Millennium Ecosystem Assessment
Strengthening Capacity to Manage Ecosystems Sustainably for Human Well-Being

MA launches Desertification Synthesis Report on "World Day to Combat Desertification"

The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA) launches the Ecosystems and Human Well-Being: Desertification Synthesis, prepared in response to governments’ requests for information received through the U.N. Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD). 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).

The objective of the MA is 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. The Desertification synthesis is part of a series of six synthesis reports designed to meet the needs of the international conventions (Convention on Biological Diversity, the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, and the Convention on Migratory Species). The reports are also designed to meet the needs of other stakeholders, including business, civil society, and indigenous peoples.


The report 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?

"The Desertification Synthesis, based on a sound summary of scientific evidence, states that desertification must imperatively be addressed to meet the Millennium Development Goals of the United Nations. Desertification must be fought at all levels, but this battle must ultimately be won at the local level. There is evidence that success is possible. All the while, this report makes it now clearer that this phenomenon is embedded in a global chain of causality and that its impact is felt far beyond the boundaries of affected areas," said Hama Arba Diallo, Executive Secretary of the UNCCD.

“The Millennium Assessment found that dryland systems in developing countries are the regions where people are experiencing the greatest problems from the breakdown in the supply of ecosystem services.  And the ecological, social, and economic impacts of desertification can affect not just the people living in drylands, but also countries far removed from those regions,” said Walter Reid, Director of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment.

The main findings of the assessment (Millennium Ecosystem Assessment: Synthesis) and a statement by the MA Board of Directors entitled “Living beyond Our Means: Natural Assets and Human Well-being” were launched on Mar 30 in London, Washington DC, Beijing, Brasilia, Cairo, Delhi, Lisbon, Rome, Stockholm and Tokyo. The Biodiversity Synthesis, was launched on the International Day for Biological Diversity (May 19) in Montreal, Beijing and Cambridge. 

About the MA

Involving some 1,360 of the world's leading experts, the MA is a partnership among several international organizations, including the Convention on Biological Diversity, U.N. Convention to Combat Desertification, Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, Convention on Migratory Species, five UN agencies (WHO, FAO, UNESCO, UNEP, UNDP), the World Bank, and IUCN. It is supported by 22 of the world’s leading scientific bodies, including The Royal Society of the U.K. and the Third World Academy of Sciences. 

The MA’s work is overseen by a 45-member board of directors, co-chaired by Dr. Robert Watson, Chief Scientist of The World Bank, and Dr. A. H. Zakri, Director of the United Nations University’s Institute of Advanced Studies. The multi-stakeholder board is composed of the international organizations plus government officials, the private sector, NGOs and indigenous peoples.

The Assessment Panel, which oversees the technical work of the MA, includes 13 of the world’s leading social and natural scientists. It is co-chaired by Ms. Angela Cropper of the Cropper Foundation, and Prof. Harold Mooney of Stanford University. Dr. Walter Reid is the Director of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment.

Major funding was provided by the Global Environment Facility, the United Nations Foundation, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, and The World Bank.  The MA Secretariat is coordinated by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).