The 5th working session of the Intergovernmental Technical Panel on Soils (ITPS) of the Global Soil Partnership (GSP) finalized the draft ‘Voluntary Guidelines for Sustainable Soil Management,' planned for implementation of the first Status of the World's Soil Resources Report, and reviewed ongoing efforts to develop indicators to monitor progress on soil-related Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
In other events held in March 2016, GSP partners elaborated regional implementation plans for the Eurasian and European Soil Partnerships.
21 April 2016: The 5th working session of the Intergovernmental Technical Panel on Soils (ITPS) of the Global Soil Partnership (GSP) finalized the draft ‘Voluntary Guidelines for Sustainable Soil Management (VGSSM),’ planned for implementation of the first Status of the World’s Soil Resources Report (SWSR), and reviewed ongoing efforts to develop indicators to monitor progress on soil-related Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In other events held in March 2016, GSP partners elaborated regional implementation plans for the Eurasian and European Soil Partnerships.
Twenty-seven soil experts who provided scientific and technical advice and guidance to the GSP attended the 5th working session of the ITPS, which was held from 14-18 March 2016, at the headquarters of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) in Rome, Italy. Based on feedback from online consultations on the zero draft of the VGSSM, as well as thematic input from ITPS members, the meeting decided to, inter alia: shorten the text and add a glossary to the VGSSM; focus on agricultural soils, while taking note of other ecosystem services; refer consistently to ‘soils’ not ‘land’; clarify the scope of the guidelines; and ensure that the language used is accessible to a broad group of users, not just soil scientists. At the end of the meeting, ITPS members endorsed Annex 1 of the document, which focuses on scientific and technical guidelines, noting that the Open-Ended Working Group (OEWG) on the VGSSM would finalize the policy-relevant elements of the report.
With regard to follow up on the first SWSR report, which was published by the ITPS in 2015 as one of the key products of the International Year of Soils, the meeting established four working groups to follow up priority areas of action. The working groups will focus, respectively, on: sustainable soil management and assessment of soil degradation and restoration; the global management of soil organic matter; sustainable nutrient management of soils; and soil data and information systems. In a related initiative, GSP partners established the International Network of Soil Information Institutions (INSII) in December 2015, as part of activities to implement Pillar 4 of the GSP, which aims to enhance the collection, analysis, monitoring and reporting of soil data, and the integration with other disciplines.
The session also reviewed several ongoing ITPS partnerships, including: further collaboration with the Science-Policy Interface (SPI) of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) to develop indicators for monitoring soil degradation, following their first joint meeting at the Global Soil Week in 2015; linkages with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to ensure a greater focus on soils in the climate change agenda; ongoing collaboration with the Intergovernmental Panel on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) on its land degradation and restoration assessment; and enhancing synergies with the FAO’s ‘4 pour 1000′ initiative, which aims to increase carbon sequestration in soils to support global goals on food security and climate change.
The discussions on the SPI-ITPS partnership identified three key areas of collaboration: an ITPS-contributed chapter on soils in the UNCCD’s Global Land Outlook; a joint global assessment of soil erosion, led by the ITPS Working Group on sustainable soil management; and a greater role for the ITPS in assessing soil organic carbon in the framework of SDG target 15:3 (combat desertification, restore degraded land and soil, including land affected by desertification, drought and floods, and strive to achieve a land degradation-neutral world).
The meeting concluded by adopting the revised ITPS work plan for 2015-2017, which focuses on: implementation of the five GSP pillars; tracking progress under the four SWSR priority areas, including commencing work on the second edition of the SWSR; supporting the UNCCD/SPI; providing feedback on the draft IPBES Land Degradation Assessment; and collaboration with the IPCC, including the convening of a joint international conference on soil organic carbon.
The European Soil Partnership meeting, held from 8-9 March 2016 at FAO headquarters, noted that the main soil issues in Europe, as highlighted by the SWSR report, are soil sealing, salinization and contamination. Noting that additional demands will be put on soil resources by the implementation of the soil-and land-related SDGs in Europe, the report of the meeting discusses a strategic approach to soil management and governance in Europe, including avenues for enhancing synergies with EU soil policy, aimed at addressing these threats and other soil priorities identified by GSP partners in the region. The report also sets out specific implementation road maps under each of the five GSP pillars.
In their ‘Bishkek Communiqué’ issued at the close of the Eurasian Soil Partnership meeting in Bishkek, the Kyrgyz Republic, from 29 February to 2 March 2016, representatives from the 13 Eurasian countries and other GSP partners agreed to strengthen the regional partnership and work to resolve the technical and institutional barriers that prevent the full implementation of sustainable soil management. [GSP News on 5th ITPS Working Session] [Full Report of the 5th ITPS Working Session] [GSP News on the Establishment of INSII] [Full Report of the Inaugural INSII Workshop] [GSP News on the Eurasian and European Soil Partnership Meetings] [IISD Coverage of Soil-related Initiatives]