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United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification - UNCCD Philippines


The international community has long recognized that desertification is a major economic, social and environmental problem of concern to many countries in all regions of the world. In 1977, the United Nations Conference on Desertification (UNCOD) adopted a Plan of Action to Combat Desertification (PACD). Unfortunately, despite this and other efforts, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) concluded in 1991 that the problem of land degradation in arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid areas had intensified, although there were ”local examples of success.”

As a result, the question of how to tackle desertification was still a major concern for the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), which was held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. The Conference supported a new, integrated approach to the problem, emphasizing action to promote sustainable development at the community level. It also called on the United Nations General Assembly to establish an Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INCD) to prepare, by June 1994, a Convention to Combat Desertification, particularly in Africa. In December 1992, the General Assembly agreed and adopted resolution 47/188.

Working to a tight schedule, the Committee completed its negotiations in five sessions. The Convention was adopted in Paris on 17 June 1994 and opened for signature there on 14-15 October 1994. It entered into force on 26 December 1996, 90 days after the fiftieth ratification was received. 193 countries were Parties as at August 2009. The Conference of the Parties (COP), which is the Convention's supreme governing body, held its first session in October 1997 in Rome, Italy.

As of November 2008, there were 193 Signatory States and Parties to the Convention. It is one of the three ‘Rio’ conventions (i.e. the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (UNCBD).

Strategic objectives and expected impacts

The following “strategic objectives” will guide the actions of all UNCCD stakeholders and partners in the period 2008–2018, including raising political will. Meeting these long-term objectives will contribute to achieving the above-mentioned vision. The “expected impacts” are the long-term effects intended by the strategic objectives.

  1. To improve the living conditions of affected populations.
  2. To improve the condition of affected ecosystems.
  3. To generate global benefits through effective implementation of the UNCCD.
  4. To mobilize resources to support implementation of the Convention through building effective partnerships between national and international actors.

Operational objectives and expected outcomes

The following “operational objectives” will guide the actions of all UNCCD stakeholders and partners in the short and medium term4 with a view to supporting the attainment of the above mentioned vision and strategic objectives. The “outcomes” are the short and medium-term effects intended by the operational objectives.

  1. Advocacy, awareness raising and education
    • To actively influence relevant international, national and local processes and actors in adequately addressing desertification/land degradation and drought-related issues.
  2. Policy framework
    • To support the creation of enabling environments for promoting solutions to combat desertification/land degradation and mitigate the effects of drought.
  3. Science, technology and knowledge
    • To become a global authority on scientific and technical knowledge pertaining to desertification/land degradation and mitigation of the effects of drought.
  4. Capacity-building
    • To identify and address capacity-building needs to prevent and reverse desertification/land degradation and mitigate the effects of drought.
  5. Financing and technology transfer
    • To mobilize and improve the targeting and coordination of national, bilateral and multilateral financial and technological resources in order to increase their impact and effectiveness.

UNCCD and the Philippines as a Party to the Convention

Within the context of the Convention, desertification is defined as degradation of drylands. It involves the loss of biological or economic productivity, and complexity in croplands, pastures, and woodlands. It is due mainly to climate variability, and unsustainable human activities. By definition of the Convention, drylands have limited freshwater supplies where precipitation can vary greatly during the year with wide fluctuations occurring over years and decades, frequently leading to drought.

Through the intervention of the Philippines, the emerging climate phenomenon attributed to the increasing recurrence cycle of El Niño, seasonal aridity or seasonal extreme dryness, was accepted in the Convention and was considered as the primary basis for the acknowledgment of desertification in the tropical countries, particularly in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) country parties.

The Philippine Senate and House of Representatives jointly ratified the UNCCD on February 10, 2000 and final accession came to full force in May 10, 2000.

Linkage of UNCCD to Other Global Efforts

  1. United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity and United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change
    • The UNCCD is closely linked with the other two UN Conventions: UNCBD and UNFCCC. The UNCBD recognizes that biological diversity is about more than plants, animals, micro-organisms, and their ecosystems. It is about people and our need for food security, medicines, fresh air and water, shelter, and a clean and healthy environment in which to live. This Convention was signed by 150 government leaders at the 1992 Rio Earth Summit. The Philippines joined the UNCBD in October 1993 and formulated its National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (NBSAP) in 1997.

      With 192 member-countries, the UNFCCC sets an overall framework for inter-governmental efforts to tackle the challenge posed by climate change. It recognizes that the climate system is a shared resource, whose stability can be affected by industrial and other emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. The governments that are Parties to the Convention are expected to carry out the following responsibilities:

      • Gather and share information on greenhouse gas emissions, national policies, and best practices.
      • Launch national strategies for addressing greenhouse gas emissions and adapting to expected impacts, including the provision of financial and technological support to developing countries.
      • Cooperate in preparing for adaptation to the impacts of climate change.
    • As a Party to the Convention since August 1994, the Philippines developed the National Adaptation Program of Action (NAPA) to mitigate the effects of climate change. With the approval of the Republic Act 9729 or the Climate Change Act of 2009, the Climate Change Commission in consultation with various stakeholders, formulated the National Framework Strategy on Climate Change (2010-2022).

      It is recognized that land degradation and drought are influenced by climate change and create detrimental impact on various forms of biodiversity leading to a chain of events, including loss of prime lands for the production of food and fiber, opening of ecologically fragile lands, and destruction of natural vegetation.

      Since desertification, climate change and biological diversity have complex and inter-related issues and concerns that need to be immediately addressed and managed; there is a need for a synergy of efforts of UNCCD with UNCBD and UNFCCC (Figure 1).

      UNCCD linkage diagram
  2. United Nations Millennium Development Goals
    • The eight UN Millennium Development Goals (MDG) form a common blueprint for all countries and world’s leading institutions to address the needs of the world’s poorest. The attainment of the following goals is set by 2015: a) end poverty and hunger; b) universal education; c) gender equality; d) child health; e) maternal health; f) combat HIV/AIDS; g) environmental sustainability; and h) global partnership.

      Among these goals, the efforts of UNCCD are channeled to address environmental sustainability and reduce poverty and hunger. Under Goal 1, the target is to reduce the proportion of people living on less than US$1 a day to half the 1990 level by 2015, that is, from 28.3% to 14.2%. This Goal also calls for bringing into half the proportion of people who suffer from hunger between 1990 and 2015. Under Goal 7, the UN seeks to integrate the principles of sustainable development into country policies and programs and reverse the loss of environmental resources and reduce biodiversity loss, achieving, by 2010, a significant reduction in the rate of loss.



Program leader/chairman and person to contact

Leader/Chairman: UNCCD Philippines Leader
Telephone No:
Contact Person: UNCCD Phillippines Contact Person
Telephone No:


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