US & Canada

Canada 'only nation to leave UN drought agreement'

Cows search for edible grass in drought strickened paddocks on 12 March 2013 in Waiuku, New Zealand
Image caption Drought is becoming a recurring problem in some parts of the world

Canada is leaving a drought treaty, becoming the only UN member to do so, Canadian media report.

The cabinet issued the order last week, but did not announce the move, ahead of a convention in Germany next month.

The decision seems to have surprised the UN, which apparently only became aware of it when informed during a phone call by the Canadian Press.

Canada ratified the treaty to fight global drought in 1995, along with 154 countries and the European Union.

The cabinet order "authorises the minister of foreign affairs to take the actions necessary to withdraw, on behalf of Canada, from the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, in those countries experiencing severe drought and/or desertification, particularly in Africa".

Canada's withdrawal comes ahead of a major convention in Bonn, Germany, "to carry out the first ever comprehensive cost-benefit analysis of desertification, land degradation and drought", the UN Environment Programme said.

'Little benefit'

At the meeting, member countries will also for the first time be required to submit data on poverty and land cover in areas impacted by desertification.

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Media captionA look at the impact of rising food prices in Argentina and Mexico

The UN secretariat in Bonn said Canada had not officially informed them of their plan to leave, the Globe and Mail newspaper reported.

A spokesman for Canada's International Co-operation Minister, Julian Fantino, told the newspaper that membership of the convention had been expensive while yielding little benefit.

But critics say Canada is isolating itself by withdrawing and the decision should have been publicly announced.

Canada's conservative-led government has adopted policies in recent years that have dismayed aid groups.

Canada left the Kyoto Protocol to reduce greenhouse gases in 2012, becoming the first country to do so. Japan, Russia and New Zealand have since opted out, too. The US never joined the treaty.

Last year, the Ottawa government also announced plans to cut 7% out of its foreign aid budget by 2014-15.

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