Friday, December 17, 2010

Dire issues converge in the drylands

Kanya d’Almeida in IPS: Few are aware that close to one billion people in over 100 different countries are suffering from or severely threatened by intense desertification. Yet awareness is crucial, for it is human behaviour that has led to the proliferation of hyper- arid, uncultivable drylands over the past few decades.

As vast amounts of land are increasingly lost to desertification, the United Nations General Assembly declared the United Nations Decade for Deserts and the Fight Against Desertification (UNDDD), scheduled to run from January 2010 to December 2020 to raise awareness and develop action plans to protect the drylands. On Thursday, the European Launch of UNDDD was held in London, home to scores of NGOs, think-tanks and advocacy organisations dedicated to combating land degradation and promoting the sustainability of deserts.

Researchers, activists and policy experts gathered to share knowledge, strategies and perspectives on the crisis, working within the framework that "A decade is time enough for change." Jointly organised by the U.N. Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), United Nations Environment Programme-World Conservation Monitoring Center (UNEP-WCMC), and the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), the European Launch earmarked the culmination of the 2010 calendar year for the Decade, including events in Fortaleza, Brazil; Nairobi, Kenya; Seoul, Republic of Korea and Colorado, United States.

Following the disappointments in Cancún and the failure of countless international treaties to stem land degradation, the Decade presents the international community with an opportunity to act swiftly and urgently to deal with the crisis. The drylands are home to one in every three people on earth. Some of the world's most dire issues - from biodiversity and food production, to energy extraction and famine - converge in the drylands….

Camel's Rock in Tunisia, shot by Jaume Ollé, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license

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