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UN Conference calls for additional efforts to address desertification and drought worldwide

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Bonn, 5 December 2000 - "We are ready to see if progress has been achieved in combating desertification worldwide", said today Mr. Hama Arba Diallo, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), few days before the opening of the fourth session of the Conference of the Parties to the UNCCD (COP-4), from 11-22 December in Bonn, Germany.
About 2,000 delegates from over 170 countries are expected to arrive in Bonn to attend the Conference, including Heads of State and of Government, ministers, representatives of intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations, and the media.

They will review programmes and policies elaborated and implemented at the national, sub-regional and regional levels by countries affected by desertification and drought in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, as well as in the Northern Mediterranean. They will further discuss results and difficulties encountered in this process, future initiatives and requirements needed to ensure success to this process.

Developed country Parties, the United Nations and other international organizations will also report on initiatives taken in support of affected developing country Parties.

Non-governmental organizations will participate and contribute their experience in particular through two specific sessions on the agenda of the Conference.

Drought and desertification seriously threaten the livelihoods of over 1.2 billion people worldwide who depend on the land for most of their needs. They undermine the land productivity, and the populations' wealth and health in over 110 countries.

Todate, the number of Parties to the Convention has increased to 171, reflecting the growing importance assigned to this global phenomenon. Nothwistanding the financial difficulties, more than 80 reports have been submitted this year from affected country Parties for consideration at the COP-4.

Over thirty National Action Programmes to combat desertification and mitigate the effects of drought have been elaborated and adopted. Activities are underway to strengthen collaboration also at the sub-regional, regional and interregional levels. Thematic Programme Networks are being launched in Asia and Africa to focus efforts on issues of particular relevance in the framework of policies to implement the UNCCD, such as water management, agroforestry, soil conservation, desertification monitoring and assessment, rangeland management and dune fixation, and others.

"However, we note with increased concern that this process lacks the kind of support it is entitled to in terms of financial assistance from the international community for its timely and effective implementation", said Mr. Theo-Ben Gurirab, President of the 54th session of the United Nations General Assembly, and current Minister of Foreign Affairs of Namibia.

"The amount raised to cover the needs of all African countries for the preparation of their national reports is equivalent to the grant that the Global Environmental Facility allocates to one single country for its 'enabling activities'. - he added - Furthermore, we have to underline that the UNCCD implementation cannot be conceived only in bilateral terms as it remains a multilateral instrument addressing the vital issue of sustainable development in arid ecosystems."

The agenda of the Conference further includes review of the activities of the Global Mechanism, the institution in charge of channeling funds for the CCD implementation in affected developing countries, and the discussion on a declaration of commitments to enhance the implementation of the CCD.

Specific attention will be devoted to the problems of Eastern and Central European countries, through the adoption of a specific "implementation annex", the fifth to the Convention, in addition to those for Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, and the Northern Mediterranean.

The subsidiary body of the Convention, the Committee on Science and Technology, will also meet during the first week .

Over 35 parliamentarians from 25 countries will come to Bonn to further address the need for international support to the implementation of the UNCCD. They will gather from 12-13 December at the Third Interparliamentary Round Table.

"Strengthened partnership and cooperation are essential for the successful implementation of the UNCCD," said Mr. Diallo.

The Convention stresses the global dimension of desertification and calls for increased efforts towards the implementation of national, subregional and regional action programmes to combat desertification, and the promotion of sustainable development particularly in the dry lands of our planet.

It is a legally binding instrument resulting from the Rio Conference on Environment and Development (1992).

Note to journalists: For more information, please contact Rajeb Boulharouf at fax (49-228) 8152899, email rboulharouf@unccd.int , or Sonia Filippazzi at (+49-228) 8152807, email sfilippazzi@unccd.int. Information on the UNCCD is also available via the Internet at www.unccd.int