FAO Liaison Office with the United Nations in New York

World Soil Day 2021

Hybrid Event, 07/12/2021

The Permanent Mission of the Kingdom of Thailand, the Republic of Ecuador, the Kingdom of Lesotho and the Russian Federation to the United Nations, together with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), invite you to a virtual celebration of the World Soil Day 2021 based in New York on Tuesday 7 December 2021, from 11.00 AM to 12.15 PM (EST).

Under the theme "Halt soil salinization, boost soil productivity", this year's World Soil Day observance aims to raise awareness of the importance of maintaining healthy ecosystems and human well-being by addressing the growing challenges in soil management, fighting soil salinization, increasing soil awareness, and encouraging societies to improve soil health. Protecting soil is indispensable in the transformation to more efficient, inclusive, resilient and sustainable agriculture and food systems which is key in accelerating progress towards achieving SDG 2 on zero hunger as well as other related Sustainable Development Goals and Targets in this Decade of Action.

The virtual celebration will be an opportunity to forge collaboration among Member States, relevant United Nations organizations and various stakeholders on the ground to scale up their contributions to the work on soil, against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic which has exacerbated the pre-existing challenges of soil salinization and sodification.

Speakers' bios


H.E. Dr. Suriya Chindawongse, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Thailand to the United Nations


Prior to assuming his duties as the Permanent Representative of Thailand to the United Nations, Dr. Suriya Chindawongse served as the Ambassador of the Kingdom of Thailand to the Republic of Singapore from 2020 to 2021.

Dr. Chindawongse’s career with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Thailand began in 1993, and since then he has served in various capacities, in particular leading Thailand’s ASEAN chairmanship in 2019 as Director-General of the Department of ASEAN Affairs. His other roles include serving at the Permanent Mission of Thailand to the United Nations in New York and the Departments of East Asian Affairs, European Affairs, and International Organizations at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Thailand. Prior to his foreign service career, Dr. Chindawongse also worked in the private sector as an institutional banker.

He graduated summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts from Lafayette College in 1987, majoring in International Affairs, and Economics and Business, and minoring in Mathematics. He attained a Master of Arts in Law and Diplomacy and a Doctor of Philosophy from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University in 1990 and 1993 respectively.

Dr. Chindawongse is married with 2 children.

H.E. Abdulla Shahid, President of the United Nations General Assembly

H.E. Mr. Abdulla Shahid is a veteran diplomat and politician, with over 35 years of experience in the Executive and Legislative branches of the Maldives. He is currently serving as the President of the seventy-sixth session of the United Nations General Assembly but continues to hold the portfolio of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Maldives (a post he is holding for the second time, having held the portfolio previously in 2007). As Foreign Minister, in 2008, he is credited to having introduced the Human Rights Council Resolution 7/23 on “Human Rights and Climate Change”, championing a rights-based approach to climate change. He ensured gender parity among Heads of Maldives’ diplomatic missions as well as the executive levels of the Ministry for the first time in 2020. Minister Shahid also holds the distinction of being the first democratically elected Speaker of The People’s Majlis (Parliament). 

H.E. Collen Vixen Kelapile, President of the United Nations Economic and Social Council and Permanent Representative of Botswana to the United Nations

His Excellency Collen Vixen Kelapile was elected the seventy-seventh President of the Economic and Social Council on 23 July 2021. Ambassador Kelapile is currently the Ambassador and Permanent Representative of the Republic of Botswana to the United Nations in New York.

Ambassador Kelapile has an accumulated career of 26 years in multilateral diplomacy, both as a government representative, intergovernmental expert and is also a former United Nations (UN) Secretariat staff member. Before his appointment in 2018 as Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the UN in New York, he was the Chief of Staff to the Executive Secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, from 2014 to 2018.

From 2013 to 2014, he served as the Deputy Director in the Department of Africa and the Middle East at the Ministry of International Affairs and Cooperation of Botswana overseeing Central, East, North and West Africa as well as the Middle East. He was elected by the UN General Assembly as a member of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) from 2004 to 2012, where he served for three consecutive 3-year terms amounting to 9 years. During his tenure in the Committee, he served as Vice-Chair of the ACABQ for 3 years from 2008 to 2010 and subsequently as its Chair for 2 years from 2011 to 2012.

Ambassador Kelapile was Born in Maitengwe, Botswana, on 10 July, 1968. He is married with one son.

H.E. Mr. Cristian Espinosa Cañizares, Permanent Representative of Ecuador to the United Nations

The Permanent Representative of Ecuador to the United Nations, Cristian Espinosa Cañizares, presented his credentials to the Secretariat on September 28, 2020.

