World Desertification Day 2023 | 20 Jun 2023

For Prelims: World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought, United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), Drought, Gender Action Plan

For Mains: Drought and Desertification: Causes & Impact on Women, Gender Equality

Why in News?

World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought is observed every year on the 17th of June.

What are the Highlights of World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought?

  • Background:
    • Desertification, along with climate change and the loss of biodiversity, were identified as the greatest challenges to sustainable development during the 1992 Rio Earth Summit.
    • Two years later, in 1994, the UN General Assembly established the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), the sole legally binding international agreement linking environment and development to sustainable land management and declared 17 June "World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought".
    • Later on, in 2007, the UN General Assembly declared 2010-2020 the United Nations Decade for Deserts and the fight against Desertification to mobilise global action to fight land degradation, led again by the UNCCD Secretariat.
  • Issues Addressed:
    • Women's control over land is crucial. However, they often lack rights and face barriers worldwide. This limits their well-being and prosperity, especially when land degradation and water scarcity occur.
      • Investing in women's land access is an investment in their future and the future of humanity.
    • Desertification, land degradation and drought disproportionately impact women and girls, as they often do not have access to and control of land resources. They are most affected by reduced agricultural yields and increased water scarcity.
    • In most countries, women have unequal and limited access and control to land. In many regions, they remain subject to discriminatory laws and practices that impede their right to inherit, as well as their access to services and resources.
  • Gender Equality: An Unfinished Business:
    • According to UNCCD’s landmark study “The Differentiated Impacts of Desertification, Land Degradation and Drought on Women and Men,” gender equality remains unfinished business in every part of the world.
      • Today, nearly half of the global agricultural workforce is female – yet less than one in five landholders worldwide are women.
    • Women’s rights to inherit their husband’s property continue to be denied in over 100 countries under customary, religious, or traditional laws and practices.
    • Globally, women already spend a collective 200 million hours every day collecting water. In some countries, a single trip to fetch water can take over an hour.
  • Initiative Taken & Recommendations:
    • A Global Campaign:
      • Together with partners, high-profile personalities and influencers, UNCCD has launched a global campaign to recognize excellence, leadership, and efforts in sustainable land management by women and girls.
    • Recommendations:
      • Governments can promote laws, policies and practices that end discrimination and secure women’s rights to land and resources.
      • Businesses can prioritise women and girls in their investments and facilitate access to finance and technology.
      • Individuals can support women-led initiatives that are restoring land.

What is UNCCD’s Gender Action Plan, 2017?

  • The gender action plan, 2017 was adopted during the Conference of the Parties (COP23), in Bonn, Germany to incorporate gender equality and women’s empowerment in climate change discourse and actions.
  • The aim is to ensure that women can influence climate change decisions and that women and men are represented equally in all aspects of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), as a way to increase its effectiveness.

What are Desertification and Drought?

  • Desertification:
    • About:
      • Degradation of land in arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid areas. It is caused primarily by human activities and climatic variations.
    • Causes:
      • Climate change
      • Deforestation
      • Overgrazing
      • Unsustainable Agricultural Practices
      • Urbanisation
  • Drought:
    • About:
      • Drought is generally considered as a deficiency in rainfall /precipitation over an extended period, usually a season or more, resulting in a water shortage causing adverse impacts on vegetation, animals, and/or people.
    • Causes:
      • Variability in rainfall
      • Deviation in the route of monsoon winds
      • Early withdrawal of the monsoon
      • Forest fires
      • Land degradation in addition to Climate change

What are the Related Initiatives to Reduce Desertification?

  • Indian Initiatives:
    • Integrated Watershed Management Programme, since 2009-10:
      • It was launched by the Department of Land Resources, Ministry of Rural Development that aims to restore ecological balance by harnessing, conserving and developing degraded natural resources with the creation of Rural Employment.
    • Desert Development Programme:
      • Launched in 1995 by the Ministry of Rural Development to minimise the adverse effect of drought and to rejuvenate the natural resource base of the identified desert areas.
    • National Mission on Green India:
      • It was approved in 2014 and implemented under the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change with the objective of protecting, restoring and enhancing India’s diminishing forest cover with a deadline of 10 years.
  • Global Initiatives:
    • Bonn Challenge:
      • The Bonn Challenge is a global effort to bring 150 million hectares of the world’s deforested and degraded land into restoration by 2020, and 350 million hectares by 2030.
      • At the UNFCCC Conference of the Parties (COP) 2015 in Paris, India also joined the voluntary Bonn Challenge pledge to bring into restoration 21 million hectares of degraded and deforested land by the year 2030.
        • The target has now been revised to restore 26 million hectares of degraded and deforested land by 2030.

UPSC Civil Services Examination, Previous Year Questions (PYQs)


Q. Consider the following pairs: (2014)

Programme/Project Ministry
1. Drought-Prone Area Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare
2. Desert Development Programme Ministry of Environment, Forests & Climate Change
3. National Watershed Project Development for Rainfed Areas Ministry of Rural Development

Which of the above pairs is/are correctly matched?

(a) 1 and 2 only
(b) 3 only
(c) 1, 2 and 3
(d) None

Ans: (d)


Q. The process of desertification does not have climate boundaries. Justify with examples. (2020)

Q. In what way micro-watershed development projects help in water conservation in drought-prone and semi-arid regions of India? (2016)

Q. “Empowering women is the key to control population growth”. Discuss. (2019)

Source: UNCCD