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UN responsible agriculture principles for investors to be debated at World Food Security meet

United Nations bodies working on seven-point voluntary code.

A status report on the United Nations’ seven-point ‘Responsible Agricultural Investment’ (RAI) Principles is set to be discussed at a meeting of the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) in Rome later this year.

The draft principles – based in part on the UN Principles for Responsible Investment, but not related to The Farmland Principles announced by PRI investors today Link to RI article – are aimed at investors acquiring large-scale farmland. They have been put together by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) with input from the World Bank, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).

The impetus for the principles came from fears over ‘land grabs’ by developed nations and investors. They could assume increasing relevance as institutional investors switch to agriculture and forestry investments to both mitigate climate change and help with long-term investment returns.
The principles are currently under consultation. “The intention is to identify the form of investment in agriculture and land which can best address issues of food security in middle and low income countries,” a major CFS report – Land tenure and international investments in agriculture – stated in July.

“If adopted, the RAI principles would be a body of voluntary principles, with mechanisms for monitoring and ensuring compliance which are as yet unclear.”

The CFS study acknowledges that some civil society groups have criticized the RAI Principles as too weak, as well as the fact that they are voluntary for investors.The FAO says the Principles build on research on foreign direct investment (FDI) in agriculture as well as its own ‘Voluntary Guidelines on Governance of Land Tenure and other Natural Resources’, the Equator Principles, the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises and the UN PRI. A specific site for the principles can be found here

The Responsible Agricultural Investment Principles:

  1. Existing rights to land and associated natural resources are recognized and respected
  2. Investments do not jeopardize food security but rather strengthen it
  3. Processes for accessing land and other resources and then making associated investments are transparent, monitored, and ensure accountability
  4. All those materially affected are consulted, and agreements from consultations are recorded and enforced.
  5. Investors ensure that projects respect the rule of law, reflect industry best practice, are viable economically, and result in durable shared value.
  6. Investments generate desirable social and distributional impacts
  7. Environmental impacts are quantified and measures taken to encourage sustainable resource use