UN Coalition to Combat Sand and Dust Storms

Sand and Dust Storms

Sand and dust storms present a formidable and wide-spread challenge to achieving sustainable development in its economic, social and environmental dimensions. They have become a serious global concern in recent decades due to their significant impacts on the environment, health, agriculture, livelihoods, and socio-economic well-being. Sand and dust storms are an essential element of the Earth’s natural bio chemical cycles but are also caused in part by human-induced drivers including climate change, unsustainable land management, and water use, and in turn sand and dust storms contribute to climate change and air pollution. Sand and dust storms’ impacts are felt in all regions of the world, both in developed and developing countries, and pose severe challenges to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, including SDGs 2, 3, 6, 8, 11, 13, and 15 in affected developing countries (see General Assembly resolution 70/1).

Key facts

  • Approx. 2 million tonnes of sand and dust enter the atmosphere annually
  • SDS mostly occur in dry and desert regions but can be carried long distances to impact regions much further away
  • Dust particles, circulated by SDS, provide nutrients to marine ecosystems, but can also contribute to coral mortality and hurricane formation
  • SDS can cause respiratory diseases, heart disorders, and eye and skin irritation and can also spread other diseases, such as meningitis
  • Aviation and ground transportation can be disrupted by SDS
  • Agricultural practices and productivity can be impacted by SDS, which can also contribute to desertification processes
  • Sustainable water and land management practices can decrease the impacts of SDS

Establishment of the Sand and Dust Storm (SDS) Coalition 

The 24th Senior Officials Meeting of the EMG in 2018 led to the formation of a Coalition to Combat Sand and Dust Storms. This was in response to UN General Assembly Resolution 72/225 (2018) and the preceding UN Environment Assembly Resolution 2/21 (2016). The Coalition is made up of 15 nominated UN agency Focal Points.

Issue Note on Combating Sand and Dust Storms

SDS Coalition Terms of Reference

Concept Note

Meetings of the Coalition

The first meeting was held on February 14, 2019, by teleconference. 

The third meeting of the Coalition was a Technical Workshop on SDS Risk Assessment Methodology. It was held in the margins of the fifth meeting of the WMO SDS Warning Advisory System Steering Committee (SDS WAS SC) on November 14, 2019 in Hangzhou, China

The meeting looked at the Coalition’s Strategy and Action Plan and discussed Working Group 2.

The Coalition Working Groups

As outlined in the ToR, part of the modalities of the Coalition four cross-cutting work areas are addressed: facilitating information exchange; capacity building and training; mobilising resources and fundraising, and; advocacy and awareness raising. These four work areas are being addressed by five cross-cutting Working Groups, each lead and co-lead by a member of the Coalition with the most relevant experience and knowledge.

The Working Groups were identified using the Disaster Risk Management Cycle (pictured below) and designed to focus on specific stages of the cycle. In this way they are able to address specific phases of the SDS life cycle.

  • WG#1- Adaptation and mitigation
    Awaiting activation by FAO
  • WG#2- Forecasting and early warning
    Being activated by WMO
  • WG#3- Health and safety
    Awaiting activation by WHO
  • WG#4- Policy and governance
    Awaiting activation by UNEP and UNCCD
  • WG#5- Mediation and regional collaboration
    Being activated by UN ESCAP as part of their DRR platform

If you are interested in participating, please contact unemg@un.org.

Members of the SDS Coalition