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Global Soil Partnership Newsletter
#2 - February 2014


FAO HQ, RomeThe Global Soil Partnership and the global soils community welcomed 2014 with a great start. The 68th UN General Assembly resolution has just designated the 5th December as World Soil Day and 2015 as the International Year of Soils. We are therefore provided with a unique opportunity to mainstream soils in the global development and environmental agenda. An opportunity we simply cannot afford to miss. The active contribution of all partners and soil stakeholders will be key for the successful implementation of both events.

Even if we are already a month into the new year, let me take this opportunity to wish you a healthy and prosperous 2014!


Dr Moujahed Achouri, Director
Land and Water Division, FAO - GSP-Secretariat

UN General AssemblyUNGA Endorsed Soils Day (5 December) and Soils Year (2015)
On 20 December 2013, the 68th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) decided to designate December 5th as World Soil Day and declare 2015 as the International Year of Soils. UNGA, in its decision, also invited FAO under the GSP framework to support and facilitate the implementation of World Soil Day and the International Year of Soils, in direct collaboration with Governments, relevant regional and international organizations, civil society and the general public.

This is the result of two years of hard work from all the partners under the leadership of the Kingdom of Thailand and facilitation of the Global Soil Partnership in order to inform UNGA members that soil is a crucial resource that requires urgent attention if we are to successfully address the various global challenges ahead.

The full resolution is available in all languages and can be accessed here.

Celebration of World Soil Day 2013
World Soil Day 2013As a side event of the 148th Session of the FAO Council, the Global Soil Partnership organized a high level event “A day dedicated to healthy and productive soils” to celebrate World Soil Day at FAO headquarters in Rome, Italy on 5 December 2013. The event consisted of high-level addresses by Ms. Maria Helena Semedo, FAO Deputy Director General, Coordinator of Natural Resources, H.E. Robert Sichinga, Minister of Agriculture and Livestock of Zambia and by H.E. Rapibhat Chandarasrivongs, Permanent Representative of Thailand to FAO. A keynote speech “Towards healthy soils: Is soil contamination a real issue?” was delivered by Dr. Luca Montanarella, Chair of the Intergovernmental Technical Panel on Soils. The event also witnessed the launch of the European Geochemical Atlas (GEMAS) by EuroGeoSurveys and a presentation entitled "SoilGrids1km: a proposal for an automated system for global soil mapping to support the GSP". The event was an opportunity to also launch the FAO Soil Portal and the Youth and United Nations Global Alliance (YUNGA) announced the creation of a new "soil badge" that scouts and other students can earn by completing a series of educational activities focused on soil and its management.

Ms. MariaHelena Semedo, FAO Deputy Director-GeneralA conclusion of the 2013 World Soil Day event was that “Greater focus on soil health is needed to feed a hungry planet”.

The GSP Secretariat also supported the implementation of satellite events in Costa Rica, France, Cuba and Pakistan on 5 December 2013. Further information is available at: www.fao.org/globalsoilpartnership/world-soil-day/en

In parallel to this celebration, technical workshops on soil spectroscopy, soil classification and soil contamination were successfully organized.

International Year of Soils 2015International Year of Soils 2015 (IYS)
The Secretariat for the International Year of Soil will be based in FAO and will establish a Steering Committee to support the implementation of activities of the IYS. The composition of this Committee and decisions about activities planning will be decided at the upcoming GSP Plenary Assembly (22-24 July 2014). Meanwhile, an ad-hoc Steering Committee will be established to make progress in the preparation of this Year. Its first meeting is foreseen for March at FAO, HQ, Rome, Italy.

Designers and communication experts are already at work to build a strong IYS identity that will play a critical role in boosting the soil year’s visibility.

All partners and interested colleagues are invited to submit proposals for activities that could be implemented during the IYS. Please send any contributions to the GSP-Secretariat@fao.org

European ComissionEuropean Commission supports GSP Implementation
Since its conception, the European Commission has been a major supporter for the establishment of the Global Soil Partnership, in line with the EU's Soil Thematic Strategy.  After extensive dialogue, a project proposal has been accepted in order to provide €1 million to the GSP for selected activities during 2014-2015. These activities focus on supporting: a) the work of the Intergovernmental Technical Panel on Soils; b) the development of detailed Implementation Plans at regional level under the various GSP Pillars; and c) capacity development on improved soil information (digital soil mapping) in Africa.

