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Land degradation neutrality under the SDGs: National and international implementation of the land degradation neutral world target

Elisatbeth Dooley, Ennid Roberts and Staphanie Wunder

elni Review 2015, pp. 2-9.

On World Soil Day, December 5, 2013, the UN General Assembly announced that 2015 marked the ‘International Year of Soils’. This announcement aimed to promote the protection of soil and increase awareness and understanding of its importance. It seems that soil is now, after decades defined by a lack of attention and awareness, finally receiving a greater degree of the much-needed consideration. Examples of this development include the establishment of the Global Soil Partnership (2012), the Intergovernmental Technical Panel on Soils (2013), the ‘Economics of Land Degradation’ publication (2013) and the annual organisation of the Global Soil Week (as of 2012).
This article explores how the current momentum in international soil policy can be used to promote sustainable land use and reduce land degradation, particularly through the SDG process and using UN Conventions. It puts a special emphasis on the opportunities and challenges of the concept of “land degradation neutrality”. Firstly, this article addresses the background on the pressing issue of land degradation. Secondly, it deals with the adopted SDGs and the inclusion of a target for land degradation neutrality. Thirdly, national implementation of the SDGs are addressed including the need for countries to analyse their legislation and policies to determine whether they support land degradation neutrality. International conventions may direct more action toward and potentially increase the consistency and effectiveness of measures to accomplish the SDG targets, posing another avenue which could contribute to the achievement of land degradation neutrality. Particular emphasis is given to the UNCCD and the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) as the theoretically most appropriate conventions which may further the accomplishment of land degradation neutrality by adoption of stronger land-related obligations. Based on the preceding discussion, the paper concludes with issues, concerns and suggestions for the future to strive for land degradation neutrality.

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