Desertification is defined by UN Convention to Combat Desertification as ‘land degradation in arid, semi-arid, and dry sub-humid areas resulting from various factors, including climatic variations and human activities’. Land degradation in drylands is defined as the reduction or loss of the biological or economic productivity of drylands.

Across the planet, poverty, unsustainable land management and climate change are turning drylands into deserts, and desertification in turn exacerbates and leads to poverty.

The slogan for WED 2006- ‘Don’t desert drylands’ emphasizes the importance of protecting drylands, which cover more than 40% of the planet’s land area. This ecosystem is home to one-third of the world’s people who are more vulnerable members of society.

Desertification is hard to reverse, but it can be prevented. Protecting and restoring drylands will not only relieve the growing burden on the world’s urban areas, it will contribute to a more peaceful and secure world. It will also help to preserve landscapes and cultures that date back to the dawn of civilization and are an essential part of our cultural heritage.

The degradation of drylands is perhaps most acute in Africa, the least developed region of the world, and most vulnerable to environmental change. With its geography, history and culture inextricably bound with the world’s greatest and best-known desert, the Sahara, Algeria- the country where WED 2006 was held was ideally suited to highlight every facet of this complex issue.