International Partners for Sustainable Agriculture

Promoting Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development (SARD) -Initiatives for People Centered Approaches to Sustainable Food Security and Resilient Food Systems

In preparation for Rio+20, the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) requested in mid-summer 2011 a review of activities for the period 2002 to the present performed by the nine major groups identified in Agenda 21 as key actors in sustainable development (farmers, youth, women, workers and their trade unions, business and industry, science and technology, non-governmental organizations, local authorities and Indigenous Peoples). IPSA was asked,  of one of several Major Group organizing partners during this period,  to make a civil society contribution reflecting on Agenda 21 Chapter 14 Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development (SARD).   This contribution, prepared by Linda Elswick (IPSA), addresses our general impressions of accomplishments and frustrations at the UN Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD).  It incorporates the views of other contributing groups. Jan-Gustav Strandenaes, was contracted by DESA to be the coordinating author of the review.

The aims of the DESA study are “to provide a systematic assessment of the progress and gaps made in the implementation of the programmes of action included in the 40 chapters of Agenda 21, as well as chapters that were added to the scope of the Commission on Sustainable Development in 1997  -tourism, transport, energy and in 2002 mining. Specifically, the study will aim to:

  • provide a basic but systematic coverage of issues in Agenda 21
  • assess the main factors having caused progress or lack of progress on the different chapters, and suggest alternative approaches to facilitate faster progress”

This process had a specific scope/outline to follow and a very short timeline — only one week — for a civil society response, giving far too little opportunity for a comprehensive assessment. Much more reflection and input from a broad group of diverse stakeholders in civil society is needed to establish a common understanding and assessment of progress made and inform the development of a Major Group platform for Rio+20 for food and agriculture. IPSA encourages further comment and input as one mechanism for contributing to a more broad-based review in preparation for Rio + 20 by civil society advocates.

The upcoming November 1 deadline is a key benchmark for input to the official compilation document

Input to Major Group Ten Year Review for Rio+20: Promoting Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development -Initiatives for People Centred Approaches to Sustainable Food Security and Resilient Food Systems

General Impressions of Major Group participation: 2002-2011

Due to the overwhelming importance of food to society in general and the impact of production on millions of producers and consumers and the environment in particular, agriculture and rural development have been high priority topics for a wide spectrum of civil society stakeholders responding to the challenges delineated in Agenda 21. The urgency of food security and the sustainability of agriculture in the face of price volatility have increased significantly since global food prices soared beginning in 2007.  Building on Major Group participation and collaboration with a variety of inter-governmental processes, civil society has been quite active from UNCED through CSD sessions when these topics were on the agenda (CSD-8 in 2000, WSSD in 2002, CSD-16 and CSD-17 in 2008-2009). This collaboration of Major Groups extended in some cases in productive ways to UNEP, FAO, ILO, IFAD, World Food Programme, UN-Habitat, ICRAF and UNFCCC, UNCDD, CBD and the World Food Summit. These are some of the most prominent examples where civil society has been engaged in achieving sustainable agriculture, rural development and food security.

Please visit IPSA’s Looking Toward Rio page for a detailed account of the state of sustainable agriculture and rural development (SARD) and initiatives for people centred approaches to sustainable food security and resilient food systems.

Food for Cities

In June 2011 the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) contracted Thomas Forster (IPSA) to coordinate the drafting of a position paper for the “Food for Cities“ network.  This 10 year old interdisciplinary initiative has helped elevate the importance of agriculture in urban and peri-urban areas and spawned a global network of field, research and policy experts working on issues connecting agriculture and cities.

As the significance of cities for climate change and the transformation of agriculture occurs alongside the process of  global urbanization, there is renewed interest in looking at the linkages or continuum of rural and urban landscapes and food systems. A paper commissioned by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) to be  published in October can be found at http://www.fao.org/fcit