Mr. Espinosa has served as his country’s Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs since 2019. Before that, he was Director of Interinstitutional Relations in charge of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Human Mobility’s economic section, since 2018.

From 2014 to 2018, Mr. Espinosa served as Director of International Relations for the Municipality of Quito, during which time he represented the municipality at the United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development — known as Habitat III — in Ecuador’s capital.

Mr. Espinosa first entered Government service in 1987. He has held posts ranging from President of Ecuador’s Council of Chambers of Commerce and Production to Vice-Minister for Foreign Trade and Integration. He taught at various universities, including the Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences, from 2006 to 2014. Since 2004, he has also served as a panellist and arbitrator in trade disputes for the World Trade Organization (WTO).

The holder of a master’s degree in public administration from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, Mr. Espinosa also has a bachelor’s and a master’s in philosophy and economics from Boston University.

Born in 1961, he is married and has three children.

H.E. Mr. Nkopane Raseeng Monyane, Permanent Representative of Lesotho to the United Nations


Nkopane Raseeng Monyane is the Ambassador and Permanent Representative of the Lesotho Mission to the United Nations in New York since February 2019. 

Nkopane Monyane's diplomatic career starts in 2013 as Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations Office, the Swiss Confederation and other International Organisations at Geneva. 

During this period, he served as Coordinator for the African Group in the World Trade Organisation (WTO). He was thus, instrumental in the convening of the first WTO Ministerial ever held in Africa (Nairobi 2015), and the unique trade facilitation assistance facility established in the WTO following the Trade Facilitation Agreement. 

Ambassador Monyane then served as Principal Secretary in the Ministries of Foreign Affairs as well as in Police and Public Safety prior to his assignment in New York. 

He was a career banker for the period 1969 to 2001, which was only interrupted briefly to obtain degrees in Economics and Sociology, and a Masters in Banking. During this banking phase, he progressed to the level of General Manager of the Central Bank of Lesotho as well as ending subsequently to Managing Director of the Lesotho Bank. 

The professional phase then moved on to the garment and manufacturing export services primarily in the US markets under the African Group Opportunities Act (AGOA). 

In the fourty-four years of marriage to 'Mamotselisi, they have been blessed with four children and seven grandchildren.

H.E. Mr. Dmitry Chumakov, Deputy Permanent Representative of Russian Federation to the United Nations

H.E. Mr. Chumakov is Deputy Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the United Nations in New York, Head of the Russian Delegation to the Second and Fifth Committees of the UN General Assembly (since August 2018).

H.E. Mr. Chumakov has vast experience in international economic cooperation for sustainable development. This includes his previous positions as Russia’s Sous-Sherpa in the G-20 and Deputy Director of the Department of Economic Cooperation (2016-2018) as well as Head of Administrative and Budgetary Division, Department of International Organizations (2014-2016), in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation. His background also involved various international postings, including New York (USA) and Oslo (Norway).

H.E. Mr. Chumakov is PhD in economics at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations (University), Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation. He also graduated from the Diplomatic Academy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation and the Moscow State Linguistic University named after Moris Torez.

Mr. LI Lifeng, Director of the Land and Water Division, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

Mr Li, a national of the People’s Republic of China, holds a Doctor of Philosophy in Physical Geography from Nanjing Institute of Geography and Limnology, Chinese Academy of Sciences in China, and a Bachelor of Science in Geographical Education from Shandong Normal University in China. Prior to joining FAO headquarters, Mr Li served as Coordinator of Support Programmes at the Green Climate Fund (GCF) in Incheon, Republic of Korea, since 2018. He started his career in 2000 as Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing, China. In 2002, he joined the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) China Programme as Coordinator of Freshwater and Marine Programme in Beijing, and, at a later stage, he took up the duties of Officer of Freshwater and Marine Programme and Director of Freshwater Programme. Between 2008 and 2017, he served as Director of Freshwater Programme of WWF International in Gland, Switzerland. In 2017, he became Head of Programmes at the Wetlands International in Ede-Wageningen, Netherlands.

Panel discussion

Dr. Rosa Poch, Chair of the Intergovernmental Technical Panel on Soils

Agronomist and soil scientist. She is a Professor of Soil Science and Agricultural Chemistry at the University of Lleida, and Chair of the FAO Intergovernmental Technical Panel on Soils (ITPS). Her fields of research are soil genesis and micromorphology, soil erosion and conservation, forest, and watershed hydrology, geoarchaeology, soil rehabilitation by mining, soil as a carbon pool in the frame of global change and social awareness of soil science.

