The WCEL Steering Committee decided to form the new Specialist Group (SG) on Sustainable Soil and Agricultural Systems with two Co-Chairs, Ian Hannam (Soil) and Irene Heuser (Soil), as well as Paul Martin (Agricultural Systems). The Specialist Group developed a draft work plan that was implemented in January 2015.


The SG has been active at the national and international level. As global interest continues to grow in the investigation of an international instrument for soil, led by the UNCCD Secretariat and in response to the outcomes of the Rio+20 Conference in relation to a Sustainable Development Goal for land degradation neutrality, the SG has been involved in a number of new and continuing initiatives in national soil legislation and policy reform. At the national level the principal areas of interest include Northeast and Central Asia, with special interest in the Mongolian Soil Protection and Desertification Prevention Law.

There has been interaction with a number of organizations: European Commission (DG Environment), Federal German Environment Agency, Institute of Advanced Sustainability Studies Potsdam, UNCCD Secretariat, World Association of Soil and Water Conservation, European Soil Bureau.

The SG is also a member of IUCN Core Group advising the IUCN Global Drylands Initiative.

In the last year, the SG has been active investigating various options for an international instrument for soil and discussing options with UNCCD Secretariat, the German Federal Environment Agency, international environmental law groups, and soil science groups.

SG members were present as representatives at various global events including: the EU Soil Biodiversity Indicators project workshop (Dijon, France), and the Soil Legislation International Workshop (Berlin).

SG members have also contributed to and prepared several publications.


  1. Systematic progress towards improved governance of soils and agricultural systems
  2. Maintain an active and engaged membership
  3. Develop a mechanism for disciplined continuous improvement in theory and practice of legal aspects of natural resource governance
  4. Continue to implement the work of the former Soil Specialist Group based on the parameters of the first “Soil” Resolution of the IUCN World Conservation Congress (Amman, Jordan 2000), which requests the IUCN Environmental Law Programme: “in its development of legal guidelines and explanatory material, and investigation into a global legal instrument for the sustainable use of soils, to pay particular attention to the ecological needs of soil and their ecological functions for the conservation of biodiversity and the maintenance of human life”.1 
  5. Investigating various options for an international instrument for soil and discuss options with international environmental law and soil science groups
  6. Assist individual countries with soil legislation reform and implementation
  7. Communication and promotion of soil legislative reform (within IUCN and external environmental law and science groups) and with agricultural groups
  8. Preparing indicative publications
  9. Continue cooperation with IUCN Global Drylands Initiative 


1 IUCN World Conservation Congress (WCC) has passed three “Soil Resolutions”: Amman Jordan 2000; Bangkok Thailand 2004; and Barcelona Spain 2008. These Resolutions have given the imprimatur of the IUCN to investigate international and national legislative aspects of sustainable use of soils, and calls upon members of the Union to support this work.