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Addressing desertification, land degradation and drought in the Northern Mediterranean

The lands around the Mediterranean Sea (the Mediterranean Basin) form the largest of the five world regions subjected to a Mediterranean climate - long warm to hot dry summers and mild to cool, wet winters. These climatic conditions make the Mediterranean vegetation (woodlands, scrubs and grasslands) well adapted to survive dry conditions and to recover from droughts, floods and fires. Yet, land degradation and desertification do occur in croplands, rangelands and woodlands in the Mediterranean Basin. They have led to economic and social impacts such as land abandonment, migration to urban areas and reduction of the economic value and social function of the land. Population growth in both rural and urban areas increases food demand and leads to intensive cultivation which often exacerbates land degradation and desertification, and causes declining productivity and poverty. Addressing land degradation, desertification and drought in the Mediterranean Basin includes policy reforms and enforcement, as well as research and extension that promote sustainable land use and restoration of already degraded lands. 

Northern Mediterranean regional cooperation

Many areas of the Mediterranean Basin are classified as drylands and hence are prone to desertification, but there are differences between the southern and the northern parts of the basin. In the southern part, most dryland areas are classified as arid and hyper-arid, while in the northern parts only few arid areas, but many dry sub-humid and semi-arid drylands, are found. The semi-arid areas are currently the most affected by desertification, but the concern for dry sub-humid areas is increasing.
 
These concerns have led the countries of the northern parts of the Mediterranean Basin to cooperate under a specific UNCCD Regional Implementation Annex, Annex IV for the Northern Mediterranean.
 
The Regional Implementation Annex IV offers opportunities for an effective national action in the Northern Mediterranean Region. The Annex involves fourteen affected country members and three  observers. Seven of the affected countries are members of the European Union, all but two (Portugal and Hungary) are within the Mediterranean Basin, and all but one (Albania) have drylands. In four affected countries, drylands cover most of the territory.
 
By 2008, five countries had compiled their national action programmes (NAPs) to combat desertification (in order of submission – Portugal, Italy, Greece, Turkey and Spain). Already in 1999, the first five members of Annex IV (Greece, Italy, Portugal, Spain, and Turkey), had agreed on a draft Terms of Reference for the preparation of the regional action programme (RAP), which should include among its priorities
• identification of the desertification "hot spots" of the Region;
• establishing regional benchmarks and indicators for the state of the Region's productive lands;
• harmonizing collection and analysis, and exchange of technical and scientific data;
• involving the Region's civil society; as well as
• promoting use and conservation of the Region's traditional knowledge.
 
In 2011, the members of Annex IV identified priorities for five subprograms of the regional work programme for 2012 – 2013. These include
(a)  aligning existing NAPs with the ten-year Strategy;
(b)  generating a roadmap for further developing Annex IV RAP;
(c) exploring options for  Regional projects;
(d) Regional testing of the impact indicators adopted by the COP; and
(e) exploring the possibilities for cooperation with other countries of the Mediterranean Basin and with the Central and Eastern European countries.
 
Many members of the Annex IV participate in research and development projects that are supported by the research framework programmes of the European Union. These programmes involve various themes and components concerning land degradation and desertification, including the establishment of a clearing house mechanism on desertification for the Northern Mediterranean.  
 

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