Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Desertification: Experts Prescribe Global Policy Overhaul to Avoid Looming Mass Migrations

Desertification, exacerbated by climate change, represents “the greatest environmental challenge of our times” and governments must overhaul policy approaches to the issue or face mass migrations of people driven from degraded homelands within a single generation, warns a new analysis from the United Nations University.

In the analysis for presentation June 28 at UN Headquarters, New York, UNU experts say the loss of soil productivity and the degradation of life-support services provided by nature pose imminent threats to international stability. They outline a multi-point prescription for policy reform at every level of government.

“It is imperative that effective policies and sustainable agricultural practices be put in place to reverse the decline of drylands,” says Prof. Hans van Ginkel, UN Under Secretary-General and Rector of UNU.

Land use policy reform is urgently needed to halt overgrazing, over-exploitation, trampling and unsustainable irrigation practices, as are policies to create livelihood alternatives for dryland populations, he says.

Based on input of 200 experts from 25 countries convened in Algiers late last year, the analysis urges governments to adopt a broader, overarching view and a more coordinated, integrated and interlinked approach to dealing with desertification, climate change, poverty reduction and other public concerns.

It highlights dozens of problems and inconsistencies in policy-making today at every level, saying decisions are often taken in isolated sectoral silos, the end results of which, on balance, can be counterproductive.

“Some forces of globalization, while striving to reduce economic inequality and eliminate poverty are contributing to worsening desertification. Perverse agricultural subsidies are one such example,” says Prof. van Ginkel.

One-third of all people on Earth – about 2 billion in number – are potential victims of desertification’s creeping effect. And, left unchecked, the number of people at risk of displacement due to severe desertification is an estimated 50 million over the next 10 years – a sweep of migrants worldwide equal in number to the entire population of

South Africa or South Korea.

“Addressing desertification is a critical and essential part of adaptation to climate change and mitigation of global biodiversity losses,” says Prof. van Ginkel. “UNU has led the argument over the last decade that such inter-linkages in policy formulations must be taken.”

“Reforming policies to combat desertification also represent one of the world’s most expedient ways to sequester more atmospheric carbon and help address the climate change issue,” says Zafar Adeel, lead author of the analysis and Director of the UNU’s Canadian-based International Network on Water, Environment and Health.

Policy formulation for combating desertification “has been hindered by the lack of concrete data about rates and extent of desertification,” he adds. “We must, as the global international community interested in desertification, put monitoring and assessment at the top of our policy agenda.”

Desertification shows no sign of abatement: An “environmental crisis” with major impacts

UNU says the main barrier to expanding isolated successes at combating desertification is “the lack of effective management policies.”

In some countries where policies are deemed conducive to addressing desertification, enactment and implementation falls short. Or, designed and implemented at a national level, policies fail to translate into local action. Worse, some policies provide perverse incentives, exacerbating competition and conflict over the use of land and natural


Among many recommendations, the report urges governments and policy-makers to:

* Reject the notion that aridity and water scarcity are inevitable;

* Create financial incentives for pastoralists and other dryland users
to preserve and enhance the ecosystem services their land provides to
* Accept the carbon sequestration as a measure for simultaneously
combating desertification and climate change. While vegetative cover
in most drylands is sparse, drylands represent more than 40% of
global land area, providing immense opportunities for carbon
* Foster alternative, sustainable livelihoods for dryland dwellers,
including non-agricultural jobs in industry and tourism, for example;
* Yield ownership and decision making to communities: empower them to
take charge of land on which they depend and end the pattern of
individuals chasing environmentally-detrimental short-term gains;
* Promote greater transparency and accountability, the participation of
multiple actors, information sharing, measurable results, and
follow-up systems;
* Better educate local populations and policymakers, many of whom lack
adequate awareness of the fragility of their natural resource base
and, in some places, fail to understand fundamental concepts of
"drylands" and "desertification;"
* Put science at the heart of policy making and beef up research on
emerging issues such as thresholds or "tipping points" as they relate
to migration and desertification;
* Improve coordination at all levels:
Nationally: harmonize policies dispersed across a range of government ministries and agencies; rationalize and link the wide assortment of development, poverty reduction and environmental policy frameworks, independently conceived and "each in their own orbit," to encourage synergies and integration;

Regionally: to help address transboundary issues such as integrated river basin management and environmental migration; and

Internationally: better relate global conventions, agreements and other initiatives one to another. The analysis says the separate constitutions, priorities and procedures involved in administering the mix of international agreements operating today prevent important synchronization needed to achieve broad social and environmental goals:

food security and famine relief, conflict and migration prevention, better health and poverty reduction, desertification and climate change avoidance and biodiversity protection and enhancement.

