ACTION ALERT: Time for Canada to Rejoin the UN Desertification Convention

The federal government is receiving a loud, public request this week that it rejoin the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification. One of the best ways you can mark Environment Week June 5-11 is to help make that happen before the House of Commons takes its summer break.

But you’ll have to take action now, because time before the summer break is running short.

When Canada announced it was abandoning the Convention in 2013, it became the only country in the world to step away from a program to “find ways to stop the spread of droughts that lay waste to farmland across the planet, particularly in Africa,” the Globe and Mail reported at the time.

The decision saved a measly $315,000 per year, a pittance on the scale of the international effort to combat global environmental crises. It drew a sharp reaction from a former Canadian ambassador to the United Nations, Robert Fowler, who described the decision as a “departure from global citizenship.”

Now, civil society groups are circulating a letter urging Prime Minister Trudeau and Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion—who spoke passionately in favour of the Convention three years ago—to reverse the previous government’s decision. SCCF has organized a petition to support that effort.

Sign our petition before the House of Commons takes its summer break and ask the Trudeau government to rejoin the UN Convention to Combat Desertification. June 17 is World Day to Combat Desertification, so there’s no better time for Canada to reinforce the Prime Minister’s message to the global community last fall: “On behalf of 35 million Canadians, we’re back.”

The civil society letter recalls Canada’s leadership role in the early years of the Convention and connects the fight against desertification to other international priorities the government has embraced.

“The availability of healthy and productive land is a prerequisite for sustainable economic development,” the letter notes. “Recently, all countries have expressed their international engagement to combat desertification, land degradation, and mitigate the effects of drought,” in the context of the United Nations’ new Sustainable Development Goals.

“Fighting land degradation and desertification will also help address issues of climate change,” the letter adds. “Combatting desertification, and other good land management practices, help capture the substantial mitigation potential of the land sector, and can also help to build resilience to climate impacts by providing protection against droughts, flooding, landslides, and erosion.”

This is one of the easiest, simplest things the government can do to make a difference on the world stage, to really demonstrate that ‘Canada is back’. Sign our petition and urge the Trudeau government to rejoin the UN Convention to Combat Desertification.

For one of the best arguments for rejoining the Convention, let’s turn to the former opposition Member of Parliament who is now the foreign affairs minister with the authority to make the decision.

In 2013, “Stéphane Dion said the government cannot take any meaningful steps to combat the encroachment of deserts when it is outside an international process that includes every other country on the planet,” the Globe reported.

“How can you improve something when all the countries that are working on it together are around the table except you?” he asked at the time.

Read the civil society letter, and if you’re a member of an organization, a community, or a congregation that can support it, please sign on. And please sign and circulate our petition. Let’s make this year’s World Day to Combat Desertification a moment to celebrate.


Diane Beckett
Interim Executive Director
Sierra Club Canada Foundation

One Earth • One Chance

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