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Global Soil Partnership Newsletter
#1 - October 2013

Introduction

Following the formal inception of the Global Soil Partnership (GSP) which came about immediately after the endorsement of its Terms of Reference by the FAO Council in December 2012, the last few months have witnessed important developments of this initiative.

Soils are back on the agenda and the GSP partners are committed to making the best of this precious momentum in order to fully promote the sustainable management of soils.

©Ronald VargasThis is the first issue of a newsletter which the GSP Secretariat intends to produce and disseminate at regular intervals, to inform partners and other interested audiences about progress in the implementation of approved activities. Comments on the desirable contents of this type of concise and informal communication material are welcome and can be conveyed to the Secretariat by sending an email to GSP-Secretariat@fao.org.  

I wish to invite all our partners and those who are not yet part of the GSP to join us in this new drive to promote healthy soils for a food secure world and a healthy planet. This newsletter should be a contribution, albeit modest, to give justice to the efforts done under the auspices of the GSP.

 

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

First Plenary Assembly

The first Plenary Assembly (PA) of the Global Soil Partnership was held on from 11 to 12 June 2013, at FAO headquarters in Rome. It was an opportunity for participants to provide fruitful guidance and to endorse a number of key steps towards effective implementation of the GSP.

The full report of this meeting in the different languages can be consulted on the GSP website at the following address: http://www.fao.org/globalsoilpartnership/highlights/detail/en/c/177933/
Two significant milestones were achieved:

  1. ©FAO/Giulio Napolitanothe adoption of complementary Rules of Procedure; and
  2. the establishment of the Intergovernmental Technical Panel on Soils (ITPS) by appointing the 27 members, whose biopics can also be consulted at the above website.

The PA also addressed other important dimensions of the GSP, including:

  • the foreseen preparation of Plans of Action under the five Pillars;
  • the progressive establishment of Regional Soil Partnerships; and
  • on the financial side, the need to establish a dedicated facility under FAO’s rules (Healthy Soils Trust Fund) to facilitate collection of extra-budgetary contributions and financial allocations to approved activities and projects in a transparent manner.

 

It can be foreseen that the second meeting of the Plenary Assembly (the dates of which are still to be determined, but which is likely to take place in or around June 2014) will have a particularly rich agenda. Representatives of partners may wish to bear this in mind.

Intergovernmental Technical
Panel on Soils (ITPS)
The first working session of the ITPS was held from 22 to 26 July 2013 at FAO headquarters in Rome. At this meeting, in response to pressing requirements both internal and external to the GSP, the ITPS agreed to embark on a very intensive programme of activities. Hence, the Panel is expected to deal inter alia with the following important matters, with related work foreseen to extend well into the year 2015:

  • review and endorsement of draft Plans of Action under the Pillars1 of the GSP prior to their formal approval by the Plenary Assembly; while the ITPS was able to endorse a draft Plan of Action for Pillar 4 at its first meeting, it is required to address four other ones, including at least two of particular complexity;
  • ensuring due reflection of soils in the Sustainable Development Goals being formulated by the international community and expected to bereleased by the United Nations General Assembly in the Autumn of 2015 (this implies supportive analytical work and active contacts with the pertinent UN entities). A draft Issue Brief on Soils and the Sustainable Development Goals was produced as a contribution to the Post 2015 process;
  • development and production of the first version of the new and seminal “Report on Status of World Soil Resources (WSR)”, planned for issuance in 2015;
  • interfacing with other panels or platforms of similar international standing: e.g. IPCC (climate change), IPBES (biodiversity) and also with other Organizations with direct interest in soils;
  • updating of the World Soil Chapter, a key normative instrument adopted in 1981 by the FAO Conference, with the new version to take account of many changes in the intervening period.

©Ronald VargasSeveral sub-groups of ITPS members have been appointed to deal with some of these complex subjects, and to carry out the required extensive internal and external consultations. In view of the heavy workload and the need to report to the PA in due course, an (extraordinary) working session of the ITPS is due to be held in early 2014.

From its side, the Secretariat is facilitating with all means the above work of the ITPS.


 

The GSP Five Pillars of Action:

 
  1. Promote sustainable management of soil resources for soil protection, conservation and sustainable productivity
  2. Encourage investment, technical cooperation, policy, education awareness and extension in soil
  3. Promote targeted soil research and development focusing on identified gaps and priorities and synergies with related productive, environmental and social development actions
  4. Enhance the quantity and quality of soil data and information: data collection (generation), analysis, validation, reporting, monitoring and integration with other disciplines
  5. Harmonization of methods, measurements and indicators for the sustainable management and protection of soil resources

©FAO/Alessia PierdomenicoWorld Soil Day (5 December) and International Year of Soils 2015
These key awareness-raising platforms on the importance of soils for food security, essential eco-system functions and sustainable development were endorsed by the 38th session of the FAO Conference in June 2013 (the PA of the GSP had also stressed their importance at its first meeting).

At the time of writing, they were under consideration by the GA of the UN for formal approval. A special issue of this Newsletter may be prepared to advise on the outcome of related negotiations in the GA.

Regional Soil Partnerships
A launch workshop for the establishment of a Regional Soil Partnership in Central America and the Caribbean was held in Habana, Cuba from 30 September to 3 October 2013.

A meeting: “Towards the European Soil Partnership” will take place during the Global Soil Week on 31 October 2013 in Berlin.

As regards Central Asia, following a second online consultation on: “towards a Eurasian Soil Partnership for food security and sustainable development” organized during the Summer, a launch workshop is to take place in Moscow on 20 November 2013.

 

However, substantial efforts are still required by the interested partners in order to consolidate, or even initiate work towards the establishment and/or engagement in concrete joint activities of Regional Soil Partnerships in several other geographical areas.

Resource mobilization for the GSP
The Secretariat is actively following up on the request from the Plenary Assembly for a dedicated financial facility which may be called the “Healthy Soils” Umbrella Programme. Clearly, once put in place, this should greatly facilitate dialogue with donors and the development of pipeline projects which could be submitted to them.

Call for joining Working Groups for Pillars 1, 2 and 3
The Secretariat is inviting partners who are interested injoining the Working Groups for developing the Plans of Action for GSP Pillars 1, 2, 3 and 5.If you are interested, please register by sending ©FAO/Alessia Pierdomenicoan email to GSP-Secretariat@fao.org

Upcoming Events

  • Global Soil Week, 27 to 31 October, Berlin, Germany.-
  • GSP Session on Pillars 1 and 3 at the Global Soil Week, 31 October, Berlin, Germany.
  • International workshop “Soil spectroscopy: the present and future of soil monitoring”, 4 to 6 December 2013, FAO, HQ, Rome, Italy.
  • World Soil Day celebration “A day dedicated to healthy and productive soils ”. 5th December 2013, 12:30 FAO HQ, Rome.
  • Meeting of the World Soil Reference Base (WRB) Working Group, 5 to 6 December 2013, FAO HQ, Rome, Italy.



Global Soil Partnership www.fao.org/globalsoilpartnership