HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE CONFERENCE ON THE
MULTIFUNCTIONAL CHARACTER OF AGRICULTURE AND LAND
THURSDAY, 16 SEPTEMBER 1999
Participants at the Conference on the Multifunctional
Character of Agriculture and Land (MFCAL) met in Plenary on Thursday
morning to hear a synopsis of regional group discussions held over the
previous two days. Delegates met in Plenary throughout the day to consider
the content of the Chair’s draft report. In an informal evening Plenary,
delegates discussed the Chair’s reformulation of the three most
contentious paragraphs late into the night.
SUMMARY OF REGIONAL GROUP MEETINGS
Saad Nassar (Egypt) summarized the first sessions of
regional group discussions on understanding the MFCAL. The groups
emphasized, inter alia, that: the nature of MFCAL differs in different
countries; MFCAL should address problems causing food insecurity and
over-exploitation of non-renewable resources; trade should be emphasized
as an important function of agriculture; stakeholders should dictate
MFCAL’s direction; developed countries should not use MFCAL as an excuse
to erect barriers to developing country imports; and the links between
MFCAL and SARD require clarification. It was noted that, while
multifunctionality is not a new concept, it may be useful in developing
governments’ awareness of the issues. They stressed the need to focus on
policies, instruments and institutional strengthening and address rural
poverty, food security and support for the rural sector. Some emphasized
that Agenda 21 provides the necessary framework.
William Ehlers (Uruguay) summarized the second
sessions of regional group meetings, which considered case studies and
identified a number of relevant processes, instruments and enabling
factors. He said groups discussed whether MFCAL adds to existing concepts
relating to sustainable development. Some expressed their doubts. He said
many delegates recognized that elements of MFCAL differ between and within
countries, as does the emphasis placed on these elements. The need to
encourage and facilitate stakeholders’ full participation and
development and availability of innovative, appropriate technologies was
also recommended. Several groups spoke of the need to eliminate practices
that distort trade in agriculture, particularly subsidies.
Vincent Hungwe (Zimbabwe) reported on seven field
trips and case study discussions undertaken Wednesday. Participants agreed
that MFCAL is derived from the policy implications of SARD and, as such,
MFCAL is already being implemented. Participants agreed on the need for:
clarification of MFCAL, indicators and information; an enabling
environment for stakeholder participation; research, inter-disciplinary
dialogue and public-private partnerships; and the application of
agro-economic solutions, including the use of local materials and
technologies. On trade, participants recognized different country
priorities and that food security must occasionally take precedence.
GENERAL DISCUSSION ON OUTCOMES
Regarding follow-up to the conference, delegates from
Malaysia and Italy encouraged the FAO to continue building a framework for
sustainable agriculture planning. Members of the CSD NGO Agriculture
Caucus called on the FAO and CSD-8 to examine the contribution of organic
agriculture to sustainability and MFCAL. They called for an examination of
support mechanisms for land tenure security at CSD-8.
On MFCAL’s utility and its contribution to SARD, a
participant from Uruguay, supported by speakers from Australia, New
Zealand and Indonesia, called for a focus on practical sustainable
agriculture policies and tools in the absence of agreement on MFCAL’s
utility. An Indonesian delegate called for attention to farmer
participation, institution-building and farmer-led training and education.
A French representative said MFCAL could help operationalize the
relationship between food and non-food production demands.
On reflecting country priorities in MFCAL, a French
representative said countries must cooperate, some within the OECD, while
taking the concerns of developing countries on board. Senegalese, Mexican
and Spanish participants underlined the importance of food security.
Speakers from India, Norway, Morocco, Switzerland and the Republic of
Korea underlined the need to take account of differences between country
or regional situations.
On multifunctionality and trade, a French participant
said that States could use MFCAL while respecting the obligation to reduce
distortions in the global market. Delegates from Uruguay and South Africa
said the multifunctional character of agriculture should not be used as a
pretext to maintain subsidies. A delegate from Austria said the EU’s
multifunctional agricultural policies are intended to relieve pressure for
ever-increasing production. A Chilean participant, supported by speakers
from Argentina and Uruguay, said export prices have been depressed by
other countries’ export subsidies at the expense of sustainability.