Resource mobilization for the GSP
The Secretariat is actively following up on the request from the Plenary Assembly to establish a dedicated financial facility that may be called the “Healthy Soils Trust Fund”. An Umbrella Programme is under development as the basis for organizing a donors meeting in which potential funding partners will be invited to support the implementation of GSP activities.

FAO HQ, RomeSecond working session of the Intergovernmental Technical Panel on Soils (ITPS)
The second working session of the ITPS will take place from 7 to 11 April 2014, at FAO headquarters in Rome. This critical meeting will tackle some highly compelling activities as its agenda includes: review and endorsement of four GSP Plans of Action (Pillars 1, 2, 3 and 5); progress on the preparation of the Status of World Soil Resources Report; finalization of the brief on Soils and the Sustainable Development Goals; as well as finalization of an updated World Soil Charter.

Second Plenary Assembly
The second Plenary Assembly (PA) of the Global Soil Partnership will take place from 22 to 24 July 2014, at FAO headquarters in Rome. The foreseen, very rich agenda deserves the participation of our partners’ best experts on the matters in discussion. We encourage participation of all those who can play an active part in this ground-breaking process and help achieve our partners’ high expectations! The draft agenda will be available at the end of March.

Regional Soil Partnerships (RSPs)
The establishment of Regional Soil Partnerships continued during the last quarter of 2013. They now include the European Soil Partnership and its sub-regional Eurasian Soil Partnership. We wish to extend them a warm welcome. The launch of the Pacific Soil Partnership workshop is planned for May-June 2014.

GSPAfter the expected endorsement of Global Plans of Action by ITPS and Plenary Assembly in their respective sessions this year, it is foreseen that Regional Soil Partnerships will take up the development of Implementation Plans for their respective regions. The GSP Secretariat will facilitate and support these regional processes. FAO Regional offices will be invited to announce the GSP and its RSPs at the FAO Regional Conferences in 2014 (Near East- 24-27 February; Asia and Pacific 10-14 March; Africa 24-28 March; Europe 1-4 April; Latin America and Caribbean 6-9 May; and North America 15-16 April respectively).

The Secretariat, through activities and advocacy events in countries, is encouraging those institutions, working on soils at national, regional or international level, to join and actively participate in the GSP.

We should all help in spreading the word to mobilize a broader and active participation. We invite all our readers to become dynamic advocate for the GSP and its critical role in soil conservation. We remind our partners that a registration form is available at www.fao.org/globalsoilpartnership/partners/en

FAO Soils PortalLaunch of the FAO Soils Portal
An FAO Soils Portal has been established to bring together and provide easier access to FAO’s work on soils across the various technical departments and decentralized offices. The website is regularly updated with further information on FAO’s activities. The Portal also contains soil legacy data and information produced by various FAO projects over many years. You can visit the portal at www.fao.org/soils-portal/en

Upcoming Events

  • GSPWorld Soil Resources Report Editorial Board meeting, 10-11 February 2014, FAO HQ, Rome, Italy.
  • European Soil Partnership Steering Committee meeting, 19-20 February 2014, IASS-Potsdam, Germany.
  • AAS Conference “The Soils of Africa: a forgotten resource”, 15 February, 2014, Chicago, USA.
  • GSP Pillar 5 workshop, 18-19 February 2014, FAO HQ, Rome, Italy.
  • Second working session of the Intergovernmental Technical Panel on Soils, 7-11 April 2014, FAO HQ, Rome, Italy.
  • GSP Symposia at the World Soil Congress, 8-13 June 2014, Jeju, Korea.
  • Second GSP Plenary Assembly, 22-24 July 2014, FAO HQ, Rome, Italy.

Next Newsletter
The next newsletter is scheduled for June 2014. Partners’ contributions arriving by May 2014 are very welcome.

Global Soil Partnership www.fao.org/globalsoilpartnership