Dry and sub-humid lands are unique landscapes containing a wide variety of biodiversity that is well-adapted to the often harsh conditions that characterize these areas. This biodiversity forms the basis of many livelihoods in dry and sub-humid lands and supports a large proportion of the world's food production.
As such, at its 58th ordinary session, the General Assembly named 2006 the International Year for Deserts and Desertification in recognition of “the exacerbation of desertification, particularly in Africa, and its far-reaching implications for the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals, in particular on poverty eradication”.
Biodiversity - poverty alleviation linkages are particularly close in dry and sub-humid lands where, in developing countries, infant mortality in dry and sub-humid lands averages about 54 children per 1,000 live births - twice as high as in more temperate areas.
In fact, the link between dry and sub-humid lands biodiversity and poverty alleviation, while recognized in theory, is not often reflected in poverty reduction or development planning. This trend is not limited to developing countries alone. In developed countries some of the most endangered ecosystems are dry and sub-humid lands. This is often the result of a low prioritization of efforts towards the conservation and sustainable use of the biodiversity of these areas.
It is in recognition of both the importance and uniqueness of the biodiversity of dry and sub-humid lands that the Conference of the Parties, at its fifth meeting in May 2000, adopted the programme of work on dryland, Mediterranean, arid, semi-arid, grassland, and savannah ecosystems, also referred to as programme of work on "dry and sub-humid lands", as contained in decision V/23.
The Convention’s work programme on dry and sub-humid lands seeks to fill gaps in our knowledge base; support best management practices through targeted actions in response to identified needs; and promote partnerships among countries and institutions. The programme of work further aims to promote synergies and coordination with related conventions.