June 17 was declared "World Day for Combating Desertification" by the UN.

Desertification is land degradation in the drylands which is driving millions of people hungry, unemployed, and homeless. This land degradation is caused by human activities, such as deforestation, unsustainable agriculture and over-grazing, made worst by periodic drought. 1 billion people in more than 100 countries in all continents are affected by this silent catastrophe. The world's dry lands are loosing 24 billion tons of top soil each year, which is an irrecoverable loss. Desertification is a major agent behind 60% of the poverty around the world.

The United Nations negotiated a Convention (international legal instrument) to combat land degradation in world's dry lands. This convention was adopted on June 17, 1994. The Convention provides stategies to deals with global problem by adopting multi-sectoral participatory approach based on cooperation among Governments, Inter-governmental organisations and NGOs.

Implementation of the Convention to Combat Desertification calls for building partnership among all sectors of society because WE all are stake holders in this fight against desertification. We can not afford to loose this war because world food security, social security and even human survival is at high risk. If we do not pay due attention to develop sustainable livelihoods in dry lands, then millions more families, uprooted because of hunger and poverty, will be forced to migrate from their homelands.

Since desertification is a silent disaster which is rapidly eating up fertile lands, it did not hit the head lines in news like deforestation, ozone layer depletion or global warming. Media has been almost ignorant about issue which has direct link with poverty crises in the world. Instead media has focused on the effects of desertification, such as famine, rather than the causes.

We the members of civil society gathered from different countries at "Forum on Local Area Development to fight Desertification" at Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) headquarters in Rome, urge international media members:

Signed at "Forum on Local Area Development to fight Desertifi- cation" at Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) headquarters (Rome, June 06, 1996)

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