United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification in those Countries Experiencing Serious Drought and/or Desertification, Particularly in Africa


The Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee on Desertification, a subsidiary body of the UN General Assembly, adopted the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) on June 17, 1994. It came into force on December 26, 1996.

The UNCCD is one of the three conventions discussed at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, or the Rio de Janeiro Earth Summit, in June 1992. It works closely with the other two Rio Conventions: the Convention on Biological Diversity and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The UNCCD has 114 signatories and 197 Parties to the Convention. (In UN documents, a ‘Party’ to a treaty is a country that has ratified or acceded to that particular treaty, and is therefore legally bound by the provisions in the instrument).

India signed the UNCCD in October 1994 and ratified it in December 1996. (Signatories are qualified to ratify, accept or approve a treaty. Ratification is an 'international act' whereby a State indicates its consent to be bound to a treaty.) The country formulated its first National Action Programme to Combat Desertification, as required by the Convention, in the year 2001. The Programme presents an overview of India’s natural resources, discusses desertification and its impacts, and outlines its various measures to combat the issue.

The Convention is divided into six parts which include 40 articles, along with five region-specific annexes. Article 1-3 (Part I) define desertification and related terms, and outline the objectives and principles of the Convention. Articles 4-8 (Part II) mention general provisions as well as the obligations of country Parties to eradicate poverty and reduce the effects of desertification and drought. Articles 9-21 (Part III) outline action programmes to reduce desertification, emphasise scientific and technical coordination, and discuss supporting measures to promote public awareness and local participation.

Articles 22-25 (Part IV) introduce various agencies and bodies to implement the Convention, including the Conference of the Parties, its main body. Articles 26-32 (Part V) demarcate procedures for settling disputes, introducing amendments to the Convention and other tasks. Articles 33-40 (Part VI) contain provisions regarding signing, ratification and withdrawal.

The five annexes focus on regions requiring special assistance to tackle desertification and droughts: Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, the Northern Mediterranean, and Central and Eastern Europe.

The following are excerpts from 9 of the 40 Articles, from Parts I-V, which remain especially relevant to present times:

Article 1: For the purposes of this Convention “desertification” means land degradation in arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid areas resulting from various factors, including climatic variations and human activities; “combating desertification” includes activities which are part of the integrated development of land in arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid areas for sustainable development which are aimed at: prevention and/or reduction of land degradation; rehabilitation of partly degraded land; and reclamation of desertified land.

Article 2: The objective of this Convention is to combat desertification and mitigate the effects of drought in countries experiencing serious drought and/or desertification, particularly in Africa, through effective action at all levels, supported by international cooperation and partnership arrangements. […] Achieving this objective will involve long-term integrated strategies that focus simultaneously, in affected areas, on improved productivity of land, and the rehabilitation, conservation and sustainable management of land and water resources, leading to improved living conditions, in particular at the community level.

Article 4: In pursuing the objective of this Convention, the Parties shall [...] integrate strategies for poverty eradication into efforts to combat desertification and mitigate the effects of drought. […] Affected developing country Parties are eligible for assistance in the implementation of the Convention.

Article 7:  In implementing this Convention, the Parties shall give priority to affected African country Parties, in the light of the particular situation prevailing in that region, while not neglecting affected developing country Parties in other regions.

Article 12: Affected country Parties, in collaboration with other Parties and the international community, should cooperate to ensure the promotion of an enabling international environment in the implementation of the Convention. Such cooperation should also cover fields of technology transfer as well as scientific research and development, information collection and dissemination and financial resources.

Article 16: The Parties agree, according to their respective capabilities, to integrate and coordinate the collection, analysis and exchange of relevant short terms and long term data and information to ensure systematic observation of land degradation in affected areas and to understand better and assess the processes and effects of drought and desertification. This would help accomplish, inter alia, early warning and advance planning for periods of adverse climatic variations in a form suited for practical application by users at all levels, including especially local populations.

Article 20: Given the central importance of financing to the achievement of the objective of the Convention, the Parties, taking into account their capabilities, shall make every effort to ensure that adequate financial resources are available for programmes to combat desertification and mitigate the effects of drought. In this connection, developed country Parties, […] undertake to: mobilize substantial financial resources, including grants and concessional loans, in order to support the implementation of programmes to combat desertification and mitigate the effects of drought.

Article 22: The Conference of the Parties is the supreme body of the Convention. It shall make, within its mandate, the decisions necessary to promote its effective implementation. In particular, it shall […] establish such statutory bodies as are deemed necessary for the implementation of the Convention.

Article 32: Each Party to the Convention shall have one vote. Regional economic integration organizations, in matters within their competence, shall exercise their right to vote with a number of votes equal to the number of their member States that are Parties to the Convention. Such an organization shall not exercise its right to vote if any of its member States exercises its right, and vice versa.

Focus by Shaifali.


United Nations


United Nations


17 Jun, 1994