Members of the Commission on Environmental Law (CEL) participated in the International Forum on Soil, Society and Global Change at Selfoss in Iceland on 31 August-4 September 2007.
The beautiful town of Selfoss is located 60 km east of Reykjavik on the river Hvita. The Forum was organized by the Icelandic Government as part of its centenary celebrations of 100 years of continuous soil conservation in Iceland, under the patronage of the President of Iceland. The Iceland Soil Conservation Institute is the oldest institute of its type in the world and the Soil Conservation Law of Iceland was introduced in 1908. Dr Hannam was a member of the Organizing Committee and the Forum was a follow-up to the earlier successful soil workshop held in Iceland in 2005.
The aim of the Forum was to elaborate on the synergistic roles of soil conservation and land restoration in meeting local, regional and global environmental and social challenges. The important role of soil as a common denominator for the successful implementation of key Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs) received particular attention. Further aims of the Forum included the transfer of knowledge and cross-fertilization of ideas through dialogue between scientists, policy-makers, land users and business interests.
As such, the Forum brought together key stakeholders and specialists from around the world, representing a broad spectrum of disciplines and interests. CEL members who participated included Dr Ian Hannam (Co-Chair, SGSS&D, Australia), Professor Rob Fowler (Australia), Dr Irene Heuser (Germany), Dr Bernard Vanheusden (Belgium), Dr Asel Imbraimova (Kyrgyzstan), Dr Nilufer Oral (Turkey), Emeritus Professor Ron Engel (USA) and Professor Paul Martin (Australia). Professor Engel of the CEL Ethics Specialist Group presented a very important paper on an ethic for soil and Professor Martin presented a paper on incentives and markets. CEL members formed the core of the Forum’s Working Group on Capacity Building for Legal and Policy Development (chaired by Professor Fowler). In the final recommendations of the Forum the IUCN Commission on Environmental Law Specialist Group on Sustainable Use of Soils and Desertification is requested to develop guidelines for national governments to strengthen the capacity of their legal frameworks to implement the UNCCD and to develop new or improved soils legislation, including that with respect to soil contamination. The Forum also recognized that the CEL has also been engaged for some time in discussion on the formulation of a new, binding, international instrument concerning the protection and sustainable use of soils and that this work should be progressed by the Commission, in consultation with the soil science community, with the aim of strengthening the current legal, policy, ethical and institutional frameworks at both national and international levels. Overall, the Forum recognized that enhanced human capacity and knowledge management for the implementation of soil laws and policies should be promoted through the series of actions proposed by the Forum including soil stewardship and land care, operationalizing synergies between key MEAs, improving knowledge management techniques, and better methods to manage soil carbon sequestration.
Prepared by Dr Ian Hannam, Co-Chair of CEL Specialist Group on Sustainable
Use of Soil and Desertification (SGSS&D).