Updated: 2017-06-07 Print

Basic information about the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD)

Ⅰ Background of the UNCCD

The United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) launched negotiations on the convention in 1992. In December of the same year, the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INCD) was established in accordance with resolution 47/188 of the United Nations General Assembly. The Assembly finished negotiating the convention in five sessions. The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification -- the full name of which is the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification in Those Countries Experiencing Serious Drought and/or Desertification, Particularly in Africa -- is one of the three conventions reached in Rio de Janeiro, the other two being the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Convention on Biological Diversity. The convention entered into force on Dec 26, 1996. China's National People's Congress approved it on Dec 30, 1996. To date, there are 195 parties to the convention.

Ⅱ Objectives and basic contents

The convention has three objectives: to establish a global cooperation partnership to combat desertification across the planet; to promote prevention, control and recovery of land desertification; and to improve the biology of the region experiencing desertification and the lives of people affected by desertification.

The convention has six parts. Part One is an introduction which identifies the convention's objectives and principles. The convention in Part Two stipulates the parties' general obligations. Part Three describes the convention's action programs, scientific and technical cooperation and supporting measures, including national action programs, sub-regional and regional action programs, technology transfer and capacity building. The convention's institutions, including the Conference of the Parties, Permanent Secretariat, and Committee on Science and Technology are described in Part Four. Part Five establishes procedures related to the convention, including communication of information, settlement of disputes and creation of amendments. Part Six sets out procedures related to signature, ratification, acceptance, approval and accession.

In addition to its main provisions, the convention also includes five regional implementation annexes for Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, the Northern Mediterranean and Central and Eastern Europe.
The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification is the first global environmental convention signed by the international community after the UNCED. It is an important achievement of the international community's efforts to implement the tasks of UNCED, and is the first global convention focused on land questions.

The convention aims to build an international cooperation mechanism to promote prevention and control of desertification and mitigate the effects of drought.

Ⅲ Institution

The Conference of the Parties (COP) is the supreme decision-making body of the convention. The COP is held biennially. It now has two affiliated bodies: the Committee on Science and Technology (CST) and the Committee for the Review of the Implementation of the Convention (CRIC).

The CST was established in line with Article 24 of the UNCCD. It aims to provide information and advice on scientific and technological matters related to combating desertification and mitigating the effects of drought.

The CRIC was established in line with Article 22 of the UNCCD as a subsidiary body to the COP to assist it in regularly reviewing the implementation of the convention.

The Secretariat provides support to the sessions of the COP and its subsidiary bodies and facilitates assistance to affected country parties. It is headquartered in Bonn, Germany. Monique Barbut was appointed by the United Nations Secretary-General as the Executive Secretary of the UNCCD as of Oct 1, 2013.

Financial mechanisms: the UNCCD has two financial mechanisms, the Global Mechanism (GM) and the Global Environmental Facility (GEF). The GM was set up in line with Article 21 of the UNCCD. Before 2011 it was affiliated with the UN's International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). At present it is combined with the secretariat and is tasked with prioritizing aid to developing countries in improving their funding capability and providing funding information. The CEF provides projects with financial support for the parties through a special sector for land degradation.

Regional implementation coordination mechanism: The UNCCD has five regional implementation annexes, and each region has established a Regional Coordination Mechanism (RCM), which includes a Regional Committee (RM) and Regional Coordinating Unit (RCU) and Thematic Program Networks (TPNs). To date, all the five regions have set up a regional implementation coordination mechanism, but only Africa and Latin America have established a regional implementation coordination committee.

Ⅳ UNCCD' s effect on combating desertification

The UNCCD has advanced the setting of related global objectives. It promotes scientific and technological communication, strengthens fund raising, and encourages party countries to make and improve domestic laws, policies and national action programs. The convention has made an active contribution to the global fight against desertification.

1. Promote global consensus

Since the birth of UNCCD in 1994, it has established a World Day to Combat Desertification, the 2006 International Year of Deserts and Desertification, the United Nations Decade for Deserts and the Fight against Desertification (2010-2020) and the 2015 International Earth Year. Through the above designations the convention has issued messages from the UN Secretary-General while organizing public education, celebrations, policy forums, science seminars and science evaluation reports across the world. Global awareness in combating desertification is improving.

