The Committee on World Food Security (CFS), a UN organisation, has approved the Principles for Responsible Agriculture and Food Investments at a meeting in Rome.
The new principles aim to assure “cross-border and corporate investment flows lead to improved food security and sustainability and respect the rights of farm and food workers”, according to a release by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO).
The private sector was heavily involved in the two-year negotiation process and will also be crucial in the next stage, according to FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva.
“The private sector will play an important role in implementing the principles,” he said in a statement.
The first principle, and cornerstone of the agreement, states that investing responsibly in agriculture and food systems will contribute to food security and nutrition amid a growing global population.
Other principles outline how responsible investments should contribute to gender equality, health, youth empowerment, respect of legitimate tenure rights to land, fisheries and forests as well as existing and potential water uses, sustainable natural resource management, climate change mitigation and adaptation. They also touch upon other issues such as genetic resources, indigenous rights and climate change.
It is unclear how exactly the principles will be enacted or used. And there is unlikely to be one path to implementation, argued Robynne Anderson, secretariat for the International Agri-Food Network, the body representing the private sector during the process.
“The Principles are voluntary and non-binding, but represent the first time that governments, the private sector, civil society organisations, UN agencies and development banks, foundations, research institutions and academia have been able to come together and agree on what constitutes responsible investment in agriculture and food systems,” reads the press release.
The principles build on and complement the existing Voluntary Guidelines on Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security, endorsed by the CFS in May 2012. The initial principles were initiated in the wake of concerns about the large-scale acquisition of agricultural land and operations in developing countries, known as “land grabbing” by critics and widely seen as a threat to smallholders.