The UN Convention to Combat Desertification is a mix of traditional regime elements with a set of innovations. These innovative elements can be interpreted as emanations of policy discourses that have been gaining in importance since the introduction and the fairly broad acceptance of sustainable development and Agenda 21 as guiding conceptual frameworks. In this article I first elaborate on three of those discourses: the participatory, the decentralization and the local knowledge discourses. In a second part, I will look at Burkina Faso as an example of UNCCD policy implementation at the national and the local level (Yatenga region). It will become clear that although changes are visible in policy-making dynamics, major difficulties and obstacles remain. The CCD undeniably has an impact at the national level of policy-making. It has provided support for decentralization, for more participatory processes of policy-making and for the inclusion of local knowledge in the policy process. At the more decentralized level the impact is less clear and more difficult to distinguish.