(In order of appearance during the day)

Claudia Olazabal

Welcome address, Moderator

Claudia Olazábal is holder of a Bachelor’s degree in Chemistry and Radiochemistry from the University of Strasbourg and a Master’s degree in Science from the University of Texas at Austin. She worked for three years in the Sustainable Resources - Consumption and Waste Unit, then became Policy Officer and Head of the Soil Sector dealing with the development of Community policy on soil protection in the Agriculture, Forests and Soil Unit. She was for 4 years the Deputy Head of the Biodiversity Unit and was appointed Head of the Agriculture, Forests and Soil Unit in 2013, which became the Land Use & Management Unit in 2016. All these positions are held in the Directorate General for the Environment of the European Commission.

Joanna Drake

Welcome address

Joanna DRAKE has been the Deputy Director-General of the European Commission's Directorate-General (DG) for the environment since March 2016. In this role, she is in charge of the coordination of Resource-efficiency policies and other legal instruments. She also chairs a cross-cutting Task Force spear-heading strategic positions for the DG on (inter-alia) the post-2020 Commission financial framework negotiations, Brexit co-ordination, the urban agenda and the future-proofing of the EU's environmental acquis. By training, Joanna is a doctor of laws from the University of Malta, where she also lectured full time in the Department of European and Comparative Law. She acquired a post-graduate degree in Advanced European Legal Studies from the College of Europe in Bruges, Belgium. She held various legal and management posts in the private and public sector before joining the European Commission as head of the European Commission Representation in Malta in 2005. She also had a key role in the Malta-EU accession negotiations as member of the Malta-EU Steering and Action Committee. Between 2010 and 2015 she was director for SME's and Entrepreneurship in the European Commission's Directorate-General for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs. During her tenure in DG GROW she also led the Commission's Task Force on The Collaborative Economy, New Business Models And SME's.

Ibrahim Thiaw

Welcome address

Ibrahim Thiaw was appointed by the United Nations Secretary-General as Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) on 31 January 2019. Mr. Thiaw brings to the position almost 40 years of experience in sustainable development, environmental governance and natural resource management. In 2018, he was Special Adviser to the Secretary-General for the Sahel and supported ongoing efforts to advance the recalibration of the United Nations Integrated Strategy for the Sahel (UNISS) and the development of the UN Support Plan for the Sahel. Prior to this position, from 2013 to 2018, he served as Assistant Secretary-General and Deputy Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), where he played a key role in shaping the organization's strategic vision and mandate. Mr. Thiaw started his career in Mauritania, his home country, where he served in the Ministry of Rural Development for ten years. He holds an advanced degree in forestry and forest product techniques.

Leena Ylä-Mononen

Welcome address

Leena Ylä-Mononen is Director General at the Ministry of the Environment of Finland. She is in charge of the Ministry’s Environmental Protection Department. This Department deals with environmental policy issues related to climate change, air pollution abatement, sustainable consumption and production, waste management and the prevention of environmental risks from chemicals.


Before joining the Ministry in April 2019, Leena worked for over 11 years in the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) in Helsinki, first as a Head of Unit and then for over 8 years as the Director of Evaluation. Before moving to the Agency, she worked in the European Commission, DG Environment in Brussels for over 5 years on policy files related to chemicals and pesticides and multilateral environmental agreements related to chemicals. Before that, she worked for over 10 years in the Finnish Environment Institute on the management of industrial chemicals, biocides and pesticides. Leena holds a M.Sc. in Environmental sciences from the University of Helsinki.

Saskia Keesstra

Morning session

Saskia Keesstra did her PhD in Amsterdam at the Free University of Amsterdam and moved to Wageningen UR for a post-doc, followed by a tenure track position. Currently, she is working at Wageningen Environmental Research as a senior researcher Sustainable Land and Water Management. Her main scientific expertise lies in land and water system dynamics:  To use process knowledge for sustainable development. The main research focus revolves around understanding land and water system dynamics in a holistic way by incorporating both processes on hillslopes as well as in the river channel. Process knowledge enables explanation of the impact of natural and human drivers on the catchment systems and which consequences these drivers have for water and sediment connectivity. Improved understanding of the catchment sediment and water dynamics will empower sustainable land and river management and mitigate soil threats like erosion and off-side water and sediment accumulation with the help of nature’s forces. Interaction with stakeholders, from farmers to policy makers, is essential to come to usable, acceptable tools for sustainable land management to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

Rainer Baritz

Morning session, 

Morning panel discussion

Rainer Baritz has been the manager of Soil Assessment project  of European Environment Agency's Natural Systems of Sustainability Programme since August 2017. Before joining EEA, he worked for the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the UN, Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources of Germany, and The Joint Research Centre of the European Commission. Coming from a science background, he has a Ph.D in Forest Soil Ecology and Monitoring. 

Phil Wynn Owen

Morning session, 

Morning panel discussion

Phil Wynn Owen has been a Member of the European Court of Auditors (ECA) since January 2014. He worked initially within the Court’s Chamber II, covering cohesion, growth and inclusion. Since June 2016, he has been in the Court’s Chamber I, of which he was the Dean until May 2018, leading the Court’s work on the sustainable use of natural resources. Phil was responsible for the 2017 Landscape Review on EU action on energy and climate change, and has led several tasks addressing sustainability in energy and climate fields, such as on flooding and energy storage in the EU. He was also the Member responsible for the ECA’s Special Report “Combating desertification in the EU: a growing threat in need of more action”, published in December 2018. Before joining the ECA, Phil worked for over 30 years on a wide range of public finance and policy issues for UK Governments, in the Treasury, the Cabinet Office, the Department for Work and Pensions and the Department for Energy and Climate Change.