On developing country needs, a participant from
Trinidad and Tobago supported a speaker from Argentina’s view that, with
declining ODA, countries dominated by agriculture must increase
production. A participant from Chile suggested that MFCAL could boost aid
flows for Agenda 21 implementation. Participants from Haiti and the
Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research called for
technological support and R&D.
Participants called for additional text on: OECD work
on MFCAL, indicators, subsidies and the impact of policy reform on
sustainable agriculture (OECD); recognition of waged agricultural workers
as stakeholders and Agenda 21 language on core labor standards (CSD NGO
Agriculture Caucus); the fundamental influence of trade (Trinidad and
Tobago); FAO and partner support for participatory land management and
measures to support security of land tenure (Popular Coalition); and FAO
guidelines on Chapter 10 of Agenda 21 to provide tools for analysis of
land use (UK and Thailand).
CONSIDERATION OF CHAIR’S DRAFT REPORT
The Chair circulated a Chair’s draft report, which
delegates debated at length.
BACKGROUND: Institutional context of SARD: A
US participant said a principal task of this conference was to identify
tools to move forward. A speaker from Trinidad and Tobago added the
challenge of adjusting trade policy to achieve food security. The OECD
called for a more forward-looking approach to the document. The
International Union on Food proposed that CSD-8 discuss the incorporation
of core labor standards in MFCAL and SARD.
Some clarifications on MFCAL: An Austrian delegate
proposed adding the need for a different set of policies to broaden the
basis of farmers’ income. A Canadian representative, supported by a UK
participant, suggested amending language on the effects of the trend
toward specialization and economic efficiency to note that intensive
agriculture can help meet food demand in some cases. A speaker from Norway
recommended adding that agriculture’s non-food functions may have public
good characteristics. A speaker from Argentina, opposed by one from the
UK, proposed deleting the report’s statement that agriculture’s raison
d’être is to provide livelihoods for farmers, stating that its main
purpose is food production. A delegate from Uruguay recommended adding
text acknowledging that MFCAL should not be used as a pretext to preserve
current subsidies and highlighting that varied opinions were voiced
regarding MFCAL’s validity.
The wider context of SARD discussions: A delegate
from Canada recommended noting that the major environmental conventions
strengthen approaches to the environmental “costs and benefits” of
agriculture. An Argentinean participant proposed adding a sentence
acknowledging that “export subsidies are particularly perverse” for
sustainable agriculture since developing countries cannot compete due to
artificially depressed prices.
REVIEWING PROGRESS: Furthering the
implementation of SARD: Representatives from the US, Canada and Paraguay
observed that the document suggests greater agreement on the concept of
MFCAL than necessarily existed at the conference. A Canadian speaker
recommended text reflecting that sustainable agriculture can be fostered
by policies that are targeted, cost-effective and transparent and do not
distort trade and production.
A delegate from the US proposed adding the need for
appropriate national policies in support of land tenure security.
Delegates from the US and Canada, opposed by those from Mexico and
Uruguay, suggested deleting a paragraph calling for a more open and
non-discriminatory trading system. Participants from Argentina and
Colombia proposed strengthening the text to note participants’ agreement
that developed country use of production and export subsidies damages
developing country efforts to achieve sustainable development. Delegates
from Colombia and Australia said the elimination of child labor should
become a measure of sustainable agriculture. A Mexican participant said
the crucial role of women in sustainable development should be reflected.
A speaker from Mauritius called for reference to the needs of small island
Instruments: A Canadian speaker highlighted
the need for further efforts to create markets for non-food outputs and to
“get the prices right.” IFAP called for reference to “the
eradication of rural poverty” as an enabling factor useful in the
process of mobilizing the various functions of agriculture and land. A UK
representative proposed replacing a reference to “ownership” issues
with “rights” issues regarding land. A Chinese delegate expressed
caution about references to land “ownership.” A German representative
recommended addressing the problem of insecure access to land and tenure
as it discourages farmers from investing in methods that can improve their
socioeconomic conditions as well as their interest in applying sustainable
IDENTIFYING ISSUES FOR FUTURE ACTION: A US
representative suggested calling for ways to monitor and assess SARD,
including development of indicators and means to analyze and quantify
benefits. She recommended deleting text stating that political choices
must be made to set priorities and guide the process toward
sustainability. Participants from Norway and Mauritius said gender should
receive greater emphasis in the document and be better reflected as
crucial in issues related to ownership and access to land and credit. A
Cuban delegate, supported by Mexican, New Zealand and German speakers,
recommende adding a reference to world hunger in the document.
