Declaration by the Round Table of Parliamentarians organised by the Convention Secretariat and sponsored by the Inter-Parliamentary Union
(Dakar, 7 December 1998)

I. We, the Parliamentarians invited to meet in Dakar, Senegal, on 7 December 1998 by the Convention Secretariat, the National Assembly of Senegal and the Inter-Parliamentary Union in the context of the second session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification in those countries experiencing serious Drought and/or Desertification, particularly in Africa, declare that:

1. We are deeply alarmed by the impact of desertification which affects 3,600 million hectares, representing 70 per cent of the potential productive land in arid zones. The rapidity of this progression means that there is a loss of 6 million hectares annually. We are conscious of the gravity of the situation in different regions of the world as in Africa, a continent where deserts or arid zones constitute two-thirds of the total land area and 73 per cent of the arid land is already seriously or moderately degraded; in Asia where around 1,400 million hectares are affected by desertification, which corresponds to 71 per cent of the arid land of the continent which is moderately or severely degraded; in Latin America, where nearly three quarters of the arid land is moderately or severely degraded and the Mediterranean, where almost two-thirds of the arid land is severely degraded; the countries of Central and Eastern Europe, where 40 per cent to 80 per cent of the arid land is severely degraded;

2. It is intolerable that at the beginning of the twenty-first century near 1 billion men, women and children, are permanently threatened by desertification; that hundreds of millions of people suffer from a chronic shortage of basic necessities such as water; and that millions of "environmental refugees" are forced to abandon their native land to seek relief elsewhere;

3. We share fully the founding premise of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, according to which sustainable development cannot be attained unless:

(i) it is oriented towards people in protecting the interests of the affected populations and eradicates poverty;

(ii) it involves these populations fully in the decision-making process, in measures for the protection of the environment and in the struggle against desertification;

(iii) it includes the dimension of the fight against poverty.

4. We believe that desertification, poverty, famine, social and political disturbances, wars, migration and the displacement of populations, which have led many times to new and most serious degradation of the natural environment, are all interconnected;

5. We take note of the serious budgetary constraints of the poorest affected countries, which still have to devote a considerable proportion of their scant financial resources to debt repayment and servicing.

II. Affirming our total commitment, as Parliamentarians, to contribute fully to the implementation of the Convention, in countries that are Parties to the Convention.
6. We support where necessary the adoption or the strengthening of legislation concerning the fight against desertification and the preservation of the ecosystems in all the affected countries,

7. We subscribe to the promotion of policies and the strengthening of appropriate institutional frameworks for the favourable development of co-operation among the countries affected by desertification and their partners in development;

8. We support the strengthening of social, education, health and policies through public awareness campaigns about the negative effects of desertification as well as the participation of youth and women in the development programmes;

9. We subscribe to the integration of the main provisions of the Convention in national policies for sustainable development;

10. We subscribe to the initiative that the year 2000 be the starting point of the decade to combat desertification;

11. We support fully the initiatives of agencies, donor countries and civil society to mobilise financial assistance for the promotion of sustainable development in poorest countries with fragile ecosystems, through the Convention's Global Mechanism.

III. We undertake to promote in our respective Parliaments:
12. The follow-up of implementation of the Convention, making full use of the mechanisms available in our Parliaments to monitor government action and thus ensure that the Convention is fully implemented;

13. The formulation of national legislation and its harmonisation with the provisions of the Convention;

14. The inclusion of the combat against desertification in the overall agendas of our national governments so as to make the combat a priority matter for our countries as for our regional and sub-regional organisations;

15. The formulation of national action programmes covering water management and applied agricultural research in the poorest countries affected by desertification and others as necessary, and their financing in accordance with the provisions of the Convention;

16. The adoption of practical measures to include environmental education, in particular the fight against desertification, in school curricula.

IV. We are deeply convinced of the need to undertake far-reaching action with the main priorities:
17. To promote forms of regional and sub-regional co-operation, favourable to improving relations between our relevant intergovernmental organisations;

18. To set up, at the local level, action programmes based on the reforestation and rehabilitation of land which involves all stakeholders in the field, in particular the education system and representatives of civil society, especially youth and women's associations;

19. To define action programmes involving international organisations, including United Nations agencies, donors, national institutions, elected representatives, NGOs, and the local population, in particular resource users, both men and women, to promote the objectives of the Convention;

20. As appropriate in the case of poorest affected countries to expand debt-for-nature swaps for land rehabilitation and reforestation.

V. We Parliamentarians address an urgent appeal:
21. To all relevant participants in civil society, such as financial institutions, personalities in the fields of finance, commerce, sport, the media and the arts, to support the mobilisation of financial resources to support the fight against desertification which is under way in the developing countries most seriously affected by desertification and drought;

22. To academic institutions, the scientific community and research centres for their support in the various tasks of implementing the Convention in affected countries with particular regard to the needs of developing countries;

23. To the Inter-Parliamentary Union to give the widest publicity possible to this Declaration and, notably that it be transmitted to all national parliaments for their attention;

24. To the Secretariat of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification to continue the actions taken up to this time to support the countries affected by desertification, and to take all necessary measures to the present declaration universally known;

25. To the Secretariats of the CCD and the Inter-Parliamentary Union to take follow-up action on the present meeting and organise similar meetings in conjunction with future conferences of the Parties.

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