Bringing "top-down" to "bottom-up": A new role for environmental legislation in combating desertification

Alon Tal*, Jessica A. Cohen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) in countries experiencing serious drought and/or desertification is the instrument that emerged from two years of negotiation. The UNCCD was designed to provide a global response to desertification by directing strategy plans individually and regionally to prevent soil degradation and restore degraded lands. Among the distinguishing characteristics of the UNCCD is its emphasis on a bottom-up approach in which communities are engaged in defining the solutions to their specific desertification problems. Unfortunately, this bias has brought with it an implicit suspicion of centralized, top-down policies. Although parties to the Convention are encouraged to enact legislation, this should be done in a consensual context as part of an overall strategy that does not try to impose solutions from above but works to craft them in conjunction with the affected communities. This approach promises practical benefits in terms of actual participation and adoption of responsible land management practices. Today, over 190 countries are parties to the Convention, making it the most widely adopted of the modern international environmental initiatives.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)163-217
Number of pages55
JournalHarvard Environmental Law Review
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2007
Externally publishedYes


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