Michael Cherlet

Morning session, 

Morning panel discussion

During two decades, Michael Cherlet led several projects related to natural resources monitoring, environmental modeling, desertification, food security and Desert Locust habitat monitoring for the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

Since 2004 he works at the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission (EC) where he is also leading the Land Degradation activities providing scientific support to the EC and UNCCD, and its stakeholders, on land degradation issues. He is the coordinator and main author of the new World Atlas of Desertification published end of last year. He is also coordinating the global land component of the Copernicus Land service. This service operationalizes production of space-based earth observation bio-geophysical parameters and facilitates the use of derived products for global land monitoring.
He is geographer and soil scientist from the University of Ghent, Belgium and has built up a solid experience in remote sensing.

Camilla Nordheim-Larsen

Morning session, 

Morning panel discussion

Camilla Nordheim-Larsen is an economist with 20 years’ experience in assisting developing countries in adopting policies, strategies and practices promoting land restoration and a sustainable use of natural resources. In her current role as Programme Coordinator at the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, she is leading a team of economists and natural resource management specialists in providing direct technical and policy advice to governments in more than 70 countries worldwide.

Cees Veerman

Afternoon session

Mr. Prof. Dr. C.P. Veerman studied Economics at the Erasmus University (cum laude, 1973) and promoted in 1982 at the former Agricultural College in Wageningen. He became a Professor at Erasmus University Rotterdam and the University of Tilburg, teaching International Agribusiness. After a period of 5 years as Chairman of the board of Directors at Wageningen University and Research Centre, he became a member of the Dutch Government as Minister of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality (2002-2007). At the present Mr. Veerman is a member of several supervisory boards, such as Royal Reesink and Fagoed.


Mr. Veerman was a Personal special advisor to the Prime Minister of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, member of the Steering Committee European Innovation Platform on Water management to the EU commissioner Mr. J. Potocnik and advisor to the Delta commissioner Mr. W. Kuijken. In 2016/2017 he was Chairman of the Agricultural Markets Task Force (AMTF).

Kirstin Marx

Afternoon session

Kirstin Marx since July 2018 has worked in section II 2.7 „Soil Quality and European Soil Protection“of the German Environment Agency (Umweltbundesamt – UBA) in Dessau-Rosslau. From 2015 to 2018, she led the Staff Unit Soil at Thünen-Institute in Braunschweig. Being a geographer by training, Ms. Marx worked at Kiel University (Christian-Albrechts-University Kiel) in the field of Physical Geography – Landscape Ecology and Geoinformation Systems, with a focus on Soil Protection. Prior to working in Kiel, she held a project management position at the Foundation Ecology and Agriculture (Stiftung Ökologie & Landbau – SÖL) in Bad Dürkheim – including the topics Rural Development, Agrobiodiversity and EU Funding programmes.

Anna Luise

Afternoon session

Anna Luise was born in Naples, where she graduated in sociology. After five years of academic research and a post-graduate diploma on Organizational Sciences in Rome, she worked for 15 years at ENEA, public research institution on energy and environment, in the field of environmental economics, natural resources management, environmental governance instruments, assessment of environmental damage, sustainable development. Then, she moved to ISPRA – Italian National Institute for the Environmental Protection and Research, where currently is charged of the Global Issues and Agenda 2030 Themes Unit. There, she was engaged in the coordination of studies and research activities and interdisciplinary and international working groups on sustainable development and desertification.

Main fields of interests are policies and governance tools at global (United Nations), European (EU), national and local levels in the field of sustainable development and combating desertification.

She is involved in the development of indicators and in the coordination of reporting at national and international level in these fields.

Anna is Italy Technical and Scientific Correspondent of UNCCD and has a relevant experience on environmental negotiations at European and at global level, mainly for the UNCCD, where she was Vice-president of the Bureau of the Committee for the Implementation of the Convention, CRIC and recently appointed as Vice-president of the Bureau of the Committee of Science and Technology, CST and member of the Science – Policy Interface, SPI.

She was technical coordinator of the Italy Working Group on Land Degradation Neutrality Pilot Project.

Jean-François Soussana

Afternoon session

Coming soon

Olivier De Schutter

Afternoon session

Olivier De Schutter is professor at UCLouvain and at SciencesPo. He was between 2008 and 2014 the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food and is currently co-chair of the International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems (IPES-Food) as well as member of the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

Gabriele Broll

Afternoon session, Afternoon panel discussion

Gabriele Broll is a professor of geoecology and soil science at the University of Osnabrück, Germany.

In Europe , she is the member of European Commission Assembly for Soil Health and Food, member of the board of the European Network on Soil Awareness (ENSA), and member of the board of the European Land & Soil Alliance (ELSA).

In Germany, she is a member of the Commission "Soil Protection" of the Federal Environmental Agency of Germany, member of the Editorial Board of the journals „Archives of Agronomy and Soil Science“and "Bodenschutz", member of the German National Committee for the UNESCO Global Geoparks. Between 2009-2014 she was the president of the German Soil Association and between 2005-2008 she was the vice-President of the German Soil Science Society.

Rosa Poch

Afternoon panel discussion

Rosa Poch is chairing the Intergovernmental Technical Panel on Soils – GSP (FAO). She is an agronomist (1987, Politechnic University of Catalonia) with a PhD in Soil Science (1992, U Gent). She is a professor of Soil Science at the University of Lleida. Her research fields are soil genesis and micromorphology, soil degradation and conservation, watershed hydrology, geoarchaeology, soil rehabilitation by mining, soil as carbon pool in the frame of global change and social awareness of soil science. She is head of the thin section lab of the University of Lleida and a coordinator of an Inter-university Master on Soil and Water Management. She has organised several intensive international courses on Soil Micromorphology. She is also a co-author of the Soil Chapters of the three Climate Change Reports of Catalonia (2005, 2010, 2016).