Chair of the CFS OEWG rai
Christina Blank, chair of the CFS open-ended working group on responsible agricultural investments, talks about the purpose of the rai principles and the challenges when developing the zero draft. She explains the motivations of the diverse stakeholders to follow the nonbinding recommendations.
Principles for responsible agricultural investement - the zero draft
The chair of the CFS open-ended working group on responsible agriculture investments talks about the purpose of the rai principles and challenges with developing the zero draft. She explains the motivations of the diverse stakeholders to follow the nonbinding recommendations.
Online, 9 Sept 2013. In October 2012 the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) approved the beginning of an inclusive consultation process with the objective to develop a set of principles for rai. They are expected to promote agricultural investments contributing to food security and nutrition improvement and to support the progressive realisation of the right to adequate food in the context of national food security. As the chair of the CFS OEWG on rai Christina Blank elaborates on progress and talks about the first outcome document.
// The purpose of the rai principles
Secretariat: Christina, the Global Committee on Food Security, known also as the CSF, has launched a thorough consultative process to develop a zero draft of the principles for responsible agriculture investments, which is to be discussed also at the next CSF meeting in October. The process wants to be broad to allow for ownership of all stakeholders. From your perspective, what is the main purpose of the principles and where is the process right now?
Christina: Watch The main purpose of the principles is to promote investment and not only investment, but to promote responsible investment in agriculture to increase food security and nutrition: that is the overall goal we want to achieve. So it is not only defining principles on responsible investment, but also promoting investments because more and better investments are needed if you want to achieve food security and to reduce malnutrition. That is the overall goal of these principles. For that we need not only to define these principles here in Rome, not only to discuss this with one specific group of stakeholders, but we need to make sure that all of our stakeholders are included in the process, that all relevant stakeholders are here in Rome, but also to have consultation all over the world to raise awareness about these principles.
// Zero draft’s holistic approach
Secretariat: We were talking about the process going towards the CSF meeting now. Is there anything critical there that is happening now or was it all smooth or do we see anything coming there?
Christina : Watch At the moment, we have it since the 1st of August, a new zero draft. It was quite complicated to develop this zero draft because we have to cover all investments, we need to address all of our stakeholders and at the end the document should be short, concise and implementable. Therefore we faced some difficulties to prepare a Zero draft that is accessible and understandable for everybody.
Secretariat: Maybe it would have been good to stick to one thing first and then move along to the others, but I suppose you want to be all encompassing in one go.
Christina : Watch Maybe that is also a good thing. When you only address one issue there are so many other issues that have an impact on this issue. I think it is important to have a holistic approach to address. When we want to increase investment, increase responsible investment, to reduce malnutrition, to increase food security, you need to address all the different issues. If you lose something maybe the whole picture would not “fly”.
// Stakeholder benefits
Secretariat: Let us talk about what is responsible. That is obviously your whole big debate and I think that is what probably leads to the notion that the guidelines are in the end voluntary and nonbinding, as far as I understand. To what extent can we expect that governments and other stakeholders will actually use them, especially in the critical cases when core interest groups are at stake with their issues?
Christina : Watch It is a difficult question. We have the voluntary guidelines, also the voluntary guidelines on the governance of tenure: they are voluntary and nonbinding, and you see increasing interest in certain issues or in the whole document to implement them. I think that is also related that the development includes all stakeholders, so all stakeholders are sitting around one table and finally negotiating the text and the principles. When one actor does not want to apply the principles, there might be other actors that increase the pressure. When you look at the different roles and responsibilities you will also have civil society which will have an important role of looking at what is happening. And then you have again the CFS plenary or the CFS committee, which should monitor its outcomes and outputs. Therefore even when it is only nonbinding, the principles can be applied and will be applied because different actors will have different benefits. Not only governments, they can reduce poverty, increase productivity maybe, and on the other side, when implementing the rules and guides according to these principles, they might also increase interest of investors. On the other side, you have investors applying these principles that can create benefits when they want for their corporate social responsibility. I think that several facts that even if these principles are nonbinding, they are endorsed by governments, private sector and civil society organizations. That should help implement.
// Looking into the future
Secretariat: Will there be impact assessments afterwards? Who is doing them, these impact assessments? Are there any outside consultancy firms or who is doing that? How is this accountability assured in the end?
Christina : Watch When you look at the roles and responsibilities for the different actors, the principles say the government should establish and implement rules and procedures for assessments and reviews of impacts. Governments are encouraged to define an accountability mechanism that will enable them to undertake improvements, remedial actions or changes. On the other side you have investors. When I used the term “investors”, investor is public or private, it is from small scale to large companies. Investors are encouraged to follow the rules and procedures for assessment and review of impact of investments. On the other side you have research institutions, civil society organisations and development institutions that should play an important role in identifying possible impact of investments and advising about possible alternatives in investment design, implementation and planning. You have the framework: what needs to be done, who is in charge of what. At the end it is the government in consultation with the different stakeholders that define what should happen in their country.
Secretariat: So, it is up to them. The principles are supposed to be endorsed next year. What are the one, two, three key steps in the consultation process towards the endorsement?
Christina : Watch The consultation starts with the Open-ended working group meeting in Rome on the 23rd and 24th of September. From October to January-February, we will have regional consultations in all regions addressing or including civil society, governments, private sector and all of the relevant stakeholders and all this input. In addition, there will be an e-consultation where stakeholders that cannot attend these meetings have the possibility to send their comments to us. Based on these regional inclusive consultations and e-consultation we will prepare a first draft. The first draft will be negotiated here in Rome within this Open-ended CFS working group at the end of May.
Secretariat: Final question, always part of this format for us here, interview conducted for the Global Donor Platform for Rural Development: do you see any role of the Platform, the Platform members as well, in this principles finding process?
Christina: Watch What is important and where the Global Donor Platform can contribute is helping in creating awareness among your stakeholders and trying to increase the interest so that different stakeholders join the consultations: the regional consultations or the e-consultation. I think our point, which is very important, that the more people are aware of what is happening already now, the more people are already engaged with this process, the better the product is at the end. The process is not finished in October 2014, maybe for the process for developing the principles will be finalised, but then the next step starts in implementing the principles. The sooner, the more people are aware of what is going on, the faster these principles can be implemented.
Secretariat: Thank you very much!
Christina: Thank you!
// Do you want to respond to this interview?
The interview was conducted by Pascal Corbé of the Platform secretariat.