Over 60 countries will be represented at this year’s International Conference on Drylands, Deserts and Desertification, which gets underway today on Ben-Gurion University’s Sde Boker campus in the Negev.

The four-day conference, which runs from November 12 to 15, 2012, has emerged as an important global gathering of scientists, field workers, industry, government and international development aid agencies concerned about land degradation in the drylands, and their sustainable use and development.

This year’s Rio de Janeiro conference on sustainable development aimed at reconciling the economic and environmental goals of the global community – 20 years after the landmark 1992 Earth Summit. The Drylands, Deserts and Desertification Conference now aims to make sure the decisions regarding this area of concern are implemented.

“To the extent that this conference is able to advance implementation of these outcomes, it will become a major driver of change globally, and posterity will thank us for it,” says Luc Gnacadja, executive secretary of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, and one of the guests of honor at the Sde Boker event.

The conference combines plenary lectures and panels, workshops, field trips and social events. Visitors will get a closer look at Israel’s advances in the desert — including ecological tourism in the desert, advanced water technologies, agriculture in drylands, mine rehabilitation in the Ramon Crater and regenerating energy in the desert.

During the conference, the late Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Wangari Maathai, who brought the tree planting work of her Green Belt Movement to the attention of the world as a model for land restoration, will be honored. Her daughter, Wanjira Mathai, who is the director of International Relations for the Green Belt Movement, will speak on her behalf.