UN body to develop principles for responsible investment in agriculture

Approval of two-year consultation process

The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has given the go-ahead for the development of a set of principles for responsible investment in agriculture.

The FAO’s Committee on World Food Security (CFS) approved a two-year consultation to create principles to “respect rights, livelihoods and resources” at a meeting in Rome last week.

The principles will address all types of investment in agricultural value chains and food systems including smallholder producers, research, extension services and technology transfer, the FAO says. They will include foreign and domestic, public and private small, medium and large-scale investments.

It said: “To be effective, the principles should address the concerns of both host countries and investors. Policy and regulatory frameworks need to ensure that development benefits are maximized.”

The consultations will be carried out under the auspices of the CFS and will be open to “UN bodies, civil society, the private sector, agricultural research institutions, financial institutions and philanthropic foundations”.

The principles will complement the “Voluntary guidelines on the responsible governance of tenure of land, fisheries and forests in the context of national food security” endorsed in May (RI coverage). They will buildon existing frameworks and “not duplicate work by others”. A group of major institutional investors launched the Principles for Responsible Investment in Farmland last year.

The FAO – which estimates that $83bn will be needed to invest in developing countries to support agriculture by 2050 – has been working on the issue for a while. In September last year Responsible Investor reported the CFS was working on a seven-point voluntary code, although some civil society groups had criticised them as being too weak.
The project has been headed up by the CFS’s Open Ended Working Group (OWEG) on principles for responsible agricultural investments. This is chaired by Christina Blank, a Swiss representative to the FAO, the International Fund for Agricultural Development and the World Food Programme.
Known within the UN system as the RAI (responsible agricultural investments) principles, they will be voluntary and non-binding, Blank told the meeting in Rome, according to documents.

Going forward, the CFS will prepare a “Zero Draft” of the RAI principles by January 2013, with a global meeting to be held in Rome to negotiate a final version in June/July 2014. The principles will then be endorsed by the CFS in October 2014. Link to CFS meeting documents