Governing drylands as global environmental commons | Land Portal

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Date of publication: 
March 2021
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ISBN / Resource ID: 

Meeting the Sustainable Development Goals requires drylands sustainability. Treating drylands as global environmental commons enables better tailored governance responses. Key nested governance elements for drylands involve setting goals, monitoring and delivering sanctions across scales. The present global governance system for drylands only partially delivers these elements. Drylands require a particular focus on linking local and global governance. Recent years have seen growing calls to govern land resources as global environmental commons, delivering benefits to all of humanity in support of the Sustainable Development Goals. Applying this call to drylands – almost half of the world’s land – allows responses that are better tailored to dryland attributes. Four key elements for global drylands governance emerge from linking an understanding of drylands attributes with recent global governance scholarship: the need for a polycentric system with nested goal setting, transparent monitoring and graduated sanctions. These elements require nuanced application in drylands, with an emphasis on empowering the local. The authors describe how the present global governance architecture for drylands – the UN Convention to Combat Desertification – provides a partial scaffolding, but falls short in specific areas that deserve attention.

Authors and Publishers

Author(s), editor(s), contributor(s): 

Stafford-Smith, Mark
Metternicht, Graciela

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The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification in Those Countries Experiencing Serious Drought and/or Desertification, Particularly in Africa (UNCCD) is a Convention to combat desertification and mitigate the effects of drought through national action programs that incorporate long-term strategies supported by international cooperation and partnership arrangements.


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