Improving international soil governance – Analysis and recommendations

Ralph Bodle, Heidi Stockhaus, Franziska Wolff, Cara-Sophie Scherf, and Sebastian Oberthür (2020), Improving international soil governance – Analysis and recommendations, UBA Texte 75/2020, available at: https://www.umweltbundesamt.de/sites/default/files/medien/479/publikationen/texte_75-2020_3716_71_2100_uba_endbericht_internationaler_bodenschutz.pdf.


This study develops options for the German government to improve international soil governance in the short, medium and long term. The study first takes stock of existing international instruments and institutions that are relevant for soil protection and its governance at the international level. It as- sesses the actual and potential steering effect of, inter alia, the Desertification Convention, the Biodi- versity Convention, the Paris Agreement and climate regime, regional treaties, FAO, UNEP, IPBES and IPCC. At present, the Sustainable Development Goals and in particular the “land degradation neutral- ity” target have established a global political reference point. But there are almost no binding obliga- tions for all states specifically regarding soil. Current governance of soil at the international level is piecemeal and spread over parts of different mandates. There is significant overlap of mandates and activities of relevant institutions, each of which has limitations. While a certain degree of a rudimen- tary division of labour is emerging, there is scope and a need for improvement. The study develops op- tions for improving international soil governance with regard to overarching issues, new treaty or in- stitutions, improving existing governance, means of implementation and enhancing co-ordination and coherence.