National level: A representative of Via
Campesina replaced a reference to access to seeds with one on conservation
of biodiversity. The Global Forum for Sustainable Nutrition and Food
Security introduced text on strengthening rural communities and culture
through appropriate policies on land reform, support services and an
Regional level: A delegate from Peru suggested
that the text request the FAO to organize meetings to address these issues
at the regional level and that this process should involve farmers’
organizations and civil society.
International level: A Norwegian speaker said
innovative mechanisms of financing should not be limited to “green”
financial instruments but rather to financial instruments “in conformity
with international agreements.” A French delegate, supported by
participants from Mexico and Spain, recommended that a working group be
established under FAO’s aegis to develop an understanding of
agriculture’s multifunctional character and a framework to help achieve
sustainable development. A New Zealand delegate said this was not the
proper forum for taking decisions on this proposal.
INFORMAL INFORMAL PLENARY
Chair Alders revised the three most contentious
paragraphs in his draft report based on the above discussion and
circulated this text to delegates for further negotiation in an
“informal informal” evening Plenary.
On the paragraph containing clarifications on MFCAL,
one point of contention concerned text noting that agriculture has the
capacity to contribute to welfare. Participants from Namibia and Canada
advocated balancing this positive contribution of agriculture by its
noting potential negative effects and costs. Representatives from France,
the UK, Finland and others preferred the Chairï¿½s original text, which
elaborated agricultureï¿½s geographic extensiveness and direct relation to
nature and the environment.
Another contentious point concerned text noting that
growing attention to non-food functions of agriculture has augmented
MFCALï¿½s policy relevance. Some said this was not the case. A US
participant suggested that this attention has augmented the policy
relevance of SARD. A delegate from Argentina proposed that this attention
has augmented the ï¿½relevance of policies addressed to MFCAL.ï¿½ A
speaker from Cameroon recommended specifying non-food functions ï¿½in some
countries.ï¿½ Delegates also debated text confirming the importance of
targeted, transparent and cost-effective policies that do not distort
production and trade: those from Argentina and Uruguay supported this
formulation; a US speaker proposed its deletion; participants from
Germany, Norway and the Popular Coalition preferred deleting
ï¿½production;ï¿½ and those from Namibia and Zimbabwe suggested adding
policies that contribute to food security.
A proposal by a representative from Uruguay to add
text stressing that MFCAL should not be used as a pretext to preserve
developed country subsidies was supported by a delegate from Argentina but
opposed by speakers from the Republic of Korea, France and Germany. A
delegate from Argentina proposed amending it to state that MFCAL ï¿½is not
meant to justifyï¿½ current subsidies. A representative from Uruguay
expressed disappointment and said the refusal to include the text
confirmed that there is a hidden agenda behind the MFCAL concept.
Regarding a paragraph on participantsï¿½ views on
MFCAL, a Norwegian speaker questioned a call for a common framework for
analysis and emphasized the need for consistency of policies. A US
delegate agreed to delete the reference to a common analytical framework
consistent with WTO and other international agreements.
Regarding a paragraph on the trading system and trade
barriers, a participant from Argentina reintroduced his amendment on
increasing market access for developing countriesï¿½ agricultural exports
to provide them with the foreign exchange needed for their development and
implementation of sustainable agricultural policies. Participants did not
agree on the Chairï¿½s reformulation on the need to ensure that policy
measures do not unfairly limit market access to ï¿½nor distortï¿½ food and
agricultural exports, especially for developing countries. The UK, German
and Argentinean participants offered different formulae to address the
issue of resources for developing countries to implement sustainable
development. The Chair said he would produce a revised draft for further
negotiation on the final day of the conference.
THINGS TO LOOK FOR TODAY
PLENARY: On the conferenceï¿½s final day,
participants will convene in Plenary at 9:00 am in the Expo Foyer to
consider a revised draft Chairï¿½s report and to hear closing keynote
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