert. The result of this is that very few action plans are being implemented.

Because, apart from the four-year 250 million international budget from the Global Environment Facility (GEF), financing of initiatives still depends largely on bilateral aid. “The convention may not be progressing but it is the only forum of the UN, and therefore of democracy and the world, where this crucial issue can be discussed. Without it, Africa would not have a voice in this area. Here again, experts and international consultants would be speaking on its behalf. In other words, this forum continues to be invaluable,” explains Ortega. In conclusion, she argues that “it is therefore better to opt for improving the convention rather than criticizing and abandoning it.”

À quoi sert la Convention sur la Désertification ?

La Revue Durable, Issue 23, February 2007


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