Established in 1994, the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) is the sole legally binding international agreement linking environment and development to sustainable land management. It is the driving force behind Sustainable Development Goal 15 and Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN).
UNCCD's history can be traced back to the first United Nations Conference on Desertification (UNCOD) in 1977, which adopted a Plan of Action to Combat Desertification (PACD). Despite the recognition that land degradation and desertification are major economic, social and environmental concerns to many countries of the world, in 1991 the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) concluded that the problem of land degradation in arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid areas had intensified.
Tackling desertification took center stage at the seminal 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) – also known the Earth Summit – held in Rio de Janeiro. The Rio Conference called on the United Nations General Assembly to establish an Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INCD) to prepare, by June 1994, a Convention to Combat Desertification.
In December 1992, the General Assembly agreed and adopted resolution 47/188 on this matter, and the UNCCD was established in 1994.
197 countries and the European Union are now Parties to the Convention. The Conference of the Parties (COP), which is the Convention's supreme governing body, held its first session in October 1997 in Rome, Italy.
The 10-year strategic plan and framework to enhance the implementation of the Convention for 2008-2018 outlined a clear vision to forge global partnerships to reverse and prevent desertification and land degradation. The strategic plan provided a worldwide framework to support the development and implementation of national and regional policies that contribute to the reduction of poverty.
At UNCCD COP13 in September 2017 in Ordos, China, Member States agreed on a new global roadmap to address land degradation. The UNCCD 2018-2030 Strategic Framework is the most comprehensive global commitment to achieve LDN, with the aim of restoring the productivity of vast swathes of degraded land, improving the livelihoods of more than 1.3 billion people, and reducing the impact of drought on vulnerable populations.
The UNCCD is the global voice for land, championing land stewardship to avoid, reduce and reverse land degradation and ensure the ongoing availability of land-based resources vital to human survival. Much has been done, but much more remains to be done.