The authors urge governments to better define and understand environmental migration – its economic and ecological consequences, and to create a global framework to legally recognize and assist environmental refugees.

“The expected climatic change scenarios as projected by the recently published report of the IPCC give an additional dark shade to an already gloomy picture. However it is difficult to properly quantify the number of environmental migrants and the migration routes as long as the concept itself remains debated even from a scientific point of view,” the analysis says.

UNU advances a classification scheme based on three subgroups of migrants driven predominantly by environmental reasons:

§ Environmentally motivated migrants

§ Environmentally forced migrants

§ Environmental refugees

Finally, the analysis says governments need to measure progress in human-development terms and develop a common set of environmental indicators and data collection methods to enhance consistency for tracking and comparison purposes.

Wangu Mwangi | alfa
Further information:

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Dispersal of Fish Eggs by Water Birds – Just a Myth?
19.02.2018 | Universität Basel

nachricht Removing fossil fuel subsidies will not reduce CO2 emissions as much as hoped
08.02.2018 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Space observation with radar to secure Germany's space infrastructure

Satellites in near-Earth orbit are at risk due to the steady increase in space debris. But their mission in the areas of telecommunications, navigation or weather forecasts is essential for society. Fraunhofer FHR therefore develops radar-based systems which allow the detection, tracking and cataloging of even the smallest particles of debris. Satellite operators who have access to our data are in a better position to plan evasive maneuvers and prevent destructive collisions. From April, 25-29 2018, Fraunhofer FHR and its partners will exhibit the complementary radar systems TIRA and GESTRA as well as the latest radar techniques for space observation across three stands at the ILA Berlin.

The "traffic situation" in space is very tense: the Earth is currently being orbited not only by countless satellites but also by a large volume of space...

Im Focus: Researchers Discover New Anti-Cancer Protein

An international team of researchers has discovered a new anti-cancer protein. The protein, called LHPP, prevents the uncontrolled proliferation of cancer cells in the liver. The researchers led by Prof. Michael N. Hall from the Biozentrum, University of Basel, report in “Nature” that LHPP can also serve as a biomarker for the diagnosis and prognosis of liver cancer.

The incidence of liver cancer, also known as hepatocellular carcinoma, is steadily increasing. In the last twenty years, the number of cases has almost doubled...

Im Focus: Researchers at Fraunhofer monitor re-entry of Chinese space station Tiangong-1

In just a few weeks from now, the Chinese space station Tiangong-1 will re-enter the Earth's atmosphere where it will to a large extent burn up. It is possible that some debris will reach the Earth's surface. Tiangong-1 is orbiting the Earth uncontrolled at a speed of approx. 29,000 km/h.Currently the prognosis relating to the time of impact currently lies within a window of several days. The scientists at Fraunhofer FHR have already been monitoring Tiangong-1 for a number of weeks with their TIRA system, one of the most powerful space observation radars in the world, with a view to supporting the German Space Situational Awareness Center and the ESA with their re-entry forecasts.

Following the loss of radio contact with Tiangong-1 in 2016 and due to the low orbital height, it is now inevitable that the Chinese space station will...

Im Focus: Alliance „OLED Licht Forum“ – Key partner for OLED lighting solutions

Fraunhofer Institute for Organic Electronics, Electron Beam and Plasma Technology FEP, provider of research and development services for OLED lighting solutions, announces the founding of the “OLED Licht Forum” and presents latest OLED design and lighting solutions during light+building, from March 18th – 23rd, 2018 in Frankfurt a.M./Germany, at booth no. F91 in Hall 4.0.

They are united in their passion for OLED (organic light emitting diodes) lighting with all of its unique facets and application possibilities. Thus experts in...

Im Focus: Mars' oceans formed early, possibly aided by massive volcanic eruptions

Oceans formed before Tharsis and evolved together, shaping climate history of Mars

A new scenario seeking to explain how Mars' putative oceans came and went over the last 4 billion years implies that the oceans formed several hundred million...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

New solar solutions for sustainable buildings and cities

23.03.2018 | Event News

Virtual reality conference comes to Reutlingen

19.03.2018 | Event News

Ultrafast Wireless and Chip Design at the DATE Conference in Dresden

16.03.2018 | Event News

Latest News

For graphite pellets, just add elbow grease

23.03.2018 | Materials Sciences

Unique communication strategy discovered in stem cell pathway controlling plant growth

23.03.2018 | Agricultural and Forestry Science

Sharpening the X-ray view of the nanocosm

23.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>