The first World Soil Charter (WSC) was conceived and formulated, negotiated and adopted by the FAO member countries in the 1981 FAO Conference. It was a major normative instrument agreed by member states, and that the Global Soil Partnership (GSP) was duty-bound to promote its principles. The challenges faced by the world have become more evident and severe in the intervening three decades.
GSP Partners considered that the 13 principles listed in the charter are still valid, but needed to be updated and revised in light of new scientific knowledge gained over the past 30 years, especially with respect to new issues such as soil pollution and its consequences for the environment, climate change adaptation and mitigation and urban sprawl impacts on soil availability and functions.
The original strong focus of the World Soil Charter on land use planning and land evaluation had to be adjusted; more recent key references and concepts such as the more widely understood framework of ecosystem services had to be reflected; major developments in the intervening period such as the outcome of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) and ensuring spate of new agreements and the work of the Committee on Food Security had to be factored in; and the guidelines for action had to be reorganized and expanded to take account of a broader range of stakeholders.
The Intergovernmental Technical Panel on Soils (ITPS) was tasked to produce a new version of this WSC making use of wide consultations within the international soil community in order to assist with the process.
The ITPS was able to submit a revised text to the GSP Plenary Assembly at its second meeting in July 2014. After the further changes introduced by the Assembly, the revised WSC was endorsed by the 24th session of the Committee on Agriculture (COAG) in October 2014 and by the FAO Council in December 2014.
Coinciding with 2015 the International Year of Soils, member countries during the 39th FAO Conference unanimously endorsed the new World Soil Charter as a vehicle to promote and institutionalize sustainable soil management at all levels. When doing so, members also welcomed and appreciated the work done by the Global Soil Partnership and requested to move into its full implementation including that of the World Soil Charter.