Let’s Speak and Write More about Desertification

Dear Reader,

I was very happy to write an article about my Master’s thesis for a blog called Desertification by Professor Willem Van Cotthem. His initiative to gather articles related to desertification, land-degradation and drought is admirable. The article goes as follows:

Why is it that the global community is so concerned about climate change, but desertification rarely gets any attention in the press and what is more puzzling, in the research community? As an International Relations student I was surprised by the lack of scientific debate about this issue among social scientists. That is why the aim of my Master’s thesis “United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification: Challenges and Chances of a Troubled Regime” was to discover how desertification regime works, whether it is effective, and how it strives to make its functioning better.

The thesis provides the first comprehensive description of the desertification regime, while it also presents a list of the regime’s problems, and an explanation of the regime’s efforts to tackle these problems. Scholars have often referred to existence of a desertification regime, but they have not analyzed it by applying regime theory. I explain that the regime is denoted ineffective because until today it has not managed to reverse desertification, mitigate drought, and reduce poverty.

The UNCCD faces several problems including lack of funding, disagreements about financial responsibilities, and investment into unsustainable projects. Secondly, problems in science (small role of scientists in previous and current negotiations, malfunctioning of the Committee for Science and Technology and lack of scientific cooperation and data) lead to misunderstandings about significance of the desertification problem. A third problem lies in the design of the regime, namely in lack of consensus, low political will, and institutional weaknesses. Fourthly, there is a lack of advocacy about desertification and insufficient connections to other two Rio Conventions (UNFCCC and CBD).

The thesis also points out to UNCCD’s efforts of making the Convention more effective. I argue that the adoption of The Strategy for 2008-18 and the introduction of Land-Degradation Neutral World concept represent significant moves towards better implementation of the Convention, nonetheless, these projects have excessively ambitious goals.

To conclude, I believe the UNCCD is indispensable in our fight against desertification, but we have to make it more effective so that it reaches the affected populations and ecosystems. Desertification should also be taken seriously as a scientific topic even among social scientists.  If you feel interested in my thesis, please contact me through my blog and we can discuss some new ideas for research.

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