This is part of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment report Ecosystems and Human Well-Being: Desertification Synthisis.
Core Writing Team: Zafar Adeel, Uriel Safriel, David Niemeijer, and Robin White
Extended Writing Team: Grégoire de Kalbermatten, Michael Glantz, Boshra Salem, Bob Scholes, Maryam Niamir-Fuller, Simeon Ehui, and Valentine Yapi-Gnaore
Review Editors: José Sarukhán and Anne Whyte (co-chairs) and MA Board of Review Editors
The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment was called for by United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan in 2000 in his report to the U.N. General Assembly, We the Peoples: The Role of the United Nations in the 21st Century. Governments subsequently supported the establishment of the assessment through decisions taken by four multilateral environmental conventions. The MA was initiated in 2002 under the auspices of the United Nations, with the secretariat coordinated by the United Nations Environment Programme, and governed by a multistakeholder board involving international institutions and representatives of governments, business, NGOs, and indigenous peoples.
The MA responds to governments’ requests for information received through four multilateral conventions—the Convention on Biological Diversity, the U.N. Convention to Combat Desertification, the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, and the Convention on Migratory Species—and is designed to also meet needs of other stakeholders, including business, the health sector, NGOs, and indigenous peoples. The objective of the MA was to assess the consequences of ecosystem change for human well-being and to establish the scientific basis for actions needed to enhance the conservation and sustainable use of ecosystems and their contributions to human well-being.
This synthesis report was developed during the period 2003–05. The preparatory work for the report and selection of a writing team was initiated in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, in August 2003, during a joint international workshop organized by the United Nations University, the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas, and the MA Secretariat. Production of the report was made possible through a team effort by a diverse group of experts, backstopped with logistical support by the MA Secretariat. The full writing team convened in Hamilton, Canada, in August 2004 and in Scheveningen, the Netherlands, in January 2005. An extensive external review was undertaken in coordination with the MA Board of Review Editors, which engaged external reviewers, government representatives, and the secretariats of key multilateral environmental conventions. The report was formally approved by the MA Board in March 2005.
The Desertification Synthesis is underpinned by the conceptual framework for the MA, which assumes that people are integral parts of ecosystems and that a dynamic interaction exists between people and other parts of ecosystems. The changing human condition drives—both directly and indirectly—changes in ecosystems, thereby causing changes in human well-being. At the same time, social, economic, and cultural factors unrelated to ecosystems change the human condition, and many natural forces influence ecosystems. Although the MA emphasizes the linkages between ecosystems and human well-being, it recognizes that people’s actions stem also from considerations of the intrinsic value of species and ecosystems, irrespective of their utility for someone else.
This report presents a synthesis and integration of the findings of the four MA Working Groups (Condition and Trends, Scenarios, Responses, and Sub-global Assessments). It does not, however, provide a comprehensive summary of each of those Working Group reports, and readers are encouraged to also review those findings. It is organized around the core questions originally posed to the MA: How has desertification affected ecosystems and human well-being? What are the main causes of desertification? Who is affected by desertification? How might desertification affect human well-being in the future? What options exist to avoid or reverse the negative impacts of desertification? And how can we improve our understanding of desertification and its impacts?
31 March 2005
Assistant Director at the United Nations University –
International Network on Water, Environment, and Health
Professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Disclaimer: This chapter is taken wholly from, or contains information that was originally written for the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment as published by the World Resources Institute. The content has not been modified by the Encyclopedia of Earth.
This is a chapter from Ecosystems and Human Well-being: Desertification Synthesis (full report).
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