The Programme is well aware that women serve on the front lines of drylands development, managing land and water resources and affecting the choice of livelihood options of the family. For centuries, women have passed on their skills in water management, crop production, and forest management, among others. Through these experiences, women have acquired valuable knowledge that will allow them to contribute positively to sustainable development efforts in the drylands, if only they are given the opportunity. This is particularly true in the Arab Region where women discrimination and inequality and stereotypical gender roles are deeply entrenched, limiting women’s economic potential and decision-making opportunities.

The promotion of gender equality and women’s empowerment is a core commitment of the Programme in its efforts for poverty reduction and environmental conservation in partner countries. It is seen both as an objective and an instrument for sustainable drylands development. In its operations, The Programme provides support to its partners as follows:

  1. Advisory services to promote gender equality and women empowerment in drylands development policy;
  2. Development of gender-sensitive programmes and projects
  3. Innovative interventions that benefit both women and men at the local level;
  4. Experience exchange between programme countries.

The Programme aims at expanding women’s access to fundamental assets (capital, land, knowledge and technologies), strengthening women’s decision-making role and representation in local institutions, and improving well-being by facilitating access to basic services and infrastructures. The Programme’s actions are guided by the principle that development initiatives should incorporate the priorities and needs of both women and men and give them equal opportunities to access benefits and services. In this way, the Programme seeks to address the structural inequalities that prevent women from realizing their potential as human beings, producers and agents of change. 

Phase IV Programme Achievements 

Phase V Programme Achievements


Decentralized governance of natural resources (DGNR) is considered one of the key strategies for enhancing efficiency, equity and justice in the management and use of natural resources. DGNR is a complex and multifaceted process, which requires simultaneous reform of legislative, policy, institutional and fiscal frameworks in parallel with awareness raising and capacity building of local institutions to effectively take on new responsibilities relating to resource planning, management and development. When adequately implemented, and accompanied by strong political will, financial commitment and technical backstopping, DGNR serves as a vehicle to strengthen democratization. It will ensure the genuine participa­tion and representa­tive­ness of end users of local resources, both men and women, in development planning and practices and foster the local ownership and sustainable use of natural resources.

In large parts of the world's drylands, especially in rural areas, a large fraction of the population depends directly upon natural resources for their livelihoods. However, their efforts to improve living conditions and build up assets are often thwarted by degradation of these resources. The degradation more often than not takes place at an alarming rate as a result of a complex interplay of natural factors (e.g. climate variability and change) and human-induced factors (e.g. unsustainable land use driven by demographic pressure and insecure land tenure system). Furthermore, lack of alternative livelihood opportunities triggers conflicts over control of and access to scarce resources, which in turn hinders people's participation in decision-making in the absence of strong civil society and other mediating bodies, and often leads to further degradation.

The Programme assists its partner  countries in enhancing local governance of natural resources through interventions in the follwoing areas:    

  1. Strengthening capacities of local authorities, institutions and communities to ensure equitable access to and sustainable use of natural (land and water) resources;
  2. Promotion of participatory systems for natural resources management at local and regional/sub-national levels;
  3. Identification and promotion of innovative and sustainable local resource management approaches and development options for improving livelihoods; and
  4. Improvement of knowledge on local governance for natural resource management through documentation and dissemination of successful approaches and best practices for policy dialogue and advocacy.

To date, the Programme was instrumental in putting the sustainable management of water resources – a key NAP priority in all partner countries - high on the agenda of the UNDP Regional Bureau for Arab States (RBAS). It supported a joint UNDP/Arab Water Council study on the status of Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) in the Arab region and contributed to the formulation/implementation of a Regional Water Governance Programme (WGP). Recently, Programme support to the WGP focused on strengthening water governance institutions and gender mainstreaming in water management in two countries:

At the global level, DDC commissioned a study to identify, analyze and document experiences and best practices on mainstreaming governance of natural resources into decentralization processes in 12 countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America and the Caribbean. The study findings were shared, discussed and debated effectively in a Drylands E-forum that brought together 78 participants around the world. Decentralized Governance of Natural Resources was published in 2006 as the final outputs of the study. Part I of this publication serves as a manual and guidelines for policy-makers and practitioners, while Part II provides the experiences, best practices and lessons learnt in drylands/non-drylands DGNR from around the world.

 Drylands are home to the poorest, the hungriest and the most marginalized people of the world. In many areas, the natural resources on which their livelihoods depend are degraded in ways that contribute directly to their low level of well-being. Drylands cover most of the Arab Region and are home to approx. 70% of its population. Over millennia, dryland communities have lived with variable rainfall and frequent droughts using a range of coping strategies, but population pressure and the changing natural and socio-economic environments are pushing these communities faster than they can adapt. This is occurring at a great cost to livelihoods and the supporting natural resource base. Today, drylands suffer from desertification, land degradation and drought (DLDD) and their populations, agriculture and ecosystems are becoming alarmingly vulnerable.

Climate models are predicting a hotter, drier and less predictable climate in the Region which is already considered the world's most water-scarce. The legacy of conflict in the Region further undermines the ability of countries and communities to adapt to climate change. Ultimately, climate change presents an even more serious challenge than it would otherwise and dryland communities in the Region are practically left on their own to deal with both the natural and man-made predicaments.

Enhancing drylands livelihoods and building resilience of drylands communities to the effects of drought is the largest focal area of the Programme. Programme support under this area focuses on engaging stakeholders and leveraging complementary financial/technical resources to promote sustainable land and water management practices, maximize the revenue from agricultural production- through transformation, value-adding, efficient supply chains and enhanced market access - and enhance livelihood diversification and off-farm employment.

Programme interventions under this focal area are implemented in:

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