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5.10.09

Representatives from 190 countries that are signatories to the UN Convention to Combat Desertification agreed to a 4.29 per cent increase in spending to $16.3 million. But the budget increase was less than the 16-per cent requested by the convention's executive secretary, Luc Gnacadja. Attendees also agreed to monitor and assess desertification, land degradation and drought by accepting recommendations set forth by a group of 200 scientists attending the conference in Buenos Aires.

"To describe an elephant, you have to agree on what an elephant looks like," Gnacadja said. "It is the same with desertification, land degradation and drought." The budget increase fell short of the request, in part because of opposition from the US, Canada and Japan, who were opposed to an expansion of its duties, delegates said. The ninth UNCCD conference has been taking place since last month, with a view to keeping the key issue of desertification on the global agenda amid the widespread economic crisis.

About 40 per cent of the Earth's land is arid and is home to about a third of its population, about half of that in poverty. Since 1990, the amount of arid or desert land has increased 15 to 25 per cent, leading to decreases in food production and causing hunger, migration and war. The next UN conference on desertification will take place in two years in South Korea.

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