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Improving International Soil Governance

Improving International Soil Governance

Analysis and recommendations

This research report by Ecologic Institute identifies ways in which Germany can improve international soil governance in the short, medium and long term. It begins with an inventory of existing international instruments and institutions relevant to soil governance at the international level. It assesses the actual and potential steering effects of international treaties such as the Convention to Combat Desertification, the Convention on Biological Diversity, the Paris Agreement on Climate Change and the climate regime as well as regional agreements. It also analyses the activities of FAO, UNEP, IPBES and the activities of the IPCC.

The sustainable development goals and especially the "land degradation neutrality" target have established a global political reference point. But there are almost no binding obligations for all states specifically regarding soil. Current governance of soil at the international level is piecemeal and spread over parts of different mandates. There is significant overlap of mandates and activities of relevant institutions, each of which has limitations. While a certain degree of a rudimentary division of labour is emerging, there is scope and a need for improvement. The research report develops options for improving international soil governance with regard to overarching issues, new treaty or institutions, improving existing governance, means of implementation and enhancing co-ordination and coherence.


Bodle, Ralph et. al. (2020): Improving international soil governance – Analysis and recommendations. Dessau-Roßlau: Umweltbundesamt.

Franziska Wolff (Öko Institut e.V.)
Cara-Sophie Scherf (Öko Institut e.V.)
148 pp.
Project ID
Table of Contents

1 Introduction
1.1 Background
1.2 Objective and approach
2 Stocktake of existing international soil governance
2.1 Sustainable Development Goals
2.1.1 Analysis Scope of application Institutions Practice
2.1.2 Assessment and opportunities
2.1.3 Potential avenues for action
2.2 UN Convention to Combat Desertification (CCD)
2.2.1 Analysis Scope of application Core obligations Institutions Practice
2.2.2 Assessment and opportunities
2.2.3 Potential avenues for action
2.3 UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)
2.3.1 Analysis Scope of application Core obligations Institutions Practice
2.3.2 Assessment and opportunities
2.3.3 Potential avenues for action
2.4 Paris Agreement and climate regime
2.4.1 Analysis Scope of application Core obligations Institutions Practice
2.4.2 Assessment and opportunities
2.4.3 Potential avenues for action
2.5 Ramsar Convention on Wetlands
2.5.1 Analysis Scope of application Core obligations Institutions Practice
2.5.2 Assessment and opportunities
2.5.3 Potential avenues for action
2.6 Soil Conservation Protocol to the Alpine Convention
2.6.1 Analysis Scope of application Core obligations Institutions Practice
2.6.2 Assessment and opportunities
2.6.3 Potential avenues for action
2.7 Maputo Convention
2.7.1 Analysis Scope of application Core obligations Institutions Practice regarding LDN
2.7.2 Assessment and opportunities
2.7.3 Potential avenues for action
2.8 Sahel Committee CILSS
2.8.1 Analysis Organisational structure Mandate and tasks Cooperative activities Practice
2.8.2 Assessment and opportunities
2.9 UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO)
2.9.1 Analysis Institutional structure Mandate and tasks Practice
2.9.2 Assessment and opportunities
2.9.3 Potential avenues for action
2.10 UN Environment (UNEP)
2.10.1 Analysis Institutional structure Mandate and tasks Practice
2.10.2 Assessment and opportunities
2.10.3 Potential avenues for action
2.11 Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES)
2.11.1 Analysis Institutional structure Mandate and tasks Practice
2.11.2 Assessment and opportunities
2.11.3 Potential avenues for action
2.12 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)
2.13 The New Urban Agenda
2.13.1 Analysis Scope of application Core obligations Institutions Practice
2.13.2 Assessment and opportunities
2.13.3 Potential avenues for action
2.14 Initiatives for an international instrument for soil
2.14.1 History of initiatives for an international instrument for soil
2.14.2 Content of an instrument for soil conservation
2.14.3 Assessment and opportunities
2.15 Summary of key governance aspects and timeline of milestones
3 Assessment, conclusions and options for strengthening international soil governance
3.1 Overarching issues: Improving international framework conditions for soil policy
3.1.1 Land use and soil protection not sufficiently established as an ‘international’ issue
3.1.2 Recognise the significance of the global land footprint for soil policy
3.1.3 Further engage in SDGs and developing indicators and implementing tools
3.1.4 Feasible policies independent of tenure rights
3.2 New treaty or institutions
3.3 Improve existing soil governance within existing fora
3.3.1 CCD: International transparency and accountability of national policies and actions
3.3.2 CBD
3.3.3 FAO
3.3.4 UNEP
3.3.5 Paris Agreement and climate regime
3.4 Means of implementation
3.4.1 Capacity building for accessing international support
3.4.2 Tackle adverse subsidies
3.5 Enhancing coordination and coherence
3.5.1 Clarify division of labour
3.5.2 Establish a coordinating forum
3.5.3 Check coherence of existing guidance
3.6 At a glance: Compilation of options
4 References

Boden-Governance, Völkerrecht, internationale Institutionen, Nachhaltige Entwicklungsziele, Neutralität der Bodendegradation, SDG,