Geneva AGA 2016


The Annual General Assembly took place 20-21 January in Geneva, Switzerland, on the topic of "Agricultural Trade and Rural Development: duet or solo playing?". The event was hosted by Swiss Development Cooperation Agency, one of the board members of the Platform. Each year the 38 members of the Platform, under the leadership of the hosting country, decide what will be the most relevant topic in their development policy portfolio for the next year. Based on this decision the Annual General Assembly in 2016 focused on the topic of policy coherence between agricultural trade policies and rural development.

//  Agenda and Concept Note

You can download the AGA official booklet here, it includes Agenda and speakers' bios

Concept Note AGA Geneva

//  Reports

You can download the report on AGA Day1 here

You can download the report on AGA Day2 here

//  Agricultural trade and rural development: Duet of Solo playing?

Emerging opportunities for ARD through trade from a farmer's perspective

World Farmers Organisation’s (WFO) President, Dr. Evelyn Nguleka delivered the keynote speech at the Annual General Assembly of the Global Donor Platform for Rural Development. In her speech she highlighted the importance of the Policy on Trade that the Organisation agreed on in 2013. The common policy brought several challenges that farmers are facing including pressure to produce more and more food in a sustainable manner.

Dr. Nguleka welcomed the invitation to speak in front of both communities – trade and ARD and raise the issue of policy (in-)coherence affecting farmers all over the world. The finite resources, price volatility and climate change impacts are some of the key challenges that in her opinion only joint actions with donors’ support can successfully tackle them.

She identified several action areas, including education and training and making farming lucrative. Schooling and training can boost farmers’ motivation to use new technology and increase production, but also in this way allow them access to bigger markets and other resources. As representative of the WFO, Dr. Nguleka made some recommendations to the Platform to put farmers in the center of policy discussions, to support national governments to formulate policies supporting market access for farmers, to increase investments in agriculture and to build up efficient agricultural infrastructure.


Dr. Evelyn Nguleka
President World Farmers Organisation

The above video is an edited version of the speech. For the entire wording see the transcript tab.

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Policy coherence and mutually supportive action in trade and ARD

The panelists from ECDPM, Asian Farmers Organisation, World Bank and IFPRI discussed priorities for harmonizing agriculture, rural development and trade policies. They all agreed on the need to identify a common purpose for a coherent agenda on rural transformation that will support economic growth and job creation, while promoting agricultural trade. Furthermore the participants acknowledged the necessity to support the organisation of farmers. Education and training for them will also strengthen their participation in a continuous political dialogue to ensure competent and effective policy actions.

Paul Engel from ECDPM stressed that policy coherence needs above all an objective that goes beyond coordination and incorporates complex externalities. Continuous policy dialogue should ensure the partner countries’ participation and keep the focus on solving real issues. He concluded that policy coherence can be termed a “complex eco-system of policy debate” and recommended that the Platform should initiate multi-stakeholder and –sector dialogues, including the private sector.

Esther Penunia, Secretary General of the Asian Farmers Organisation, listed eight major challenges to policy coherence: land rights and ownership, extension services, access to finance, fair contracts, organization of farmers, capacity strengthening, post-harvest facilities and engagement with governments.

Sunday Odjo from IFPRI urged the AGA participants to pay more attention to regional trade in Africa. Intra-African trade can contribute to resilient food markets, but it is still hampered by many obstacles like cross-border barriers and poor intra-regional trade infrastructure. Furthermore many African countries show serious gaps in yield, forcing them to import. Mr. Odjo reiterated that regional trade can help sustain gains and stabilize food supply in Africa.

Marcus Bartley Johns, representing the World Bank, encouraged the trade and ARD communities to focus on poverty reduction in the framework of SDGs as the common denominator. He presented the opinion that poverty reduction and trade are interlinked in many ways and the advantages depend highly on the goods and forms of trade. Political trade barriers also have different impact than technical barriers. Mr. Bartley Johns concluded that poor farming families need to be empowered to get organised and participate collectively in trade in order to profit from its benefits.

