Mr. President, I rise today to mark the tenth anniversary of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification. Since its adoption on June 17th, 1994, some 190 countries, including the United States, have become party to the Convention. But for those looking for reasons to celebrate on this tenth anniversary, the news on desertification is not good at all. Indeed, the scope and pace of desertification have increased over the last two decades. In some parts of the world, the rate of desertification has doubled since the 1970s. By 2025, according to the United Nations, two-thirds of the arable land in Africa will be gone. Today, desertification threatens an astonishing one-third of the earth's land surface, directly affecting over 250 million people and threatening the livelihoods of some 1.2 billion more. Most of these people live in the world's poorest countries, caught in a vicious cycle of accelerating poverty and environmental degradation. Disruptions associated with climate change will likely make things worse. No one has to be reminded of how important fertile soil has been to human societies. But what can take centuries to form can be eroded or blown away in a matter of years. Loss of arable land directly undermines food security, displacing large numbers of people, creating new opportunities for sickness and disease, and, in some cases, contributing to famine. These sorts of pressures also work to exacerbate political instability in so-called weak states. Indeed, the links between desertification and security are increasingly apparent, as recognized by a recent NATO workshop on the issue. It is high time that policy makers in the United States take these linkages seriously. But it is also high time to recognize that desertification is fundamentally a humanitarian issue. We cannot remain indifferent while millions suffer from the effects of desertification. This was the impetus that drove the international community to negotiate and adopt a formal Convention ten years ago. As we mark the tenth anniversary of the Convention, we would do well to remember this and to acknowledge that we must redouble our efforts to combat this global environmental problem. Unfortunately, the United States has so far failed to play a leading role in the global effort to combat desertification. Although we finally became a party to the Convention in 2000, we have never been especially active. I urge the current administration to step up and take a more active role in the Convention. Without active participation and leadership by the United States, the effectiveness of international efforts to combat desertification will be limited at best.