Sustainable Use of Soils and Desertification Specialist Group

Specialist Group Profile

Chair: Ian Hannam 

Deputy Chair: Irene Heuser

The WCEL Specialist Group on Sustainable Use of Soils was formed in April 2000. The Group has been implementing the ‘Soil Resolution’ passed by the World Conservation Congress (WCC) in 2000 by developing national legal guidelines and explanatory material and investigations into a global legal instrument for sustainable use of soils. Further Soil Resolutions were passed at WCC Bangkok 2004 and WCC Barcelona 2008 to supplement the 2000 Resolution.

The Chair of the Group is Dr Ian Hannam from Australia and the Deputy Chair is Dr Irene Heuser from Germany. Professor Ben Boer from Australia was the inaugural Chair and remains an active Group member. Group Members come from Iceland, Ireland, China, Germany, Australia, USA, New Zealand, Great Britain, Egypt and Belgium.  The Group also has an ongoing working relationship with a group of international soil scientists.

The year in review

WCEL Soil Specialist Group members contributed to developments at the international and national levels concerning law for soil during 2012.

International level
WCEL Soil Specialist Group members contributed to the development of the UNCCD Secretariat publication Policy Brief on Zero Net Land Degradation: A Sustainable Development Goal for Rio+20. One of the key recommendations from the Policy Brief is for a new legal instrument (such as a Protocol on Zero Net Land Degradation) to the UNCCD, as a global monitoring framework. To help promote the process, WCEL Soil Specialist Group drafted a protocol and detailed commentary for discussions purposes; the Group also conducted a workshop at the IUCN WORLD Conservation Congress on the proposal for a global soil convention.

In November 2012, WCEL Specialist Group Members participated in the Global Soil Policy session of Global Soil Week (promoted by Institute of Advanced Sustainability Studies Berlin) and presented an outline for a possible international instrument for soil, including a Protocol on Zero Net Land Degradation. A working group was formed to consider various options for a global soil instrument and report back to the 2013 Global Soil Week next November. This working group will work cooperatively with the WCEL Soil Specialist Group.

National level
WCEL Specialist Group Members analyzed the legal and policy framework to manage soil carbon sequestration in the grassland regions of China and Mongolia. This work was undertaken under an Asian Development Bank program. Recommendations were made to improve to the existing legal systems of these countries to manage soils. A WCEL Specialist Group Member has been assisting the IUCN Business and Biodiversity Program in a legal definition for land degradation to include in the European Union Renewable Energy Directive (RED).

WCEL Soil Specialist Group members published a range of articles and publications during 2012 on various international and national legal aspects of soils.