Land & Water

International Day of Combating Sand and Dust Storms, 12 July

Sand and Dust Storms (SDS) are an increasingly important transboundary issue, with numerous impacts on the environment, food security, agriculture, health, transportation, energy, human societies and economies, affecting 151 countries worldwide.

The growing need for global and regional cooperation between countries to manage and mitigate the effects of SDS and the transboundary hazards they represent has led to the proclamation by the United Nations General Assembly in 2023 of the 12th July as the International Day of Combating Sand and Dust Storms.

By this resolution, the Assembly also invited all Member States and other relevant stakeholders “to observe that International Day in an appropriate manner and in accordance with national priorities, through education and activities aimed at raising public awareness of the importance of combating such storms for human health and well-being; the promotion of sustainable land use and management; enhancing food security and resilience to climate change; and sustainable livelihoods.”

This represents a significant step to enhance awareness of SDS and mobilize the political will and resources needed to address SDS related issues which present a serious challenge to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals and associated targets.

SDS and agriculture

About 25 percent of global dust emissions are caused by human activities, with agriculture as probably the most important driver. SDS also have numerous direct negative impacts on agriculture, resulting in the loss of crops, trees and livestock or significant decreases in their production.

Agriculture is a major driver of SDS but is also part of the solution to combat SDS risks and mitigate their impacts, through the implementation of resilient and sustainable agricultural good practices. SDS should be addressed as part of national multi-hazard disaster risk reduction (DRR) and disaster risk management strategies linked to the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015–2030.

Efforts are growing to support SDS-affected countries in promoting sustainable land and water management, integrated land-use planning, agroforestry, shelterbelts, afforestation and reforestation programmes, and the forest and landscape restoration mechanism, which all contribute to mitigating SDS sources and impacts in agriculture.

SDS and climate change

Climate change, including changes in temperature and precipitation levels, is modifying SDS hazard levels and increasing associated risks.

The hazards posed by SDS, and climate change particularly affect people who depend directly on natural resource for their livelihoods, practicing rainfed agriculture, pastoral farming and dryland forestry. Their vulnerability to the ever-changing climate that characterize drylands seems to increase because of enhanced climate variability and extreme events, such as flood, drought, salinity that are likely to become more frequent, more widespread and/or more intense with climate change during the twenty-first century.

The United Nations Coalition on Combating SDS

Through the United Nations Coalition on Combating Sand and Dust Storms, 20 UN agencies and non-UN organizations join efforts to foster global action against SDS. This coalition, established in September 2019 and chaired by FAO, work on the following priority areas: identifying and analyzing SDS source areas; assisting countries in developing policy plans; implementing effective practices for source and impact mitigation; facilitating knowledge sharing and capacity enhancement and; identifying vulnerable locations and populations.

More information about the United Nations Coalition on Combating Sand and Dust Storms is available here.