About 200 experts from 25 countries are convening in Algiers Dec. 17-19 to advise shifts in world policies needed to cope with the causes and growing consequences of desertification a creeping environmental crisis that threatens an estimated 2 billion people living in arid places, and a growing concern worldwide due to its global health, economic and migration impacts.
Convened by the United Nations University's Canadian-based water programme, with 10 partner international agencies and hosted by the Algerian government to conclude the UN International Year for Deserts and Desertification (IYDD), the conference will hear from experts at the forefront of policy efforts to address the problem.
Such policies, if successful, could also directly reduce the impact of climate change while ensuring adequate food, water and livelihoods for dryland dwellers. And reducing poverty in drylands can have a strong impact on the efforts to curb the flow of people popularly termed "environmental refugees" inside countries as well as across national borders.
"Bad policies are as much to blame for aggravating desertification as climate change, which is also largely human-induced," says conference organizer Zafar Adeel, Director of the UNU's Canadian-based International Network on Water, Environment and Health and co-chair of the team that developed a global assessment of desertification as part of the landmark 2005 Millennium Ecosystem Assessment.
"Put simply, desertification which people commonly think of as the expansion of desert sands but is defined as the persistent decline of ecosystems' benefits in dry areas has been on the international agenda for 50 years but we still do not know precisely how fast desertification is growing, much less how best to address it. Efforts to arrest the problem have been chronically under-funded, and the situation is getting demonstrably worse every year. This conference convenes experts to share policy
Contact: Terry Collins
United Nations University