The environment is one of the five pillars of Agenda 2030 and its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and is also playing an increasingly central role within the United Nations. Below is a brief introduction to this policy theme.


Belgium contributes in several ways to the fight against desertification. It must be clarified that combatting desertification should be understood in the broadest sense here, including combatting land degradation, with a particular focus on Africa, and drought.
  1. Last updated on

Two types of contributions can be identified:

  • one linked to the financing and monitoring of multilateral tools (such as the UNCCD and the GEF);
  • the other linked to interventions specific to different intervention channels of the Belgian Cooperation (D1, D3, EU).

Furthermore, it should be pointed out from the outset that Belgium’s contributions take account of the international framework set by the 2030 Agenda and fit into the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) adopted in 2015. Combatting desertification corresponds to SDG 15, Target 3.

SDG 15

SDG 15:

Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss.

Target 15.3*: 

By 2030, combat desertification, restore degraded land and soil, including land affected by desertification, drought and floods, and strive to achieve a land degradation-neutral world.

*The indicator linked to this target 15.3 is the following:Indicator 15.3.1: Proportion of land that is degraded over total land area (reference).

Belgium’s contribution to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification

The mandate of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) is to avoid, minimise and reverse the trends of desertification and land degradation and mitigate the effects of drought in all affected areas to achieve a Land Degradation Neutral World consistent with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The UNCCD was established in 1994 following the Rio de Janeiro Earth Summit of 1992 and all the member states of this convention meet at the Conference of the Parties (COP) every two years. To date, this convention has been ratified by 197 states. This convention is the sole legally binding international agreement linking environment and development co-operation to sustainable land management. The Convention addresses specifically the arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid areas, known as the drylands, where the world’s most vulnerable ecosystems and peoples can be found. The parties of this convention are particularly committed to a bottom-up approach, encouraging the participation of local authorities and communities. The UNCCD Secretariat facilitates cooperation between developed and developing countries and emerging economies, particularly around knowledge and technology transfer for sustainable land management.

As the dynamics of land, biodiversity and climate are intimately connected, the UNCCD collaborates closely with the other two Rio Conventions, namely the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), to meet these complex challenges with an integrated approach.

As indicated below, the Global Environment Fund (GEF) is the principal financial mechanism of the UNCCD.

Belgium has been a member of the UNCCD since its establishment and has so far taken part in the majority of the Conferences of the Parties (COP).

Belgium makes a financial contribution to the UNCCD to cover the costs of running the UNCCD Secretariat: an amount that varies between €60,000 and €65,000 per year.

The current Strategic Framework (2018-2030) of the UNCCD was adopted during the 13th session of the COP in Ordos, China, in 2017. This strategy aims to support developing countries in achieving ‘Land Degradation Neutrality’ by 2030, conforming to SDG 15, Target 3.

Belgium participated in the 14th UNCCD Conference of the Parties in New Delhi(link is external) in September 2019. It took part in negotiations of the adopted decisions, in the High-Level Segment as well as numerous European consultation sessions, side events and various ceremonies.

This COP agreed on 36 decisions and the New Delhi Declaration, focusing on the importance of investment in land and employment opportunities related to the implementation of sustainable land management. This COP also enabled the establishment of an Intergovernmental Working Group on Drought (Decision 23).

Between the UNCCD COPs, Belgium also participates in the work of "WPIEI Desertification" of the Council of the EU, in collaboration with the FPS Health and Environment, in order to establish a harmonised Belgian position at a European level regarding desertification. As a rule, this working group of the Council of the EU meets every 3 to 4 months to review the progress of the implementation of the different initiatives/decisions linked to the UNCCD and how the EU contributes to this.

Belgium’s contribution to the Global Environment Facility (GEF)

Since its establishment in 1994, Belgium contributes technically and financially to the work of the Global Environment Facility (GEF). It participates in bi-annual GEF Council Meetings and donates between €15m and €18m annually to the general resources of the GEF. However, these are (voluntary) contributions to the general resources of the GEF without a particular allocation. The GEF is a global financing mechanism for several themes, including combatting desertification.

Specifically, for the period covered by the 7th Replenishment of the GEF (the GEF-7 which runs from mid-2018 to mid-2022), 12% of the GEF budget (or US$ 475million) is dedicated to combatting desertification and land degradation. In comparison, 33% of the budget is dedicated to the conservation/restoration of biodiversity and 20.5% is dedicated to the fight against climate change.

The "Land degradation" section of the GEF website clearly presents its strategy and vision which underpins the projects and programmes co-financed by the GEF regarding the fight against desertification.

As indicated above, the GEF is the primary financial mechanism of the UNCCD strategic framework 2018-2030. Needless to say, the GEF is present and plays an important role in each UNCCD Conference of the Parties (COP). One of its primary missions from now on is to finance the translation of plans to achieve ‘Land Degradation Neutrality’ into concrete projects and programmes in developing countries and emerging economies.

This link "GEF at UNCCD COP 14" presents the different initiatives, sessions and side events organised by the GEF at the 14th UNCCD COP in New Delhi, in September 2019.

Belgium’s contributions through financial support for Belgian NGCS

In the framework of their five-year programme (2017-2021), numerous Belgian Non-Governmental Cooperation Stakeholders (NGCS) are active in the fight against desertification, particularly in Africa. Generally, their interventions consist of supporting local stakeholders in the application of different variants and components of “sustainable land management” linked to agriculture or water management. Clearly, this can present itself in different ways and therefore appears under different names: support for agroecology, agroforestry, peasant, family and sustainable farming, organic farming, Assisted Natural Regeneration (ANR), Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM), etc.

The most relevant example is without doubt the ‘desertification’ component of the Association for the Promotion of Education and Training Abroad (APEFE) programmes in Burkina Faso. Thanks to multi-year financing from the Directorate-General for Development Cooperation and Humanitarian Aid (DGD), the APEFE has been contributing to the implementation of the Great Green Wall Initiative in Burkina Faso for nearly 10 years. However, the project to create a Great Green Wall that crosses the whole of sub-Saharan Africa from east to west was initiated by the African Union in 2007 and was directly driven and supported by the UNCCD. 

Another emblematic example is the 2017-2021 common programme of the SIA consortium: since 2017, Belgium has been financing this grouping of 3 NGOs (SOS Faim, Iles de Paix, Autre Terre) whose programme contributes very concretely to the restoration of soil fertility and sustainable land management.