Skip to content

Canada may re-join United Nations desertification convention

The Trudeau government is considering rejoining the United Nation convention that fights droughts.

The Canadian Press reports, “Canada is considering reversing another controversial Conservative foreign policy decision by rejoining a UN convention that fights droughts, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Monday. The Harper government withdrew Canada from the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) in 2013, making it the only country in the 190-plus member UN that was not a party to the 1995 treaty. …Trudeau told the House of Commons on Monday the government will have more to say about the convention on or before June 17, an international day to recognize the need to combat desertification.”

In March 2013, the Canadian Press reported, “Maude Barlow of the Council of Canadians said drought is now ‘a life and death issue’ for millions around the world. ‘Pulling out of these talks is simply the worst thing Canada could do and this is the worst time for the Canadian government to be pulling a stunt like this,’ Barlow said in an email.” Barlow also commented, “Drought and desertification are growing in over 100 countries in the world. Our relentless over pumping of groundwater and damming and diversions of rivers for the global food trade are destroying water tables around the world.”

The Toronto Star explains, “With desertification, affected land permanently loses its productivity. It can no longer be used to grow crops or graze animals, and is eventually abandoned. It is the accumulated result of many activities: overcultivation, overgrazing, deforestation and poor irrigation. And then there is the new stressor: climate change, which interacts with other causes in a complex manner. …Desertification is prevalent across the world — in Asia, Africa, Australia — but Africans are most vulnerable to it because of high population and climate variability. …The trend has led to mass migrations, malnutrition, conflict and thousands of deaths.”

Desertification affects more than 250 million people in the world. A further 1.2 billion people in 110 countries are under threat from desertification.

The Council of Canadians recently signed an open letter to Trudeau that stated, “Re-joining the convention would allow Canada to once again take a seat at the table and make sure that the UNCCD and its institutions promote, protect and respect the rights of Indigenous Peoples, local communities, migrants, children, and people in vulnerable situations, as well as gender equality, empowerment of women and intergenerational equity. By re-joining the conventions, the Canadian government would renew its leadership and further demonstrate its commitment to re-engaging Canada as an important partner in the international community and global governance.”

That letter was also signed by the Canadian Council for International Cooperation, the United Church of Canada, the Sierra Club Foundation, and other allies.

We look forward to an announcement on June 17 that Canada has rejoined the Convention.