The protection of land and soils will contribute to the achievement of several Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It is therefore necessary to develop an appropriate monitoring and accountability framework to track the state of these resources. Finding appropriate indicators is an important part of this task, which has occupied the scientific community for the past two decades without a consensus being reached. The participants of an international expert workshop convened by the European Environment Agency (EEA) and the IASS published a “shortlist” of three land and soil management indicators on 3 March. The workshop’s outcome document, titled ‘Proposal for land and soil indicators to monitor the achievement of the SDGs’, identifies three “tiered” global indicators – land cover/land use change, land productivity change and soil organic carbon change. It supports the monitoring of these global indicators but also suggests that they must be accompanied by nationally and sub-nationally developed indicators to obtain a more comprehensive overview of the state of land and soil resources.

Please download the “Proposal for land and soil indicators to monitor the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)here.


Photo: ©UNCCD Photo Contest 2005

The proposal asserts that land and soil resources underpin key services, such as the production of food, feed, fibre and fuel; the sequestration of carbon; nutrient cycling; the protection of biodiversity; and water regulation. The proposal urges that land- and soil-related language be kept in the targets on sustainable food production systems (SDG 2.4) and land degradation (SDG 15.3), as proposed by the Open Working Group on the Sustainable Development Goals. It also highlights the links between the proposed indicators and good governance of land and soil resources.

The proposed indicators contribute to the land governance indicators developed by the Global Land Indicators Initiative and also build on the work by the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) Secretariat to explore common land indicators across the Rio Conventions. The proposal describes the shortlisted indicators as “measurable and essential in capturing a minimum of land characteristics that are globally comparable”. It calls for their inclusion in the list of proposed SDG indicators being developed by the UN Statistical Commission (UNSC) and their consideration in the further Post‐2015 Agenda and SDG process.

As a next step to implementing effective monitoring strategies, the proposal suggests that the “monitoring of these indicators needs to be accompanied by local monitoring and accountability initiatives that include a wide range of stakeholders. Linking global data to (sub-)national data would thus blend a top-down with a bottom-up approach.”

The proposal has been submitted to the 46th Session of the UN Statistical Commission in New York where a proposal for an initial list of indicators for the SDGs was discussed last week (3-6 March).

Ivonne Lobos Alva

Research Associate

Ivonne Lobos Alva

Tel +49 331 28822-431