Arid Lands Newsletter--link to home pageNo. 41, Spring/Summer 1997
The CCD, Part II: Asia & Americas

Promise -- and pitfalls -- on the road to implementing the CCD

by Katherine Waser


As this issue of the Arid Lands Newsletter "goes to press," the joint IALC/BLM symposium, Combating Desertification: Connecting Science with Community Action" is just getting underway here in Tucson. The Convention to Combat Desertification strongly emphasizes the importance of participation at the community level in planning, decision-making and implementation of actions needed to combat desertification and mitigate the effects of drought. In keeping with this emphasis, the objective of the Symposium is to provide for a significant exchange of ideas between the developers of science and technology related to combating desertification, and the community-level decision-makers who must deal with the problems of desertification and drought on a daily basis.

This week-long event is only one of many events relating to the CCD that will take place between now and the opening of the first Conference of the Parties in late September 1997. Since publication of the last issue of the Arid Lands Newsletter, which also focused on the CCD, activities such as these have picked up steam around the world. There is clearly a growing recognition that desertification is a serious problem not only for residents of drylands; it affects our global future. To see the growing awareness of the CCD and its importance is encouraging; this issue's articles from the Interim Secretariat of the CCD and from Tanveer Arif of SCOPE reflect this.

Yet the picture is not all rosy; although much progress has been made (particularly in terms of raising awareness of the CCD), much work remains to be done. To create the participatory, partners-oriented, bottom-up structures necessary for effective implementation of the CCD requires shifts of attitude and approach that can be difficult to achieve, particularly for organizations more used to approaching problems in a hierarchical, top-down way. Some of the typical problems that are being encountered are aptly described by Eric Sievers and Oleg Tsaruk in their article on the perspective of Central Asian NGOs.

As the real work on implementing the CCD gets underway, previously existing projects aimed at combating desertification also continue. Jay Norton reports on one such project aimed at reviving indigenous dryland agricultural practices of the Zuni people of New Mexico. It is here, on the ground, that the fight to combat desertification will be truly won or lost.

And that, it seems to me, is the most important point: all of us who live in drylands, no matter where in the globe, are essential players in solving these critical problems. To become educated on the issues of desertification is only a first step. To take action, each of us in our own way, as appropriate for our own region, is the truly crucial point. I urge all of you who read this to become involved. Write letters to your local newspaper or government officials urging support of the CCD. Find out what NGOs are working on desertification-related projects in your region and get involved in some way. Tear out your lawn and plant dryland native plants instead. Harvest rainwater for your garden. There are myriad other actions to be taken; do something today! None of us can afford to be complacent about this issue.

As for me, I'm off to attend the Desertification Symposium, where I plan to take action this week by networking with colleagues from around the world, brainstorming on ideas for future issues of the Arid Lands Newsletter, and educating myself further on the CCD and other desertification issues.

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