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Abstract

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 Biodiversity 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 neutrality” 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 rudimentary division of labour is emerging, there is scope and a need for improvement. The study develops options for improving international soil governance with regard to overarching issues, new treaty or institutions, improving existing governance, means of implementation and enhancing coordination and coherence.

The objective of this research report is to examine whether and how international governance for the purpose of sustainable soil management can be strengthened and improved in the short, medium and long term. The report has to two main parts: First, we take stock and assess existing international instruments and institutions that are relevant for soil protection and its governance at the international level, including an evaluation of their actual and potential steering effect. The study then develops options for improving international soil governance that the German government could pursue.

The report addresses the protection of soil. The term "soil" is not generally synonymous with "land", which is generally used to comprise not only soil-related issues, but also more dimensions and interactions with vegetation. In this sense soil protection is often closely linked to and partly overlapping with the use and management of land. This is particularly relevant with regard to the sustainable development goal 15.3 of achieving land degradation neutrality, which is the starting point for the stocktake in this report.