The panel concluded that farmers’ organization play and will continue to play a vital role in the implementation of SDGs and especially in poverty reduction. It will be required from them to be more active in spreading knowledge and experience of trade and market opportunities. But also donor countries should involve these organisations in their project planning processes and consult them on trade liberalization impacts so as to achieve greater success of creating coherent ARD and trade policies.

How to increase the positive impact of trade on rural development

Trade is a means by which poor countries can leverage economic growth, reduce their levels of poverty and even meet the SDGs. For example, SDG 2 on ending hunger and food insecurity points towards correcting and preventing trade restrictions and distortions in world agricultural markets as an indicator towards its achievement. Trade has furthermore emerged as a means to finance development – a position catalyzed by significant reductions in ODA by traditional donors – as it was featured in the FFD3 outcome document.

As part of the Platform’s growing work on trade in agriculture and rural development (ARD), the Annual General Assembly, held on 20th January, posed the following question participants: Are agricultural trade and rural development playing a duet or a solo? This is because the governance issues surrounding agricultural trade lead to a number of debates, particularly surrounding how trade can work better for smallholder farmers and even how trade could help deliver food and nutrition security. Overarching such discussions is one on which instruments and support mechanisms exist and offer practical solutions and opportunities?

A panel session during the AGA discussed a number of institutional and legal opportunities to increase the positive impact of trade in ARD. The main messages, according to each panelist, were:

Christophe Bellman (ICTSD) spoke about the critical role trade flows that legally binding trade agreements play in allowing frameworks that make sure trade flows happen easily and remove distortions. We must ask ourselves what trade restrictions are legitimate, as it is not just about liberalization.

Three main priorities for food security are:

  1. Policy instruments to deal with excessive price volatility and make sure your population can access food.
  2. Consciousness about the impact of policies to support national food production. Countries want to ensure productivity, but how does this affect other (poor) countries?
  3. Market access, reducing tariffs and Sanitary and Phyto-Sanitary (SPS) measures. There needs to be a realization of which of these measures are legitimate and which may be disguised protectionism.

The topic of Sanitary and Phyto-Sanitary (SPS) measures and technical standards was discussed in more depth by COMESA representative Martha Byanyima, because in the majority of COMESA countries, agriculture is still a leading economic activity. Protection of plants and animals from pests and invasive species ensures food and nutrition security and prevents diseases.

SPS regulations on countries have to speak to international trade, but also ensure they serve domestic needs as well. Some overarching debates remain on the harmonization of standards, whether they should be harmonized towards international or regional standards. COMESA believes that there should be direct support to regional SPS and Standards programmes under regional integration. For this, it is essential to enhance the institutional capacities of African institutions charged with CAADP implementation (AUC, NEPAD, RECs). Linking these efforts to country level actions will ensure that trade/customs reforms and investments are directly supporting initiatives to enhance food and nutrition security.

The Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF) for Trade-Related Assistance supports the Least Developed Countries supports (LDCs) to better integrate into the global trading system and to make trade a driver for development. EIF representative Ratnakar Adhikari described its functions which include mainstreaming trade into national development strategies, setting up new structures or strengthen existing institutions needed to coordinate the delivery of trade-related technical assistance and building capacity to trade, similar to some of the discussions covered by COMESA and ICTSD.

The EIF is a mix of traditional and emerging donors. It is managed through a trust fund which builds capacity for developing countries to contribute to the multilateral trade agreements. Third parties, such as GIZ, implement the programs.

