Acknowledged by world leaders as a global problem, land degradation has been taken seriously in three ways: its extent and the proportion of the global population affected; international environmental policy responses; and its inter-relation with other global environmental issues such as biodiversity. Messages about land degradation have, however, suffered from abuses, which have rendered appropriate policy responses ineffective. For control to be effective, the paper argues that the synergies between land degradation and the two other main global environmental change components (biodiversity and climate change) should be more fully exploited. A focus on the interlinkages, of which there are six possible permutations, is fully supported by empirical findings that suggest that land degradation control would not only technically be better served by addressing aspects of biodiversity and climate change but also that international financing mechanisms and the major donors would find this more acceptable. The DPSIR (Driving Force, Pressure, State, Impacts, Response) conceptual framework model is used to illustrate how land degradation control could be more effective, tackling not only the drivers of change but also major developmental issues such as poverty and food insecurity. Copyright © 2005 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.