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 Press release - World Bank Backs The Un Convention To Combat Desertification (WB)

 Press release date: 14.11.1999

The World Bank
News Release No. 2000/093/S

Contact: Kristyn Ebro (202) 458-2736


RECIFE, BRAZIL, November 15, 1999The World Bank's support for the efforts of its client countries to implement the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification is central to its mission to alleviate poverty, according to Robert Watson, World Bank Director for the Environment. Mr. Watson is leading the World Bank delegation to the Third Session of the Conference of the Parties (COP III), November 15-24, in Recife, Brazil.

"The link between desertification and poverty is clear. I am convinced that supporting the Convention to Combat Desertification is something that should be put on the front burner of development assistance," said World Bank President James D. Wolfensohn. "But we need to think long-term and in a more integrated way. Desertification is a global issue. Combating desertification is a poverty issue."

In its efforts to arrest desertification, the World Bank is working closely with other development partners to:

  • implement the Global Environment Facility with the United Nations Development Programme and United Nations Environment Programme;
  • mobilize and channel financial resources to drylands projects and programs, and mainstream global environmental issues into regular programs;
  • promote the Soil Fertility Initiative for Sub-Saharan Africa, river basin management, food security, natural resource management, and agriculture extension with the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the Food and Agricultural Organization; and
  • mobilize new and additional resources for addressing land degradation and combating desertification through the Global Mechanism with IFAD and the United Nations Development Programme.

Forty-one percent of the world's land area is under pressure from inappropriate land management, prolonged periods of drought, salinization, and erosion by wind and water. These pressures and the need to feed an additional 84 million people every year account for the loss of 15 million hectares of the world's forests yearly.

The World Bank is already one of the largest financiers of drylands management activities, but could and will do more, according to Robert Watson. Together with other partners in the Global Mechanism, the Bank will help mobilize resources and maximize aid effectiveness. This will require changes in the operational strategies of the Bank and the various partners involved, he said.

The World Bank supports the Convention's emphasis on working with affected countries in project design and implementation, and the solicitation of local expertise and traditional knowledge, said Watson. "Implementing the Desertification Convention is a global challenge, and the World Bank is committed to playing its part in the process," said Watson.

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