Scientists Consider the Evolution of Land Degradation Neutrality Concept

Panelists, from left to right: Barron Orr, Pamela Chasek, Mariam Akhtar-Schuster, Uriel Safriel, Anna Luise, And Harifidy Rakoto Ratsimba

UNCCD Stakeholders participated at the 6th International Conference on Drylands, Deserts and Desertification (DDD) that took place at the Sede Boqer campus of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel from 6-9 November 2017 that attracted participants from over 60 countries. The focus was the theory and practice of combatting desertification and environmental degradation, and related issues on living sustainably in the drylands, the means to address desertification and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals target of land degradation neutrality.

Dr. Barron Joseph Orr, Lead Scientist, UNCCD, and Dr. Pamela Chasek, Professor of International Relations at Manhattan College, convened a panel on “Land Degradation Neutrality: From Concept to Implementation.” The session elicited interest because it links theoretical concepts to practice. The Scientific Conceptual Framework on Land Degradation Neutrality, a showcase of how practitioners have used scientific theories, was particularly well-received.

The panel explained the history of the concept of land degradation neutrality (LDN) and the development of an LDN Scientific Conceptual Framework, which was endorsed by the country parties of the UNCCD at COP 13 in September 2017. The panelists also communicated both the scientific basis for LDN and the practical realities encountered as LDN is being implemented.
Professor Uriel Safriel, Hebrew University of Jerusalem and former Chair of the UNCCD Committee on Science and Technology and former Chair of the UNCCD Science-Policy Interface (SPI), discussed the emergence of the LDC paradigm. Orr discussed the elaboration of the LDN Scientific Conceptual Framework. Chasek presented on the opportunities for new and innovative funding for LDN implementation. Dr. Mariam Akhtar-Schuster, UNCCD SPI Co-Chair, discussed the challenges and opportunities in creating an enabling policy environment for implementing LDN. 

The final two presentations focused on the challenges and opportunities for implementing LDN on the ground. Harifidy Rakoto Ratsimba, Dr Eng., Lecturer, University of Antananarivo, Madagascar and Madagascar Scientific and Technical Correspondent to the UNCCD, demonstrated how the sustainable management of land through the LDN approach in Madagascar will create multiple benefits in a way that the land can meet the clear needs in terms of food security and water management, the mitigation and the adaptation of the effects of climate change and the promotion of responsible consumption of natural resources. Dr. Anna Luise, Italian National Institute for Environmental Protection and Research and Italy Scientific and Technical Correspondent to the UNCCD, described the work of the Italian Ministry of the Environment in order to define and adopt specific LDN targets to be reached by 2030, noting Italy is the only developed country participating in this project.

Up to 114 parties to the Convention have – to varying degrees – initiated steps to pursue the preparation and analysis of baseline assessment data necessary for integrated land use planning and LDN target setting and the initial monitoring of LDN indicators. Some countries have begun to implement LDN and donor countries and the private sector are developing innovative blending financing approaches. 

The Conference on Drylands, Deserts and Desertification emerged as an important forum for various stakeholders – scientists, practitioners, industry and government representatives and decision-makers, members of civil society organizations, non-governmental organizations, international development aid agencies – concerned about land and environmental degradation in drylands and living conditions in and around them, as well as their sustainable use and development. 

For more information contact: Barron Orr,

With thanks to Pamela Chasek and Barron Orr for this report.

Above Panelists, from left to right: Barron Orr, Pamela Chasek, Mariam Akhtar-Schuster, Uriel Safriel, Anna Luise, And Harifidy Rakoto Ratsimba