International cooperation in combating desertification keeps strengthening. In 2007, over 190 party countries passed the 10-year Strategic Plan and Framework to set the direction for the Implementation of the Convention (2008-2018).

The 2011 High-Level Meeting on Desertification, Land degradation and Drought and the Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in 2012 proposed an approach of "land degradation neutrality". In 2015, the UN included the fight against desertification in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and proposed to achieve world-wide land degradation neutrality by 2030, thus achieving a global consensus in combating desertification.

2. Promote science and technology exchanges

The UNCCD has positioned the CST as a subsidiary body to the COP, providing scientific and technological advice to the conference. The CST is also active in promoting relevant research in prevention and control of desertification. Since 2007, it has completed special assessments such as the "Land Degradation Assessment in Dry Lands", "Economical Assessment of Land Degradation" and "Desertification and Climate Change", which discuss the interaction of desertification with climate change and bio-diversity, as well as its relation with global food security.

In 2017, a report on the global land outlook will be released, and global progress in combating desertification will be reviewed regularly to improve the international community's awareness of the desertification problem.

The CST has organized a science and technology conference, made an experts catalogue, and worked together with international organizations and research institutes. It established the Scientific Knowledge Brokering Portal (SKBP) and a sustainable land management capacity building platform to promote knowledge and technology exchanges and experience sharing in prevention and control of desertification.

3. Strengthen fund raising

The implementation of the UNCCD is the driving force in the fight against desertification.

In order to energize that fight the GEF became the convention's financial mechanism in 2003 in support of the party countries in prevention and control of desertification and land degradation. The third, fourth and fifth project periods from 2002 to 2014 allocated $1.08 billion to subsidize regional and national projects to combat land degradation, the projects in total amounting to $6.1 billion. Meanwhile, it provided capital for the 10-year Strategic Plan and Framework to enhance the Implementation of the Convention (2008-2018).

China's investment in combating desertification has increased sharply in recent years, with investments in fields such as the networks of shelter belts in northwest-north-northeast China, grassland protection and protected areas construction.

Ⅴ Focus issues

Since most the countries affected by desertification are less developed and grouped in limited areas, the UNCCD, although positioned to promote global combat against desertification, has not gained the attention of developed countries compared with the other two conventions reached in Rio. The convention still has issues such as a lack of political will, scope dispute, insufficient investment and poor implementation.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development proposes to achieve land degradation neutrality by 2030, and to upgrade anti- desertification efforts to the level of sustainable development. The UNCCD will further implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development under a new strategic framework (2018-2030) in confirmation of the voluntary targets of land degradation neutrality.

2030 Land Degradation Neutrality Voluntary Targets

ⅠInternational background

In 2015, the UN mapped out the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and included land degradation neutrality in Sustainable Development Goal target 15.3.

The UNCCD is the UN's only convention on land. In 2015, the 12th session of the COP decided to let party countries develop national land degradation targets on a voluntary basis and to submit national land degradation neutrality reports to the thirteenth session.

Ⅱ China's work

China has achieved distinctive results in combating desertification. From the beginning of this century and during the three consecutive monitoring periods, China's area of desertification land was reduced and the rate of land reclamation was increased. China has already exceeded the target in the UN's 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. However, China still faces severe desertification problems in some areas.

China is one of the over 100 countries participating in the LDN Target Setting Program. In order to advance the fight against desertification and to implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, The State Forestry Administration, as the unit in charge of desertification prevention and control, launched the LDN Target Setting Program on Dec 20, 2012 and is organizing experts to report on land degradation neutrality based on China's relevant plans and strategies. A draft of the report is expected to be finished by the end of June.

Ⅲ Main content of China's national report on land degradation neutrality

The report has four parts. The first part is an introduction to China's desertification situation. Part Two is about China's efforts and achievements in combating desertification. The third part is China's voluntary targets in achieving LDN from 2017 to 2030. Part four introduces the main measures and actions in order to reach these goals.

China's national report on land degradation neutrality records the country's approaches, achievements and technologies in combating desertification in an overall way, and shares China's experience with the world. It sets forth to the international community China's LDN targets and its strategy for implementation of the UN 2030 Agenda in keeping with the responsibilities of a major country.