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Global assessment of Sand and Dust Storms

Large sand and dust storms, which result from a combination of strong winds and loose dry soil surfaces in arid and semiarid areas, are detrimental to human health, agricultural land, infrastructure, and transport.

Every year, an estimated 2,000 million tons of dust is emitted into the atmosphere. While much of this is a natural part of the biogeochemical cycles of the Earth, a significant amount is generated by human-induced factors, especially unsustainable land and water management.

Policymakers and other stakeholders need more information on what can be done to reduce the frequency and intensity of sand and dust storms and to protect infrastructure and human health from their effects.

  • The Global Assessment is a significant contribution to our understanding, synthesizing the latest scientific information on the causes of sand and dust storms and their consequences for human and environmental well-being. It summarizes the latest knowledge on predicting them and reducing their impact.

Given the dominance of natural sources of dust and uncertainty regarding future dust emissions, the report stresses the importance of protective measures,  which include enhancing monitoring, prediction and early warning systems, and improving preparedness and emergency response.

To reduce anthropogenic sources of sand and dust storms, the Assessment recommends integrated strategies that promote sustainable land and water management in cropland, rangelands, deserts and urban areas, and climate change mitigation.

The report proposes a consolidated and coordinated global policy:

  • for responding to sand and dust storms, 
  • integrated and synergistic actions across sectors, and 
  • strengthened cooperation among global institutions. 

These measures are integral to the success of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

  • They can contribute to improved public health, more liveable towns and cities and more sustainable rural areas. 
  • They can help combat climate change, conserve oceans, and protect terrestrial ecosystems, thereby helping to reduce poverty and protect economic growth.

Key questions that are important to answer for policy decision making include:

  • Have dust storms got worse (more frequent and severe) in recent decades?
  • To what degree are SDS a result of human activity?
  • What can be done to prevent them and protect ourselves from their impact?

This assessment aims to shed light on these questions by synthesizing the latest scientific evidence.

Read the full text report by UNEP, WMO, UNCCD (2016). Global Assessment of Sand and Dust Storms. United Nations Environment Programme, Nairobi. Editor: Gemma Shepherd, UNEP, Published by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) September 2016

For your ease of reference related sand and dust storms official documents:

As of 9 December 2016 UN GA Status of draft proposals

  • A/C.2/71/L.53

    Combating sand and dust storms - on the basis of informal consultations on

  • Acknowledges the role of the United Nations development system in advancing international cooperation and support to combat sand and dust storms, and invites all relevant bodies, integrate, in their respective cooperation frameworks, operational programmes, measures and actions aimed at combating sand and dust storms so as to address this problem and contribute to the enhancement of, inter alia, capacity-building at the national level, the implementation of regional and subregional projects, the sharing of information, best practices and experiences and the boosting of technical cooperation in the affected countries and countries of origin, to improve the implementation of sustainable land management practices and to take measures to prevent and control the main factors of sand and dust storms and the development of early warning systems as tools to combat sand and dust storms in accordance with their strategic plans;Read the full document A/C.2/71/L.53  here


  • UNEA resolution, Second session Naironi, 23-27 May 2016

2/21.    Sand and dust storms
The United Nations Environment Assembly, Recalling General Assembly resolution 70/195 on combating sand and dust storms, which recognizes that dust and sandstorms, and the unsustainable land management practices, among other factors, that can cause or exacerbate these phenomena, pose a great challenge to the sustainable development of affected countries and regions, and which also recognizes that in the past few years dust and sandstorms have inflicted substantial socioeconomic damage on the inhabitants of the world’s arid, semi-arid and dry subhumid areas, especially in Africa and Asia, the resolution here

  • UNESCAP resolution May 2016

Regional cooperation to combat sand and dust storms in Asia and the Pacific. The Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, Recalling General Assembly resolution 70/195 of 22 December 2015 on combating sand and dust storms, in which it acknowledged the role of the United Nations development system in promoting international cooperation to combat sand and dust storms, and in which it stressed the need for cooperation at the global and regional levels with a view to preventing and managing dust and sandstorms through the development of early warning systems and the sharing of climate and weather information to forecast dust storms and sandstorms, and affirming that resilient action to combat sand and
dust storms requires a better understanding of the severe multidimensional impacts of dust and sandstorms, including the deterioration of the health, well-being and livelihood of people, increased desertification and land degradation, deforestation, loss of biodiversity and land productivity, and their impact on sustainable economic growth..Read the resolution here

  • UNGA resolution  February 2016

70/195.    Combating sand and dust storms. The General Assembly.
Reaffirming its resolution 70/1 of 25 September 2015, entitled “Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”, in which it adopted a comprehensive, far-reaching and people-centered set of universal and transformative Sustainable Development Goals and targets, its commitment to working tirelessly for the full implementation of this Agenda by 2030, its recognition that eradicating poverty in all its forms and dimensions, including extreme poverty, is the greatest global challenge and an indispensable requirement for sustainable development, its commitment to achieving sustainable development in its three dimensions — economic, social and environmental — in a balanced and integrated manner, and to building upon the achievements of the Millennium Development Goals and seeking to address their unfinished business, follow the full text document here