(formerly IRIN News) Journalism from the heart of crises

UN desertification conference opens

Signatories to the UN Convention to Combat Desertification began presenting reports yesterday at an international conference in Senegal on their efforts to stop land degradation and reduce the effects of drought.

The interim secretariat of this UN convention, established in 1997, said in a statement yesterday that the oral progress reports at this second conference would be put in writing and in greater detail for the next meeting, scheduled for the second half of 1999.

The review will allow governments, it said, to direct their efforts at areas with the highest priority in fighting desertification. The third conference will place emphasis on Africa, it said, where 73 percent of the continent is severely or moderately desertified.

Officials from the 150 countries represented at the Dakar conference will also discuss relations with the Global Environment Facility (GEF), a multi-billion-dollar fund set up by the international community in 1990. At its first assembly in April, the GEF decided it could fund efforts to combat desertification so long as the projects were linked to its core areas of interest: climate change, biodiversity, international waters or depletion of the ozone layer.

Under the Convention, countries affected by desertification must work with the population and adapt their legal, institutional and policies so that local communities partake actively in fighting desertification. Developed nations and donor agencies are expected to improve coordination with the affected countries when offering financial and technical help.

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