Soil continues to be a neglected resource whose degradation usually takes place slowly and only becomes visible at a late stage. Moreover, land and soil are often perceived as private property rather than public goods, while political responsibility cuts across the agricultural and environmental ministries. Whereas the agricultural sector tends to perceive soil fertility as a mere function of input supply, the environmental sector largely reduces land degradation to land cover change, with a focus on deforestation.

At the international level, the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) is the only legally binding international agreement to address land and soil degradation. Despite being one of the three Rio Conventions, the actual influence of the UNCCD has been limited in the past. This may be explained by its formally restricted mandate on land degradation in drylands, i.e. desertification, and a regional focus on Africa. More importantly though, the convention lacks a clear and quantifiable target.