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EU policy coherence for food security: Aligning parallel agendas

Discussion Paper 153

October 2013

Engel, P., Lein, B., Seters, J. van, Helden, B. van. 2013. EU policy coherence for food security: Aligning parallel agendas. (ECDPM Discussion Paper 153). Maastricht: ECDPM.

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For the European Union (EU), Policy Coherence for Development (PCD) is both a legally enforceable treaty obligation and a political priority. To operationalize PCD, the EU has put in place a Work Programme 2010–2013. An elaborate framework of institutional mechanisms further contributes to the promotion and monitoring of development concerns throughout the EU’s diverse decision-making structures. Nonetheless, living up to PCD commitments has in practice delivered mixed results.

In the area of global food security, EU PCD concerns have arguably been around since the very concept of PCD entered EU policy-discussions. Food security is a major development challenge and to address this, the EU has effectively put global food security high among its development priorities for the years to come. However, while the European Union is the world’s major development actor on food security, some of its other policies are still contested as harmful to global food security and agricultural development.

Purpose of ECPDM study

This paper discusses in how far the European Union’s commitments and institutional mechanisms for Policy Coherence for Development have supported its development objectives in the area of global food security. Derived from the PCD Work Programme 2010-2013, four EU policy areas with a potential impact on food security are discussed: agriculture, fisheries, trade and biofuels.

Key findings

  • An analysis of EU policy-making processes related to agriculture, fisheries, energy and trade shows that some tangible efforts have been made to strengthen policy coherence ‘for food security’.
  • However, these are tentative steps. Other concerns and interests dominate the debates and shape the outcomes, while global food security considerations play a very marginal to no role, or the food security rationale used is at odds with the logic of the EU’s own food security policy framework.
  • A number of fundamental shortcomings in the (use of) PCD tools are identified. Key recommendations to enhance PCD efforts for food security include: stronger linkages between the development and PCD agendas, clearer targets, stronger but realistic political engagement and a broader knowledge base on impacts.
  • There is a real need for political sponsorship and leadership on PCD for food security. Without such strong political drive, there is a distinct lack of scope to promote genuine change toward a more development-friendly EU policy-making and ‘success stories’ will remain small and anecdotal.


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Food SecurityEU Policy Coherence for Food SecurityDiscussion Papers (series)ResearchAgricultureCommon Agricultural Policy (CAP)Common Fisheries Policy (CFP)European Union (EU)FisheriesNutritionTrade