A Study on Desertification in the ECO Region
Desertification Map of the ECO RegionECO-IEST: Desertification is a global issue, with serious implications worldwide for biodiversity, eco-safety, poverty eradication, socio-economic stability and sustainable development. It manifests itself in many different forms across the vast region of Asia including ECO region. Out of a total land area of 4.3 billion hectares, Asia contains some 1.7 billion hectares of arid, semi-arid, and dry sub-humid land, reaching from the Mediterranean coast to the shores of the Pacific. Desertification, along with climate change and the loss of biodiversity were identified as the greatest challenges to sustainable development during the 1992 Rio Earth Summit. 

Established in 1994, UNCCD is the sole legally binding international agreement linking environment and development to sustainable land management. The Convention addresses specifically the arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid areas, known as the drylands, where some of the most vulnerable ecosystems and peoples can be found. In the 10-Year Strategy of the UNCCD (2008-2018) that was adopted in 2007, Parties to the Convention further specified their goals: "to forge a global partnership to reverse and prevent desertification/land degradation and to mitigate the effects of drought in affected areas in order to support poverty reduction and environmental sustainability". The Convention’s Regional Implementation Annex for Asia recognizes these unique conditions, and calls for activities at the national, sub-regional, and regional level in the form of coordinated and integrated action programmes [UNCCD].

ECO Member States are mainly located in arid or semi-arid areas and increased frequency and severity of droughts during the last few decades along with the problems due to development projects and population growth has worsened land degradation in several parts of the Region and intensified the problems of dust haze and sand storm which threatens the livelihood and welfare of millions of people all over the region.

Economic Cooperation Organisation (ECO) is an intergovernmental regional organisation established in 1985 by Iran, Pakistan and Turkey as the successor of Regional Cooperation for Development (RCD) (1964-1979) for promoting economic, technical and cultural cooperation. In 1992, ECO was expanded to include seven new members, namely: Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, Republic of Azerbaijan, Republic of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Republic of Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Republic of Uzbekistan.
To facilitate cooperation in the fields of ecology and environmental protection within the region was one of the objectives envisaged in the Treaty of Izmir related to the Directorate of Energy, Minerals and Environment (EME) of the Economic Corporation Organisation which Enhancing regional options for tackling climate change mitigation and adaptation issues; and working closely with relevant international actors to find better solutions for shared energy and environmental concerns is some of the man areas of focus of this directorate. The Plan of Action on Environmental Cooperation and Global Warming (2011-2015) for ECO Region, as well as a Project Profile for implementation of the mentioned Plan of Action were adopted in the 4th ECO Ministerial Meeting on Environment (Tehran, Iran, 2011).

During the 23rd meeting of the Regional Planning Council (Tehran, 6-8 May 2013), the Council requested the ECO Institute of Environmental Science and Technology (ECO IEST) to cooperate with the Secretariat in preparation of a Project proposal relating to combat desertification with a special emphasis on dust haze and sand storm in the region. The Council also requested all Member States to contribute to the mentioned proposal with their possible technical and financial assistance.

Also during the bilateral talks between ECO, UNEP officials have expressed interest to, among others, possibly assist ECO in implementation of this project.

In 26 October 2014 a project outline was proposed by the ECO-IEST in this regard and during the Senior Officials Meeting (15-17 November 2014) in Istanbul, the Senior Officials deliberated on the Regional Project to Combat Desertification with a Special Emphasis on Dust Haze and Sand Storm in the Region. The Senior Officials presented their national experiences and discussed the issues such as using the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) as a role platform for developing an umbrella project for the ECO region; possible funding from the UNCCD funding mechanisms as well as GEF funding mechanism; experience-sharing among Member States; and the need for strengthening regional approach to combat desertification, including through capacity building and training activities. The Iranian delegation offered to host a training workshop on the issue.  

In addition, during the 5th Eco Ministerial Meeting on Environment (18 November 2014, Istanbul), the ECO-IEST was also mandated with the above project implementation.

In this report which was prepared on the request of the esteemed ECO Secretariat for consideration of the ECO decision making bodies, we have gathered some data and information regarding the situation of desertification in the ECO Region based on the Member States' last National Reports sent to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) which in case of the most Member States that was the fifth National Report, but in case of some of the Member States which have not sent their fifth report to the CBD yet, the latest version available has been used as the source. 

Among all international treaties and convention on environmental issues, as the parties national reports to the CBD are among the most comprehensive reports including a wide range of subjects including desertification related ones in this study we have gathered related items and sections in the latest version of the ECO Member States National Reports to CBD, i.e. the wherever available, the fifth national reports have been used otherwise the latest version of the national reports which has been sent to the Convention.

Moreover, in the funding perspective of the project the funding options and processes of some potential international donors have been collected. The ECO-IEST has not made any changes to the content of these reports, but we have just made a selection and in some cases cut some parts down and categorized some data in order to avoid some unnecessary and very detailed information at this stage.

In order to download the full report click here.