On 19-20 June, the topic “Climate, Food Trade: Linking East African Issues to the Global Context”, was deliberated upon at an international conference in Geneva by CUTS International where stakeholders from East African Community Member States interacted with experts from the global community.
Welcoming the participants, CUTS International’s Secretary General Pradeep S. Mehta, stressed that “how to harness the potential of trade in resolving EAC’s food security problem in the face of climate change is a key issue”. He, therefore, encouraged the participants to “take this chance to brainstorm, deliberate, discuss and network” towards consolidating their efforts for addressing inter alia climate-induced food insecurity through trade.
“Food security is a key concern for countries of the EAC, where the living and well-being of the populations largely depend on the availability of food stuffs. In the face of the worsening situation of climate change, and the changing international trade systems and policies, how to ensure a secured food supply is a greater challenge for us”, said Hon. Flavia Nabugere Munaaba, Ugandan Minister of State for Environment. She, however, lamented that “Unfortunately, these three issues commonly fall within mandates of separate Ministries at the national level, and under different international organizations at the multilateral level.”
With regard to the WTO, the Deputy Director-General of the organization Yonov Frederick Agah reminded that Paragraph 6 of the Doha Declaration (which frames current negotiations at the WTO) states that “acting for the protection of the environment and the promotion of sustainable development can and must be supportive”. Article 31 of the same declaration also recognises the mutual supportiveness of trade and environment.
The conference was organised as part of CUTS International’s “Promoting Agriculture- Climate-Trade Linkages in the EAC (PACT EAC)” project and was attended by Ministers and representatives of different ministries from the five EAC countries (Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda), the EAC Secretariat, NGOs, farmers’ organizations, the private sector, as well as representatives of Geneva missions and international organisations like WTO, FAO, ITC and UNEP. The PACT EAC project is being implemented for the past 3 years and aims to increase and communicate the knowledge on climate change-food security-trade linkages, and to enhance the capacity of policy makers and other stakeholders from the region to design holistic policies to better deal with climate change and food security challenges.
Protase Echessah of Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) – which provides funding support to the project – stressed that “although the subject has been extensively researched, it remains complex and more action is needed for better understanding of the linkages and consequences.”
The discussions in the Conference revolved around many key topics, including “Why do climate change, food security and trade linkages matter in Africa?”; “WTO: What policy options for the Post-Bali Food Security Agenda?”; “Role of trade policies in the EAC in ensuring food security”; “Trade and environmental sustainability”; “Climate early warning systems for food security”; “Mainstreaming environmental issues into trade policy and negotiations”; and “EAC positions and priorities in the implementation of the Bali Package and post-Bali Doha work programme” among others.
The final session of the conference discussed the report of an external evaluation of PACT EAC. The participants agreed with the findings confirming the relevance, efficiency, effectiveness and impact of the project. Emphasising the continuing and emerging needs of EAC stakeholders in this complex area, the conference strongly recommended the continuation of this useful work.
CUTS International, Geneva is a non-profit NGO that catalyses the pro-trade, pro-equity voices of the Global South in international trade and development debates in Geneva. It has made a name for linking people and issues in the world of multilateral trade with their counterparts in related policy areas. These include regional integration, agriculture, environment, competition, investment and consumer protection among others.