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Global Soil Partnership Newsletter
#4 - August 2014

Special Edition : Outcomes of the Second Plenary Assembly

From Intentions to Agreed Actions


FAO HQ, RomeIn the last edition (GSP Newsletter #3) we anticipated that the fourth newsletter would be disseminated in September. However, with the exceedingly productive outcomes of the second Plenary Assembly (PA) meeting that has just concluded in Rome we feel we want to bring you up to speed with the encouraging results. These have immediate implications for many GSP actors and institutional components, so it is our wish to share this impressive progress with the international soil community immediately.


This Newsletter is therefore essentially devoted to outcomes of the 2nd PA session, in anticipation of its forthcoming report, which will be widely available in all FAO languages to all interested parties.

Happy reading.


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

openingAttendance and opening

The session was well attended, with noticeably more participants from non-governmental partners, which is a positive sign of expanding GSP outreach. Dr Pavel Krasilnikov from the Russian Federation presided over the proceedings, while Mr Mahmoud Alferihat from Jordan was appointed as Rapporteur.

A keynote address was delivered by Mr Aroldo Cedraz, Minister of the Federal Court of Accounts of Brazil, highlighting the important role of soils in the provisioning of ecosystem services and focusing on the intention of his national authorities to organize a major Conference on soil governance, to be held in Brasilia from 25-27 March 2015.

Approval of four Plans of Action (PoAs) under the GSP Pillars

action This is no doubt the major achievement of the session. The four PoAs, for pillar 1, pillar 2, pillar 4 and pillar 5, as endorsed and transmitted by the ITPS, were addressed by the PA with immediate reconsolidation aiming to reach :

  • more condensed, policy –oriented recommendations,
  • “punchier” Executive Summaries or introductory sections;
  • improved articulation among the Pillars;
  • consistent definitions and glossaries and avoidance of too controversial or ambiguous language.

The revision process managed to deliver the planned objectives, resulting in more strategic, consolidated recommendations. More specifically, it was possible to reduce drastically their numbers: i.e. for Pillar one, from 11 to 5; for Pillar two, from 17 to 7; for Pillar four, from 23 to 4; for Pillar five, from 13 to 6. Pillar 3 will instead be addressed at a future plenary session.

The next step is the development of the implementation plans. These plans will require substantial financial support, highly focused resource mobilization efforts need to be put in place through the Healthy Soil Facility (see below).

The international soil community has now an almost complete blueprint for action at its disposal.

Work of the ITPS – new report on the “Status of the World Soils Resources”

The Assembly commended the many valuable activities undertaken by the ITPS over nearly one year of operation. It expressed particular appreciation for the proposed new, seminal report entitled: “Status of the World Soils Resources” (SWSR). The first version of the SWSR is to be issued towards the end of 2015, with the active involvement of a large number of contributors. Due to the tight deadlines, this first version should not be expected to be as comprehensive as desirable (e.g. in terms of full reflection of national reports) but it should pave the way for more elaborate, successive versions.

The PA also confirmed the need for active ITPS engagement with other Panels or major international initiatives with interest in soils. The main targets of future progress in that direction are expected to be IPBES, the IPCC and the Science Policy Interface (SPI) established by the UNCCD. However, the ITPS was also invited to establish firm links with non UN international institutions such as the IUSS.

Instauration of a “GSP focal point” system for government partners

With regard to the country partners of the GSP, the Assembly agreed with the assessment by the Secretariat of a priority need for a “focal point system”, with a view to enhancing dissemination of information to, and technical exchanges with national authorities at a more working level, as was done in many other substantive areas. This focal point arrangement will of course be complementary to the established channels of communication with FAO Members, which would continue to be used for important policy matters.

A request to that end is shortly to be sent to Members, giving sufficient time for the national authorities to select focal points.

Endorsement of the Healthy Soils Facility

In a context of substantial additional resources required for the implementation of concrete programmes and projects in support of the GSP goals and pillars of action at all levels, the PA welcomed the establishment of the Healthy Soils Facility. This had been formulated by the Secretariat in response to a specific request made at the first session of the PA. The Assembly noted that the Facility was intended to be a flexible tool at the service of partners to facilitate resource mobilization.

Revised World Soil Charter

World Soil Charter Another key outcome of this PA was the endorsement of a revised World Soil Charter (whose first version was approved more than 30 years ago by the FAO Conference in 1981). An editorial team, including an ITPS member, further improved the text.

The further formal reviewing steps, up to the final approval of the World Soil Charter, include the 24th session of the FAO Committee on Agriculture (COAG) (29 September to 3 October 2014), the 150th session of FAO Council (1-5 December), and ultimately the 39th session of the FAO Conference (6-13 June 2015).

Regional Soil Partnerships (RSPs)

The Assembly received oral reports by representatives of several of the Regional Soil Partnerships (RSPs) on the current status in their respective geographical areas, i.e. the Near East and North Africa; Central America, Mexico aRSPnd the Caribbean; Africa; Europe (including the associated Eurasian RSP); South America; and Asia.

In observing the difference in stages among these initiatives, the Assembly stressed that further active dialogue among, and firm commitment from the concerned partners was required in order to establish a comprehensive and effective network of RSPs in all regions. Guidelines for the establishment of RSPs have been prepared by the Secretariat and were approved by the PA for wide dissemination. However, these guidelines can be adjusted to match locally-specific circumstances.

International Year of Soils (IYS) and World Soil Day (WSD)
wsd logo

The PA welcomed the plans being made to ensureIYS successful implementation of both awareness raising platforms in all regions and countries. Practical decisions made by the PA concerned:

  • the adoption of the logos for both events,
  • the establishment of a Steering Committee for the IYS, and
  • the selection of WSD themes for 2014 and 2015: i.e. respectively “Soils, a foundation for family farming”, and “Soils, a solid groundfor life”.

Other ways to enhance the IYS visibility and impact will include the selection of Ambassadors, the instauration of a World Soil Prize,and the use of the major opportunity to showcase the importance of soils provided by Expo Milano 2015.

Soils and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

SDG Last but not least, the Assembly noted developments in the competent fora of the United Nations, including the most recent agreement on a number of draft SDGs and associated targets and indicators. Due references to soils were already included in these draft SDGs. However, the formulation process was expected to continue towards further refinement and streamlining. In this light, the Assembly called on all GSP partners to pursue active advocacy on behalf of soils in all the national instances where inputs to the SDG formulation process are to be debated and prepared, up to the final stages of negotiations.

Global Soil Partnership www.fao.org/globalsoilpartnership