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On World Day to Combat Desertification, UN officials urge aid to affected States

On World Day to Combat Desertification, UN officials urge aid to affected States

Marking World Day to Combat Desertification, traditionally observed on 17 June, United Nations officials have urged international support for efforts by affected countries to halt land degradation.

Drawing attention to the UN Convention to Combat Desertification, Secretary-General Kofi Annan said in a message that the document provided a "global tool" to fight desertification and mitigate the effects of drought. "These are both massive undertakings, and many developing countries have adopted National Action Programmes to coordinate their efforts," he noted, adding that "mobilizing the necessary financial resources to combat drought and desertification remains a significant hurdle" for many of those States.

The President of the General Assembly, Harri Holkeri of Finland, welcomed the fact that over 30 nations have prepared National Action Programmes. "Now these programmes need to be turned into action, and to become an integral part of the development plans of the countries concerned," he said.

National Action Programmes to combat desertification in Mali, China, Senegal, Turkey, Chile, Cuba, Yemen, Lebanon and Cambodia are receiving support from the UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO). "FAO's active involvement in the fight against desertification is vital not only in relation to its mandate to help countries manage forest resources, and preserve soils, water resources, vegetation and biodiversity, but also in fulfilling its mandate to promote food security, particularly of vulnerable rural populations," said the agency's Assistant Director-General, Hosny El-Lakany.

Klaus Toepfer, the Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), noted the link between desertification and poverty. "No long-term strategy to alleviate poverty will succeed in the face of the persistent erosion of the physical resources upon which poor people depend," he said. "Equally, no programme to protect the environment will succeed without alleviating the day-to-day pressures of poverty."

According to UNEP, drylands make up 40 per cent of the world's land surface

and desertification affects the lives of 1 billion people one-sixth of the world's population, among them the poorest people on Earth.

World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought marks the date - 17 June 1994 - when the Convention was adopted. In proclaiming the day in 1994, the General Assembly invited States devote commemorations to promoting awareness of the need for international cooperation to combat desertification and the effects of drought.