By Monique Barbut, Executive Secretary, UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD); and Sasha Alexander, Policy Officer, UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD)
The livelihoods of over 2 billion people worldwide depend on 500 million small-scale farmers for their food security; however, one-third of all agricultural land is now considered either highly or moderately degraded. The impacts of land degradation not only pose a serious challenge to sustainable development but also amplify the underlying social and political weaknesses at the local and national level, which in turn can contribute to global threats of illegal migration, cross-border conflict, and other forms of violence that feed human insecurity. Proactive solutions (e.g., sustainable land management and ecosystem restoration) that reduce the extent and degree of land degradation can often be cheaper and more effective than relying on crisis management, humanitarian relief, and military means to address the resulting challenges. Improving the well-being of the rural poor and other land-dependent communities will enhance overall human security and help ensure international stability today and in the future.
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Desertification, along with climate change and the loss of biodiversity, were identified as the greatest challenges to sustainable development during the 1992 Rio Earth Summit. Established in 1994, UNCCD is the sole legally binding international agreement linking environment and development to sustainable land management. The Convention addresses specifically the arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid areas, known as the drylands, where some of the most vulnerable ecosystems and peoples can be found. In the 10-Year Strategy of the UNCCD (2008-2018) that was adopted in 2007, Parties to the Convention further specified their goals: “to forge a global partnership to reverse and prevent desertification/land degradation and to mitigate the effects of drought in affected areas in order to support poverty reduction and environmental sustainability”.
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About the Authors:
Monique Barbut was appointed by the United Nations Secretary-General as the Executive Secretary of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), starting 1 October 2013. Ms. Barbut has been committed to the issues of Desertification, Land Degradation and Drought through her previous work as Chief Executive Officer of the Global Environmental Facility (GEF).
During her tenure, the Fourth GEF Assembly amended the GEF Instrument to list UNCCD among the treaties for which the facility acts in the role of financial mechanism. The GEF, as a financial mechanism of the UNCCD, directly contributes to the implementation of the Convention, including the 10-year (2008–2018) Strategic Plan and Framework, adopted by the Conference of Parties during the Eighth Session.
Ms. Barbut attended the first session of the Conference of the Parties (COP1) to the UNCCD as a delegate of the Government of France. She attended COP9 in Buenos Aires as key note speaker and substantively contributed to its outcome.
Prior to joining the GEF, she served as Director of the Division of Technology, Industry and Economics at the United Nations Environment Programme (2003-2006). From 1996 to 2003, Ms. Barbut held different positions in the Agence Française pour le Développement (AFD). Her work there related to the French aid system, particularly sustainable project financing activities in the French overseas territories, and activities relating to ex-post evaluation.
Sasha Alexander is Policy Officer at UNCCD
Connect with UNCCD: @UNCCD