Rio s Stepchild
desertification threatens 41 per cent of the total land area on the Earth. It will affect 900 million people in 100 countries, most of them in the least developed parts of the world. The industrialised North, which is not really facing this threat, is hardly interested in dealing with the problem, at least when compared to its interest in other global environmental issues such as climate change and biodiversity, which are crucial to its business interests. The second conference of parties ( cop -2) to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification ( ccd ), held in Dakar in early December, was a non-event compared to the frantic politicking at the climate change convention in Buenos Aires in November or the biodiversity convention in Bratislava in May. The three conventions originated from the Rio Earth Summit of 1992.
With no stakes for developed country participants, aggressive industrial lobbyists were missing, and non-governmental organisations ( ngo s) from the North were conspicuous by their absence. A survey carried out earlier this year by a German ngo found a marked lack of enthusiasm on part of ngo s from the North in the desertification convention, which was created after heavy lobbying by the South in the face of opposition from countries of the North at the Rio Earth Summit.
Portents Several factors are leading to desertification: population and livestock pressure, poverty, national debts, international trade in cash crops, and poor governance; all of which put direct and indirect pressure on land. The first conference of parties, held in Rome, Italy, in September 1997, dealt mostly with the question of funding activities under the convention as developed countries were unwilling to part with significant funds to fight desertification.
cop -2 was to finally put to rest teething problems faced by ccd , including its financial mechanism, and clear the coast for further work on the