Do your bit: Focus on days highlighting international issues International Days and Observances
World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought

2020 Theme
Food. Feed Fibre.
Sustainable Consumption and Production

17 June
Celebrated world-wide, June 17 marks the anniversary of the adoption of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification. This is part of the UN campaign to tackle global environmental deterioration in particular by combatting the degradation of drylands. This year's theme highlights the social dimensions of desertification: migration and poverty.

Desertification is 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.

Worldwide nearly 130 million hectares are 'lost' for ever due to degradation and can no longer be used for food production. "Desertification" is not the spread of deserts but the creation of desert-like conditions in the dry lands, which make up 35% of the Earth's land surface. It occurs when the natural vegetation cover is reduced in its cover and the topsoil becomes susceptible to erosion. This initiates a number of other problems including increase surface runoff and stream discharge, reduction of water infiltration and groundwater recharge, change in surface microclimate or reduction in native plants.

The impact of global desertification is threatening the livelihoods of some 1.2 billion people who depend on land for most of their needs. More than 135 million people the equivalent to the population of Germany and France combined - are at risk of being displaced as a consequence of desertification.

"Drought and desertification threaten the livelihood of over 1 billion people in more than 110 countries around the world. Every year, an estimated $42 billion in income and 6 million hectares of productive land are being lost because of desertification, land degradation and declining agricultural productivity, and 135 million people who depend primarily on land for their livelihood are at risk of being displaced" - UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

Additional Resources:

  • Other evironment-themed international days and observaces:
    2 February: Wetlands Day
    21 March: International Day of Forests
    22 March: World Water Day
    22 May: Biodiversity Day
    5 June: Environment Day
    8 June: Oceans Day
    17 June: Desertification Day
    ... see full list 

    GDRC has been working on themes related to this international day/observance, in its feature 'Trialogue', developed by the programme on Urban Environmental Management.

    GDRC therefore reaffirms its committment to uphold the objectives of the World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought, and work towards better understanding of, and action on, combacting desertification.

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