The Second International Conference on Desertification, scheduled for December 2008, will be hosted by the Blaustein Institutes for Desert Research (BIDR) of Ben Gurion University of the Negev. The BIDR has been a leading force in the investigation of drylands, deserts, and desertification for over 30 years.
In November 2006, the BIDR held the First International Conference on Desertification, co-sponsored by the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) and the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs. More than 250 scientists, field workers and government, NGO and international agency officials from over thirty countries convened to consider a range of related issues, thereby generating collaborations, research, and policy initiatives. Continuing in the same spirit, The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is the international partner for the 2008 conference.
The recent Millennium Ecosystem Assessment has estimated that desertification directly affects more people than any other global environmental problem facing the international community. Yet, desertification remains one of the most disappointing policy and scientific failures of global environmental efforts. Degradation of drylands over vast areas worldwide has enormous economic, social and ecological implications, especially in developing countries: they face erosion, famine, migration, water shortages, declining soil fertility, decreasing farm profits and - in the worst cases - displacement of entire rural communities.
The causes of desertification are multi-faceted. Considerable international effort has been expended to develop a unified scientific approach to understanding the process. The recently published scientific framework for global desertification-the Drylands Development Paradigm (DDP) (Reynolds et al., 2007 Science, 316, 847-851), provides a useful tool. It calls for a comprehensive response requiring expertise in a wide range of disciplines. The strengths and weaknesses of the DDP for analyzing the degradation of soil and vegetation will be one of the key themes of the 2008 conference. Presentations and case studies will also focus on the implications of the paradigm for partnerships between developing and developed countries, as well as on the interplay between desertification and climate change.
This year’s conference agenda also includes a rich mix of relevant activities and social events. There will be daily outings and a full day dedicated to field trips. Evening events will take full advantage of the Negev desert‘s unique breathtaking environment.