Poch is co-author of more than 100 publications, among them the soil chapters of the 3 reports on climate change in Catalonia (2005, 2010 and 2017). She has been visiting professor at the CSIRO Land and Water of Adelaide (Australia), Universities of California (Davis, USA), Hohenheim (Germany), National of Colombia (Medellín and Bogotá), Gent (Belgium), Stellenbosch (South Africa), National Agraria (Managua, Nicaragua), Mendel (Brno, Czech Republic), Szent István (Hungary) and UNAM (Mexico). She has coordinated several intensive courses in micromorphology, in English (Barcelona, Tübingen, Tremp) and in Spanish (Medellín, Bogotá), as well as the Interuniversity Master's Degree in Soil and Water Management (UdL-UB-UAB-UPNA). She has been Editor-In-Chief of the Spanish Journal of Soil Science (2011-2021) and is at present Editor-in-Chief of Catena and Associate Editor of Geoderma Regional and of Soil Research. She is Honorary Member of the International Union of Soil Sciences and Member of the Institut d’Estudis Catalans, in Barcelona, Spain.

Ms Lydie-Stella Koutika, 2021 Glinka World Soil Prize winner

Lydie-Stella Koutika is a well-known soil scientist from the Republic of the Congo with over 30 years of experience in applied research on agroecosystems. Her research focuses on soil health and degradation processes to fight food insecurity and foster climate change mitigation and adaptation.

Her early career started in the Brazilian Amazon, Belgium and the Netherlands and focused on soil organic matter dynamics, mainly carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus. She investigated soils under various regional, climatic and land use conditions, documenting these experiences with over 100 publications in top international scientific journals. After several years abroad, she made the courageous decision to return to Pointe-Noire in her native Republic of the Congo where she is now Director of the Research Centre on Productivity and Sustainability of Industrial plantations (CRDPI).

Professor Victor Okechukwu Chude, CEO of the Nigeria Institute of Soil Science, 2021 King Bhumibol WSD Award winner

The winner of this year’s King Bhumibol World Soil Day award is the Nigeria Institute of Soil Science (NISS) for the exciting events they organized to celebrate World Soil Day 2020. Professor Victor Okechukwu Chude is the current CEO of the NISS and former President of the Soil Science Society of Nigeria. He holds a PhD and MSc in Soil Science from the University of Ibadan and a BSc in Plant/Soil Science from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. His professional interest lies in soil fertility and plant nutrition, with a strong affinity for integrated tropical soil fertility management. He has over 150 publications to date, including over 80 in peer-reviewed journals in the areas of soil fertility, plant nutrition, fertiliser formulation and evaluation.


Mr. Melchiade Bukuru, Director of UNCCD Office New York

Mr. Melchiade Bukuru is currently the Director of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) Office at the Headquarters of the United Nations in New York. A career Diplomat from Burundi, he was among G77 diplomats to make the case, during the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, that unless the international community adopts a legally binding treaty to address desertification, land degradation and drought, mother Earth would continue to lose its top soil thus compromising any efforts to ensure sustainable development, food security, water security, adaptation to climate change, protection against the loss of biodiversity among other global policy challenges. As he represented the Convention at the United Nations Headquarters, Mr. Bukuru’s role was to work on institutional development of the Convention by carrying out a high-level advocacy in favor of desertification, land degradation and drought. Those efforts paid off and culminated in having the world leaders attending the World Summit on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) commit to “a land degradation neutral world” whereby land degradation would be offset by land reclamation/regeneration through sustainable land management practices. As a result, achieving land degradation neutrality is now part and parcel of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (SDG Target 15.3) and is deemed by the General Assembly as the accelerator and integrator of other SDGs.

Before joining New York in September 1989, Mr. Bukuru served as Adviser to the President of the Republic of Burundi. 


Ms. Natalia Rodriguez Eugenio, Global Soil Partnership

Natalia Rodríguez Eugenio, a Spanish national based in Rome, is a Land and Water Officer at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and a member of the Global Soil Partnership Secretariat. She holds a M.Sc. in Sustainable Management/Soil Protection and a Ph.D. in Soil Science. Natalia coordinates the implementation of soil pollution activities/ projects, provides technical support on the project cycle and is the regional facilitator for the Eurasian Soil Partnership. Prior to joining FAO, she worked as a soil expert in QC/QA and GIS for Soil mapping in Ecuador and as an expert in soil contamination at the Joint Research Center of the European Commission.