Introduction

The issue of desertification is intriguing to study for both scholars who perceive of globalization as a recent phenomenon with a decidedly new quality of global interdependencies and for those who are more skeptical about its distinctiveness and novelty [1]. To begin with, the very question whether desertification is, after all, a global issue or not is a matter of heated debate among scientists as well as policy makers. Much like globalization, desertification has evolved as a complex, multifaceted phenomenon, and much like globalization, it is contested both as a concept and as a process [2,3]. I shall argue in the following that desertification is as much a product of globalization as it circumscribes a local environmental phenomenon that occurs across the globe and that is interlinked with several processes of global scope. Hence, the phenomenon of desertification itself does not necessarily require encompassing the whole globe in order to be associated with the phenomenon of globalization [4].

The chapter is organized in two main sections. The first is concerned with the key characteristics and underlying concepts of desertification. In this section, I will discuss the extent to which desertification actually constitutes a global issue. As a first step, I will address desertification from a geographical angle, thereby relating it to concepts of dryland degradation and drought. Secondly, I take a historical perspective on dryland degradation to show that, while there have always been deserts, desertification is a rather recent issue. In a third and final step of this section, I will highlight some global issues that are related to desertification in that they are indicative of global interdependencies that affect the world's dryland regions. To this end, I will elaborate in particular on the examples of agricultural trade liberalization as well as climate change and biological diversity. Having thus established that desertification can indeed be perceived as a global issue, in the second main section, I turn to the global political responses vis-a-vis the desertification phenomenon. First, I will trace how desertification has been globalized politically. Second, I will outline recent efforts to govern global desertification by way of an international legal commitment, the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD). The latter sub-section will both describe the international institutional arrangements to halt desertification and discuss the instrumental status that is attributed to the convention in the global pursuit of sustainable development and poverty eradication. The chapter concludes with a brief outlook pertaining to the relevance of desertification for both global environmental governance and future research on globalization and the environment.

Negotiating Essentials

Negotiating Essentials

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