Responsible Agricultural Investments
How can we make agricultural investments responsible? The Committee for Food Security has taken up the challenge.
The Committee for Food Security (CFS) is a UN committee reporting directly to the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations (ECOSOC), but hosted by FAO in Rome. The CFS is a unique committee in the sense that it allows States, civil society and private actors to engage in normative discussions on food security.
The CFS is currently working on a set of principles for Responsible Agricultural Investments (RAI). There is a draft on the table that will be discussed the 19-23 May 2014. The rise in cases of land grabbing following the food crisis in 2008 has made the need for guidelines and regulations apparent.
The RAI that are now being discussed in the CFS are intended to cover challenges faced in all categories of investments, whether the investments are in large scale industrial farming or family farming, and regardless of whether the investment is made by a State, farmers themselves or a private company. Other tools for assessment of RAI, such as the IFC’s RAI developed by the World Bank, have only targeted private sector investments.
The CFS-RAI will be a voluntary instrument that stakeholders would have to sign up to. However, the CFS-RAI should clarify obligations States already have as signatories to human rights treaties. The fact that the CFS-RAI have been negotiated by the CFS, a global authority on food security, should give the CFS-RAI another level of leverage on a global scale, compared to for instance the IFC’s RAI.
The level of influence of the CFS-RAI will of course also depend on the level of support raised for the final document that comes out of the negotiations within the open-ended working group and finally adopted by the CFS. At the moment there is a draft document containing ten principles to be negotiated, and the goal is to agree on a strong final document which can be supported by States, civil society and private parties, to ensure that the backing of the principles will allow implementation on a broad scale, and finally lead to responsible agricultural investments.