Philippe Jacques from the European Commission spoke about the Aid for Trade (A4T) initiative, specifying that we may consider five areas as requiring priority attention under the A4T initiative for the agricultural sector:

  • Technology transfer and utilisation - one reason for the lack of agriculture competitiveness in developing countries is the low productivity land and labour, as well as the low adoption of new technologies by the vast majority of small and medium-scale farmers.
  • Rural infrastructures – the ability of the existing value chains to respond to new trade opportunities, as well as for the emergence of new value chains, is highly conditioned by the availability of adequate rural infrastructures.
  • Investment in water Management – in conjunction with the two factors mentioned before, it can offer pay-offs to public and private sector investment in agriculture
  • Technical standards of products – activities in this field are being completed within the framework of the WTO Agreements on SPS measures and Technical Barriers to Trade
  • Capacity for trade negotiations and trade policy Analysis – in addition to multilateral trade negotiations, most countries have engaged or concluded trade negotiations at regional, bilateral and preferential levels. That places a significant burden on the capacity needs to be built in order to implement these agreements, for responding to trade disputes and for adopting and complying with rules and standards.

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Outcomes from the Annual General Assembly 2016

Martha Byanyima, Esther Penunia, Evelyn Nguleka and Paul Engel reflected on the discussion during the Annual General Assembly. They all agreed on the importance to ensure the active participation of farmers in a continuous political dialogue on policy coherence between trade and ARD.

Especially in the process of rural transformation farmers are exposed to many challenges of different nature – climate change, lack of access to financial services, lack of access to markets, pressure to increase productivity. Their involvement, education and training will enable them to partner on equal basis in trade negotiations. This will provide them with better outcomes and increase their income. As controversial as trade might be, regional trade can also have positive impacts on food security - improving food supply, food systems resilience.


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Enhancing trade initiatives to improve food security and ARD

Eight different trade initiatives were presented in four different discussion groups. The groups’ participants explored operational examples from civil society, the private sector, donor community and international organisations’ initiatives working to enhance trade for food security and ARD. The groups each presented their outcomes and priority areas for future support and instruments to upscale existing efforts.

Aid by Trade Foundation and Oxfam concentrated on the critical elements needed to achieve and maintain scale in initiatives focusing on farmers’ access to markets. They, as all other groups, identified existing demand for the farmers’ product as one of the most important enabling factors for scaling up, but the group also agreed on the importance of a conducive policy environment. All participants agreed that the perception of farmers’ work by the financial and private sector need to be tackled. Economic empowerment of women should also be adapted and not simply imposed. Hence, it is important to change the division of labor in families before engaging women.

Fair Trade International and International Trade Center (ITC) agreed that the donor community should try and foster the partnership approach of public and private sector entities. The groups’ participants agreed that fair trade is a valid goal, pursued by private sector and farmers, often in different ways. Global level regulation needs to be supported by different coordination agencies at different levels and in different institutions and technical agencies. Participatory approaches should provide linkages and facilitate relationships.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands and Trademark East Africa suggested working towards removing red tapes and facilitating trade in East Africa. This approach will reduce trading costs. Trade facilitation overall will also foster value chain development and improve business climate, and by doing so also bring economic benefits.

The Association Grupos Crea from Argentina and the Italian Development Cooperation discussed value chain development and business in practice. They agreed that in order to achieve scale in value chains, there needs to be an agreement negotiated with farmers that includes qualitative as well as quantitative commitments. Farmers’ organisations need to be supported because such cooperatives reduce transaction costs, bring solidarity, reduce risks and enable knowledge sharing. At national level the two presented initiatives showed that strong research institutions, extension partners and universities –when used as intermediary– are also vital for successful up-scaling. At design stage scaling up projects should already develop an exit strategy. Partners agreed that the involvement of innovative financing is a good exit strategy, when the financing is commercial and supports storage facilities. But most importantly the exit strategy has to be built on predictions for future market development in order to ensure safe and profitable exit for all parties.

//  Downloads

Cotton made in Africa- Christoph Kaut

David Bright - Oxfam

Monique Calon - trade polciy of MFA-Netherlands

Anthe Vrijlandt - Trademark East Africa

Tiberio Chiari - Italian Agency for Development Cooperation

Hermenegildo Pini - Association Grupos CREA

Larry Attipoe, FairTrade International and Hernán Manson, ITC

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Photos Day1 and Day2

//  Previous AGAs

Florence AGA 2014
Paris AGA 2014
The Hague AGA 2012
Berlin AGA 2011

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