Press Release

Coordinating Global Action to Combat Desertification and Land Degradation

March 4, 2011


Bonn/Nairobi 2011 - An informative video outlining the PRAIS initiative has been launched. Unique amongst the Rio Convention, PRAIS utilises an interactive online portal to collate information from 192 countries on quantifiable actions towards the UNCCD's 10 Year Strategy for poverty reduction and environmental sustainability.

Desertification, land degradation and drought affect over one and a half billion people in more than 110 countries. This is a third of the world population, 90% of whom are in low income areas. The pathways out of poverty often depend on the resources that are lost: land, water and forests.

Nearly a quarter of the Earth became degraded between 1981 and 2003. Every ten years an area the size of France, Germany and Switzerland is lost. Already by 1993, UNEP estimated the annual financial cost at 42 billion dollars every year, equivalent to all official aid to Africa in 2009.

The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, or UNCCD, works to improve the well-being of the world's drylands, re-establish and maintain productivity of the land, and mitigate the effects of drought. Achievement of this mission requires evidence for informed decisions on investments in the affected areas.

The UNCCD 10-year strategic plan and framework for the implementation of the Convention (2008-2018 spells out specific objectives for achievement, along with a set of impact and performance indicators to measure progress.

The PRAIS project is a new monitoring and reporting system, established to build the capacity of UNCCD stakeholders and coordinate data gathering to assess progress. The results from these initial phases are expected to provide the baseline against which progress can be measured.

The cornerstone of the project is the online "PRAIS" portal. It enables long-term monitoring of the Strategy by offering instant, worldwide public access to baseline information on the status of UNCCD implementation. This current portal contains information provided by the 2010 reporting cycle on performance indicators for the period 2008-2009, as well as the financial flows and best practices.

"PRAIS marks a paradigm shift in all intergovernmental efforts to enforce compliance. It is significant because it invalidates the assumption that achieving intergovernmental consensus on how to measure compliance is impossible. It is significant because measuring complex and locally driven phenomena in order to determine global trends is a challenge in and of itself. But you cannot improve what you cannot measure. PRAIS moves us into the realm of measurability by providing the basis on which we can assess progress and also define the targets we want to reach in combating desertification, land degradation and in mitigating the effects of drought," says Mr. Gnacadja, Executive Secretary of the UNCCD.

Measuring performance is just the first step. From 2012, the data and information in "PRAIS" will be complemented by data on the impact made by the Convention, at a minimum on two dimensions. That is, the change in land cover status and change in the proportion of the population living above the poverty line. These two mandatory and another nine optional impact indicators will provide a strong basis for increasing awareness and mobilizing resources in the fight against the devastating consequences of land degradation.

The PRAIS video was launched concurrently in Bonn, Germany, and Nairobi, Kenya, to coincide with two parallel events which took place starting on 21 February 2011. The 26th session of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Governing Council and Global Ministerial Environment Forum will take place in Nairobi as the 9th session of the UNCCD Committee for the Review of Implementation of the Convention takes place in Bonn. PRAIS has been funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF), implemented by UNEP, executed by the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre, in close collaboration with the UNCCD Secretariat and Global Mechanism.

For more information contact:

Wagaki Mwangi

UNCCD Secretariat


Tel: +49 228 815 2820

Notes for editors:

The Global Environment Facility (GEF), established in 1991, unites 178 countries in partnership with international institutions, non-government organisations and the private sector to address global environmental issues while supporting national sustainable development initiatives. Today the GEF is the largest funding organisation of projects to improve the global environment. An independent financial organisation, the GEF provides grants for projects related to biodiversity, climate change, international waters, land degradation, the ozone layer, and persistent organic pollutants. Since 1991, GEF has achieved a strong track record with developing countries and countries with economies in transition, providing US$8.3 billion in grants and leveraging US$33.7 billion in co-financing for over than 2,200 projects in more than 165 countries.

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) , established in 1972, is the voice for the environment within the United Nations system. UNEP acts as a catalyst, advocate, educator and facilitator to promote the wise use and sustainable development of the global environment. To accomplish this, UNEP works with a wide range of partners, including United Nations entities, international organisations, national governments nongovernmental organisations, the private sector and civil society.

The UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre is the biodiversity assessment and biodiversity policy support arm of the United Nations Environment Programme, the world's foremost intergovernmental environmental organisation. The Centre has been in operation for over 25 years, providing objective, scientifically rigorous products and services to help decision makers recognise the value of biodiversity and apply this knowledge to all that they do. The Centre's core business is locating data about biodiversity and its conservation, interpreting and analysing that data to provide assessments and policy analysis, and making the results available to both national and international decision makers and businesses.

Established in 1994, the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) is the sole legally binding international agreement linking environment and development issues to the land agenda. The Convention focuses on all the world's drylands, home to over 2 billion people, 50% of the world's livestock and accounting for 44% of all cultivated ecosystems. The Convention's 194 Parties are dedicated to combating land degradation and mitigating the effects of drought in the drylands by improving the living conditions of the affected populations and ecosystems.