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Soil and Land in the Context of Sustainable Development Agenda

​A session during the Global Soil Week 2013 in Berlin discusses proposals on integration of soil and land into the context of Sustainable Development Goals/post-2015 agenda.

30/10/2013, Berlin – Policy-makers, scientists and representatives of international organizations have discussed soil and land in the context of sustainable development agenda during the second Global Soil Week in Berlin. The session held on October 29 was hosted by the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS), Federal Environment Agency (UBA), and the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), the European Commission Joint Research Center (JRC) and the United States Studies Centre – University of Sydney. 

During his opening speech, IASS Executive Director Klaus Töpfer praised Colombia and Guatemala for making the proposal on sustainable development goals and referred to several intergovernmental processes and international organizations involved in the promotion of land and soil in this context.
UNCCD Policy Advocacy Coordinator Sergio Zelaya gave an overview of the progress and decisions made at the UNCCD 11th Conference of Parties (COP11), which took place from 16-27 September in Windhoek, Namibia. Sergio Zelaya elaborated on the Namib Declaration, initiated by the host country and embraced by all member states, and an intergovernmental working group on SDG/post2015 process.

Luca Montanarella from the Joint Research Centre made a presentation on the Global Soil Partnership and the Intergovernmental Technical Panel on Soils. Remy Sietchiping from UN-Habitat gave an overview of land and tenure security in the MDG/post 2015 development agenda and highlighted the coming key meetings on this discussion, including the 45th session of the Statistical Commission in February 2014 and the Annual Ministerial Review in July 2014.

Knut Ehlers from the German Federal Environmental Agency presented the paper „Soils and Land in the SDGs and the Post-2015 Development Agenda“, which evolved as a result of the first Global Soil Week in 2012 and elaborated on the proposed targets on land and soil in that context. Andrea Koch from the US Studies Centre at the University of Sydney presented concepts and dimensions of soil security and argued for using soil carbon as an indicator of soil function.

During the discussion round, Alexander Müller from IASS drew participants’ attention to the problematic definition of Land-Degradation Neutrality and called for united action by all interested stakeholders on clear proposal on land targets and goal for negotiators in New York.  Victor Castillo from UNCCD called to focus on integrating the local communities and farmers in the development of indicators and policies. Rattan Lal from Ohio State University highlighted the fact that the key person to understand the indicators and to implement them on the ground is farmer.

Uriel Safriel from the Hebew University of Jerusalem called to develop a simple and clear roadmap, which would aim to avoid land degradation and restore already degraded land.  Ronald Rajos from FAO said it is important that the proposed indicators should be clear and simple and be understood by both farmers and policy-makers. He highlighted that both speak of land rather than soil and called to use their language.  Richard Thomas from the UN University called to consider growth, social and environmental integrity when developing indicators and to focus on the positive sides and benefits of land restoration. Stefan Schmitz from the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development called to take the food, water, energy, security nexus seriously and to rely on science.

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