World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought

This year, the theme of the International Day Against Desertification and Drought "Rising up from drought together" emphasises the need of an early action to avoid disastrous consequences for humanity and the planetary ecosystems. It calls for joint efforts to combat the threat.


Desertification does not refer to the expansion of existing deserts. Desertification is the degradation of land in arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid areas and it occurs because dryland ecosystems, which cover over one third of the world's land area, are extremely vulnerable to overexploitation and inappropriate land use.

Land degradation and desertification are issues of both global and EU concern, which are caused by a combination of factors including population growth, poor land management, climate change and deforestation. Poverty, political instability, overgrazing and bad irrigation practices can all undermine the productivity of the land. Land degradation results or may exacerbate the impacts of natural disasters and contributes to migration.

Although droughts are among the greatest threats to sustainable development, especially in developing countries, they are increasingly so in developed nations too, including the EU member states territories. In fact, it is forecast that by 2050 droughts may affect over three-quarters of the world’s population.

Combating land degradation is the key to address other environmental issues such as climate change, water and biodiversity, as well as ensuring food security and alleviating poverty. Action to promote sustainable land management is therefore a “Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Accelerator” which can help simultaneously meet the SDGs in a cost effective and ecologically sound manner. Agenda 2030 established a target of “striving to achieve a land-degradation neutral world by 2030” (SDG 15.3).

Desertification is also a cross cutting challenge for many EU policy areas such as climate, environment, agriculture, research and cohesion. EU support for combating desertification can be provided through several funding programmes from different policy areas, such as Rural Development, Environment, Cohesion or Research.

Already in 2020, the European Commission prepared a roadmap for future EU soil protection strategy that reaffirms the EU’s commitment to reaching land degradation neutrality, and to preserve land resources. It is a part of the EU’s broader biodiversity strategy for 2030, as healthy soils are essential to meet the climate and biodiversity goals under the European Green Deal.

More about the Soil Strategy for 2030