Our History

The UNDP Drylands Development Centre (DDC), formerly the Office to Combat Desertification and Drought (UNSO), originated in 1973 as the United Nations Sudano-Sahelian Office. It was created in response to the severe effects of recurrent droughts in the Sahel, and became widely known by its acronym, UNSO. For many years, UNSO delivered a range of drought relief and development services in the Sahel under the management of UNDP. It was originally based in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, but later transferred its headquarters to UNDP in New York.

In 1991-92, UNSO assisted countries under its jurisdiction in the Sudano-Sahelian region to prepare for the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED). As a follow-up to the agreements reached at the UNCED, the United Nations General Assembly established the Inter-Governmental Negotiating Committee (INCD) to negotiate a legally binding agreement to combat desertification and mitigate the effects of drought. During the negotiation process, UNSO provided substantive technical support to the INCD and other partners. The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) was adopted in 1994; and UNSO was called upon to provide support to affected countries under the "Urgent Action for Africa", a Resolution adopted by the UN General Assembly to speed up the implementation of the new Convention. In 1995, UNSO took on a global mandate and began to branch out from sub-Saharan Africa to all parts of the world affected by desertification and drought. At that time, it changed its name to UNDP's Office to Combat Desertification and Drought, but retained the acronym UNSO.

The UNCCD entered into force on 26 December 1996. UNSO became its advocate and assisted countries in the formulation of national and sub - regional action programmes. Since 1995, UNSO has supported 29 countries in Africa, 22 in Asia and 19 in Latin America and the Caribbean to develop national and sub - regional action plans to combat desertification and mitigate the effects of drought.

In June 2001, the Administrator of UNDP transformed UNSO into the UNDP-DDC in order to strengthen the institutional capacity to support drylands development. At the same time, the Centre was relocated from New York to Nairobi with the objectives of bringing services closer to programme countries. The DDC developed its strategic programme framework, the Integrated Drylands Development Programme, in close collaboration with UNDP country offices in 2002 to provide continuous global support for drylands development worldwide.

Historical Highlights
1973: The United Nations Sahelian Office (UNSO) was created by the United Nations Secretary General to address the problems of drought in the Sahelian countries following the West African Sahel drought of 1968-73. UNSO's first mandate: Building of infrastructure to access disaster areas.

1976: UNSO was transferred from the Office of the Under Secretary General for Political and General Assembly Affairs of the United Nations Secretariat to the UNDP. The UN Secretary General delegated full responsibility to the Administrator of UNDP for the administration, control and operation of the United Nations Trust Fund for Sudano-Sahelian Activities and UNSO.

1977: World Conference on Desertification was held in Nairobi. The Conference adopts the Plan of Action to Combat Desertification in the Sudano Sahelian region.

1978: UNEP and UNDP adopted decisions 6/11B and 25/10 respectively that recommends a role for UNSO in the implementation of the Action Plan. Accordingly the UN General Assembly by its resolution 33/88 designates UNSO as the coordinating arm of United Nations efforts to assist on behalf of UNEP in the implementation of the Plan of Action to Combat Desertification in the countries of the Sudano-Sahelian zone - UNSO's work focus shifts from relief to local level natural resources management activities.

1979: UNDP - UNEP Joint Venture Support through UNSO was signed.

1989: The UN General Assembly adopted Resolution 44/172: The Plan to Combat Desertification and Drought - Implementation of the Plan of Action to Combat Desertification. It urges Governments, in particular those of developed countries, United Nations Organizations and other intergovernmental bodies to increase and intensify their efforts to combat desertification and accord highest priority to the recommendations contained in the plan of action.

1991-92: UNSO assisted countries under its jurisdiction in the preparations for the UNCED at national, regional and international levels - and provided strategic, technical and financial support.

1992: The United Nations Conference on Environment and Development was held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) are adopted in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Desertification Convention in principle is agreed upon in Chapter 12 of Agenda 21. UNSO played a major role during negotiations in facilitating the recognition of desertification and drought as universal issues to be incorporated in Agenda 21. UNSO's work in supporting desertification control activities was recognized by UNCED in Agenda 21, which recommended that UNSO's experience be made available to all countries affected by desertification and drought.

1993: The UN General Assembly created an Inter-Governmental Negotiating Committee (INCD) to elaborate (by June 1994) a legally binding instrument to combat desertification and mitigate the effects of drought. UNSO provided substantial technical support to the INCD.

1994: The UNCCD was adopted as a legal framework for action to combat desertification, making it the first legally binding agreement negotiated in direct response to Agenda 21.

1994: UNDP Administrator changed the name of UNSO to UNDP Office to Combat Desertification and Drought while maintaining the acronym UNSO. UNSO became the central unit within the UNDP, spearheading the organization's efforts in drylands management, desertification control and drought preparedness and mitigation

1994: UN General Assembly adopted Resolution 41/188, calling for Urgent Action for Africa (UAA). In October, UNDP-UNSO launched a campaign to mobilize resources. A total of US$3.6 million was mobilized and channeled to support the launching of NAP and SRAP processes in African countries.

1994: United Nations General Assembly established the 17 of June as the World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought to promote public awareness on desertification issues. The first world Day is observed in June 1995.

1995: UNDP Administrator created UNDP Trust Fund to Combat Desertification and Drought managed by UNSO to complement core resources with a view of enhancing UNDP's support to the implementation of the UNCCD.

1995: UNDP Administrator expanded UNSO's mandate to a global scope, covering the entire Africa, Asia, and Latin America and the Caribbean. UNSO's work was directed towards providing support to all affected countries in the implementation of the UNCCD. In this context, UNSO's support was geared to assisting affected countries in developing national and sub-regional action programmes (NAP/SRAP), the main instruments for the implementation of the Convention.

1995: UNSO, in collaboration with OECD, and Club du Sahel hosted an informal meeting to exchange information among organizations supporting the implementation of Resolution UAA within the context of the Convention to develop a better idea of what might be done to support the implementation of the UNCCD.

1996: The UNCCD entered into force.

1997: First Conference of the Parties (COP) was held in Rome, Italy.

1997: The first Conference of the Parties adapted the decision 24/COPI that designated IFAD as host of the Global Mechanism (GM), and requested UNDP, the World Band and IFAD to establish a Facilitation Committee to support the work of the GM.

1998: UNSO celebrated 25 years in Desertification Control and Drylands Management. The Second COP was held in Dakar, Senegal, and 144 countries have ratified the Convention.

1999: The Third COP was held in Recife, Brazil.

2000 : The Fourth COP was held in Bonn, Germany. The COP established an Ad hoc Working Group to review and analyze in depth individual country reports submitted by parties on the implementation of the Convention at national and sub-regional levels. The immediate objective was to draw conclusions and to recommend concrete measures to party countries including further steps for facilitating the implementation of the UNCCD.

2001 : The Fifth COP was held in Geneva, Switzerland. The COP established the Committee for the Review of the Implementation of the Convention (CRIC).

2002: UNDP established the DDC that incorporates the work of former UNSO to lead its work in supporting long-term development in the drylands. The Centre launched the Integrated Drylands Development Programme (IDDP) that is being piloted in 19 countries in Africa, the Arab States and West Asia. The first session of CRIC held in November 2002.

2003: The Sixth COP was held in Havana, Cuba.

2005: The Seventh COP was held in Nairobi, Kenya.

2007: The Eight COP was held in Madrid, Spain.

2009: The Ninth COP was held in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

2010: The second phase of IDDP is approved and launched with continued implementation support to 17 countries in Africa and the Arab States, and possible programme expansion to other countries and regions.

2011: The Tenth COP was held in Changwon, Republic of Korea.