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    Press Release No: UNIS/GA/1648
    Release Date:  19  June 2000
    Assembly President Calls on States that Have Not Yet Done So
    To Become Parties to Anti-Desertification Convention

     NEW YORK, 15 June (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the text of the message of General Assembly President Theo-Ben Gurirab (Namibia) on the occasion of the World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought:

    Over 1.2 billion of the world’s people, who depend on the land for most of their needs, live in areas affected by desertification.  This degradation of the land is closely linked with poverty, famine, armed conflicts and recurrent drought.

    Desertification affects more than 110 countries, occurring in arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid areas as a result of various factors, including climatic variations and human activities.  The problem is global, and it is only through concerted efforts that we will rid the world of this major environmental and developmental problem.

    To promote awareness of the need for international cooperation to combat desertification and its devastating consequences, the General Assembly, in 1994, proclaimed 17 June as World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought.  That date marked the adoption, in Paris, of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification in those countries affected by desertification and/or drought, particularly in Africa.  The Convention entered into force in 1996.

    Today, there are 167 country Parties to the Convention, including all African, European and most Asian, Latin American and Caribbean countries.  That high number is an indication that States are setting a fine example for the rest of the international community to get involved in confronting desertification, recurrent drought and land degradation -– all of which are hampering concerted efforts of many countries to overcome serious problems relating to economic growth, wealth creation and sustainable development. 

    Cooperation at all levels, including the strong involvement of civil society, is a key element in the fight against desertification and drought.  I, therefore, wholeheartedly endorse the many activities and initiatives at the local, national, subregional, regional and interregional levels to elaborate and implement action programmes, in the framework of the Convention.

    In that context, I am heartened to note that South-South cooperation is emerging as a major factor in anti-desertification strategies, one example being the Second Africa/Latin America and the Caribbean Forum on the implementation of the Convention to Combat Desertification, held at Bamako, Mali, in March.  A similar process is also under way between Asia and Africa.  And later this year, from 11 to 22 December, representatives from country Parties to the Convention will meet at Bonn, Germany, for the fourth session of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention, aimed at promoting international efforts to combat desertification and mitigate its destructive effects.

    At the third session of the Conference, held at Recife, Brazil, last November, I reaffirmed the commitment of the United Nations and its General Assembly to help combat the menace of desertification, which seriously threatens the livelihoods of hundreds of millions of people.  I do so again today, as we observe this World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought.

    At Recife, I appealed to Parties to the Convention to complete the ratification process, thereby making adherence to the Convention universal.  I also invited the developed countries, the specialized agencies, civil society and all other stakeholders to devise workable measures to promote its effective implementation.  Such implementation, it goes without saying, must be linked to capacity-building, financing and technological know-how; in other words, the necessary resources must be mobilized.

    Today, I appeal to the remaining 26 Member States of the United Nations that have not yet done so, to join the rest of the international community in becoming parties to the Convention.

    Let me reiterate what I said at Recife, and which remains valid today:  there will be neither sustainable development, nor environmental protection, nor improvement in the climate for future generation, nor preservation of the biodiversity, if we do not protect the earth from desertification and its political, moral, economic and social consequences.  In this undertaking, all levels of society must actively participate.

    On this World Day, I pledge, as President of the United Nations General Assembly, and as a citizen of a country, Namibia, which is affected by these twin scourges, to continue to do my utmost towards combating desertification and mitigating its devastating effects.

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