states vow stronger anti-desertification drive
- This is the EarthSave Discussion and Information Group (EDIG)
150 states vow stronger anti-desertification drive
By Shasta Darlington
SAO PAULO, Nov 27 (Reuters) - More than 150 countries agreed on Saturday
to step up a U.N.-led effort to protect fertile land from encroaching
deserts, closing a two-week Brazilian conference on the global
Deforestation, climate change, huge population growth, and excessive
farming and grazing are largely blamed for turning 58,000 square miles
(150,000 sq. km) -- an area larger than New York state -- to dust each
The damage costs governments more than $4 billion annually and affects
more than 1 billion people, many of whom have been forced to migrate to
cities and other countries in search of work and food.
Seven years after countries joined the first drive against
desertification at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, officials
gathered in Brazil's northeastern city of Recife to assess local measures
and talk about global implementation.
The Recife Initiative signed on Saturday aims to stem the mounting
ecological and social catastrophes that were most thoroughly detailed by
acutely affected African nations.
But spats between advanced economies and the developing world over who
should foot the bill ultimately dashed hopes of major budged increases
for the U.N. Convention to Combat Desertification.
BUDGET INCREASE FALLS SHORT
The convention hoped to boost its two-year operating budget to $19.6
million from just $6.1 million this year. Member nations, however, only
agreed on an operating budget of $13.7 million.
Affected countries and environmental groups lashed out at developed
nations, claiming they have not followed through with sorely needed funds
to prevent desertification despite speedy progress on detailed proposals
and national action programmes.
``It's simple -- we do all the work they ask of us and then they refuse
to pay,'' said one Latin American delegate.
Developed countries, however, said that they spent billions of dollars a
year on programmes to fight land degradation, erosion and poverty and
that affected countries needed to ensure that some of these funds were
earmarked for the drive against desertification.
``We are providing a lot of money through different channels,''
Ingrid-Gabriela Hoven, the head of Germany's Environment Division, told
Reuters during the week. ``We can't tell developed countries how to
The convention's executive secretary, Hama Arba Diallo, agreed that
affected nations must ``challenge desertification trends.'' But he also
endorsed their need for greater international support.
COMMITMENT, IMPLEMENTATION URGED
``The implementation of decisions just adopted will require the sustained
commitments by all actors concerned and a more decisive mobilisation by
the international community,'' Diallo said in a statement on Saturday.
``We will not be able to guarantee a minimum of success in the future if
there is no continuity in the support provided to the affected
The Recife Initiative calls for members begin talks to detail commitments
and implement anti-degradation efforts. It suggests that members focus on
specific areas and sectors proposed in African nations' action plans.
The initiative also proposes that the anti-desertification convention be
integrated into developing countries' mainstream national development
plans to ensure that the effort benefits from bilateral funding projects.
And finally, in response to repeated criticism during the conference that
independent organisations had been ignored, the initiative calls on
environmental and other nongovernmental groups to take part in
Some 900 government delegates and more than 200 representatives of the
United Nations and intergovernmental and nongovernmental organisations
attended the conference. Over 50 ministers and deputy ministers addressed
delegates, and 23 countries issued declarations calling for strong and
effective actions against dry-land degradation.
The next conference will be held in Bonn, the convention's headquarters,
from Oct. 16 to 27, 2000.
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