UN desertification conference opens in New Delhi with an ambitious call to action

September 3, 2019

Farmer plowing land in India
The 14th Conference of the Parties (COP) to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) is taking place in New Delhi, India from September 2-13. Photo: Shyamalamuralinath/Shutterstock

Government ministers from 196 countries, city and local leaders, non-governmental organizations, scientists and industry experts, are gathering in New Delhi, India from 2-13 September for the fourteenth session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD COP14).

The main focus of the conference is finding ways to reverse land degradation while supporting a sustainable future for communities and ecosystems.

The task is urgent: families and communities are suffering from droughts, flash floods, and forest fires, which are becoming more frequent and intense in many parts of the world.

According to last month’s special report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change land is under growing human pressure, and climate change is adding to challenges such as degradation, desertification, deforestation, and food insecurity.

Today, over one million plant and animal species are on the verge of extinction, largely due to habitat loss and land degradation that also threaten global food security. Three out of every four hectares of land have been altered from their natural states and the productivity of about one in every four hectares of land is declining. Land degradation, when combined with climate change and biodiversity loss, may force up to 700 million people to migrate by 2050. 

Delegates at the UNCCD will discuss ways to reduce these impacts by promoting investment in the land to unlock opportunities for change, deliver hope and action—especially for women farmers, whose contributions often go unrecognized—and help build a more sustainable path for the future.

The Global Environment Facility (GEF) serves as financial mechanism to the UNCCD and provides funding to assist developing countries in meeting the objectives of the convention.

The GEF’s land degradation investments focus on production landscapes where agricultural and rangeland management practices underpin the livelihoods of poor rural farmers and pastoralists. The GEF emphasizes sustainable management of drylands in arid and semiarid zones, addressing, among other issues, drought-prone ecosystems and populations.

GEF investments seek to address drivers of degradation through a holistic approach aimed at delivering multiple benefits in reducing and reverting land degradation, conserving biodiversity, and mitigating and adapting to climate change. Therefore, GEF-funded projects and programs emphasize innovative and integrated approaches to sustainable land management that can be scaled up to maximize global benefits for the environment and similarly address the issues of biodiversity, climate change, and improve local livelihoods.

At the COP14, the GEF is represented by a delegation led by the CEO Naoko Ishii. The GEF will present its report to the COP as well as its latest efforts to tackle land degradation and desertification in an integrated, systemic approach, in line with its current four-year funding cycle, known as GEF-7.

The GEF is actively engaged in discussions and side-events, including events at the Rio Partnerships Pavilion - a vibrant space for interactive all-day events and meetings, which focus exclusively on synergies among the Rio Conventions on Climate Change, Biological Diversity and Desertification.

Events include GEF Day on September 9, showcasing a powerful new film on the Great Green Wall, and the launch of the Global Commission on Adaptation’s report on September 10.  Both events will be live-streamed. Watch the Great Green Wall trailer below.


Going forward, the global community must make substantial efforts to sustain and rebuild productive areas, mitigate the effects of drought, increase resilience, and prevent conflict and migration. Support must be expanded from addressing the drivers of land degradation to address drivers of fragility and land and water insecurity, to reverse resource pressures, enhance or restore governance, and rebuild natural resource-based livelihoods and jobs.

To access the full GEF at UNCCD COP14 agenda, visit our event page:

To learn about the GEF work on Land Degradation, view our brochure: