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On March 21, 2017, Canada officially once again become a party to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (“UNCCD”).

The UNCCD was established in 1994 to address the problems arising from the increasing arid areas of the world, where many of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable live. The UNCCD seeks to improve the living conditions of people living in these areas, increase, or restore, the land’s productive capacities, and mitigate the effects of drought.

In contrast to some other multilateral treaties, the UNCCD seeks a bottom-up approach to tackling this issue. It does this by facilitating cooperation between countries and partnership arrangements that include local actors and non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

Desertification occurs when vegetative cover and soil productivity is lost, which, among other effects, renders land unsuitable for the production of food. Rather than the natural expansion of existing deserts, desertification occurs as a result of human activities such as poor agricultural practices that are often prompted by poverty, drought, and war. Desertification is occurring most in, but is not confined to, Africa.

Unsurprisingly, desertification is exacerbated by global climate change and biodiversity loss.

Canada first became party to the UNCCD with its ratification in 1996. However, in 2013 Canada announced its withdrawal from the UNCCD, becoming the first and only party to withdraw from the treaty and the UN member state that was not a party to it. In withdrawing from the UNCCD, the former federal government reportedly complained that Canada’s approximately $300,000 in annual donations was a waste because the money did not go towards fighting desertification on the ground.

Canada submitted its instrument of ratification, required to re-accede to the UNCCD, in December 2016.

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