Participant 9 University of Bern, Centre for Development and Environment (UNIBE-CDE), Switzerland (WP7)

Legal entity: The legal entity is UNIVERSITÄT BERN and CDE is an inter-faculty center of excellence within the University.
Institute description: CDE is a centre of excellence in research focusing on management of natural resources, integrative regional development, and interventions for mitigating syndromes of global change, with a view to promoting sustainable development in the North, South, and East. CDE works mainly through long-term partnerships, based on disciplinary, inter- and transdisciplinary approaches that aim to link research, knowledge generation, training, outreach and implementation. CDE has been the leading house of the National Centre of Competence in Research (NCCR) North-South, a 12-year international research program on sustainable development and global change, co-financed by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC). CDE also hosts the secretariat of WOCAT (World Overview of Conservation Approaches and Technologies), which operates through partnerships in over 50 countries in Europe, Africa, Asia and Latin America.
Role in the project: WP7 leader, participating in WPs 1 and 5-9.
Past experience: CDE implements research- and application mandates on issues of natural resources management and governance. In doing such mandates, CDE cooperates with a broad range of stakeholders at micro- meso- and macro level. CDE cooperates in several EU-funded projects, currently in DESIRE (Desertification mitigation and remediation of land) and REDD+ (Impacts of Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation and Enhancing Carbon Stocks).

Involved personnel

  • Prof. Dr Hans Hurni President of the CDE Board, Director NCCR North-South; Professor of Geography at the Institute of Geography, University of Berne. Professional focus on natural resource management and sustainable development.
  • Dr. Peter Messerli - Director of CDE. Professional focus on human-environment interactions; contextuality of sustainable development and multi-scale approaches; knowledge production for informed decision-making; governance landscapes and multi-level multi-stakeholder processes influencing sustainable development. 
  • Dr. Gudrun Schwilch - Senior Research Scientist / geographer / Dryland management specialist. Professional focus on Sustainable Land Management SLM; Soil and water conservation; desertification and land degradation; database development; decision support; participatory processes.
  • Dr. Hanspeter Liniger - Senior Research Scientist, coordinator of WOCAT. Professional focus on evaluation of natural resource management and its local and regional impacts on water and soil productivity

Prof. Dr Hans Hurni is president of the board of the Centre for Development and Environment (CDE), director of the Swiss National Centre of Competence in Research (NCCR) North-South and professor at the Institute of Geography, Faculty of Natural Sciences, University of Bern. Besides this, he is editor-in-chief of the international, peer-reviewed journal Mountain Research and Development (MRD); coordinator of the Global Mountain Partnership Program of the United Nations University (UNU GMPP); responsible for programs and projects mandated by SDC and other agencies; teaching and supervision of postgraduate students (MSc and PhD levels); immediate past president of the Swiss Commission for Research Partnerships with Developing Countries (CASS-KFPE). Hurni’s professional focus is on syndrome mitigation; natural resource management and ecology; sustainable development appraisal; development of multi-level stakeholder approaches; soil erosion process assessments; soil and water conservation experimentation; nature conservation; inter- and transdisciplinary research; methodological development.


  • Hurni H., Giger, M., Meyer K. (eds), 2006. Soils on the global agenda. Developing international mechanisms for sustainable land management. Geographica Bernensia on behalf of the International Union of Soil Science
  • Liniger H.P. and Schwilch G. 2002: Better decision making based on local knowledge - WOCAT method for sustainable soil and water management, Mountain Research and Development Journal, 22 Vol. 1, February 2002, Bern
  • Messerli P, Heinimann A, Epprecht M. 2009. Finding Homogeneity in Heterogeneity – a New Approach to Quantifying Landscape Mosaics Developed for the Lao PDR. Human Ecology, 37(3).
  • Ngana J, Notter B, Messerli P, Wiesmann U, Mbeyale G, Msuya T, Chitiki A. 2010. Managing water resources in dynamic settings: A multi-level, multi-stakeholder perspective. In: Hurni H, Wiesmann U, editors; with an international group of co-editors. Global Change and Sustainable Development: A Synthesis of Regional Experiences from Research Partnerships. Perspectives of the Swiss National Centre of Competence in Research (NCCR) North-South, University of Bern, Vol. 5. Bern, Switzerland: Geographica Bernensia, pp 91-106.
  • Schwilch G., Bestelmeyer B, Bunning S., Critchley W., Herrick J., Kellner K., Liniger H.P., Nachtergaele F., Ritsema C.J., Schuster B., Tabo R., van Lynden G., Winslow M. 2010: Experiences in Monitoring and Assessment of Sustainable Land Management. Land Degradation & Development (in press). Doi 10.1002/ldr.1040
  • Schwilch G, Bachmann F, Liniger HP. 2009. Appraising and selecting conservation measures to mitigate desertification and land degradation based on stakeholder participation and global best practices. Land Degradation & Development 20: 308–326. Doi 10.1002/Ldr.920
  • WOCAT 2007: Where the land is greener. Case studies and analysis of soil and water conservation initiatives worldwide. Editors: Hanspeter Liniger and Will Critchley. CTA, Wageningen.