Why a new Dutch Food and Nutrition Security Policy should invest more in improving governance

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      A review of Dutch food security policy is underway. By the end of this year, the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Economic Affairs will send a joint food security policy paper to the Dutch Parliament. The Food & Business Knowledge Platform has launched an online consultation to ensure that the newest topics and debates on food security are included in the paper. Paul Engel, Director of ECDPM and Chair of the Steering Committee of the Food and Business Knowledge Agenda, provides input to the discussion. It is great to see how this consultation brings out a rich array of points of view, priorities and suggested lines of intervention to meet the targets set. It illustrates the firm commitment of national and international nongovernmental, academic and business partners of the Dutch government who take food security at heart. It also shows, as Hans Eenhoorn underlines, that perhaps it is not a lack of knowledge on how to secure food and nutrition for all that holds back global food and nutrition security. Mostly, we know what we have to do; we need to focus on getting it done. And the Netherlands with its strong track record on agriculture, trade, water, food and nutrition and on securing safe access for its people is expected to be a frontrunner. Not only because it is the right thing to do but certainly also because it is in our national political and economic interest to be at the frontline in this global effort. But in a world where our sense of precariousness is on the rise, where global players test each other’s strengths and both economic and human development growth seems to slow down, what does this mean? If it is not a lack of knowledge on what to do that is hampering global food and nutrition security, what are the reasons it proves so difficult to achieve? I agree with the various other contributors who argue for a much more profound analysis of the root causes of the global lack of food and nutrition security. Are they located in fragility, civil war, as some imply? Or in the faulty implementation of known solutions, as many others seem to underline. Are they embedded in our global financial and economic system that allows for exclusion and speculation? Or is it our limited understanding of the political economy of food production, distribution and consumption, as others argue. Or is it the lack of stability and sustainability of our global food systems? Or the lack of understanding of what food and nutrition security actually means in practice? The answer will be different from one case to the other; the causes of food and nutrition insecurity will differ from community to community, from country to country, from region to region. Clearly, a new policy needs a clear understanding of what are the dominant causes of food and nutrition security at each level and needs to provide space for in-depth analysis and adaptation to specific local, national, regional and international demands and circumstances; based on a thorough analysis of the drivers of change, that is, the political economy that drives food and nutrition security in each case. Another reminder that stands out from the contributions is that food and nutrition security is a complex problem, crossing many sectors, disciplines and policy areas and, intrinsically linked with the big challenges our industrial and developing societies face today. It prompts many contributors to suggest a more holistic, integrated approach based on well-specified targets. Many agree that ‘business as usual will not do’ and call for systemic change and transformation. As a result much attention is paid to the institutions that can make or break the effectiveness or sustainability of the system: Sidi Sanyang from the Africa Rice Centre, points out that technological change alone has not led to the necessary breakthrough;  Jolanda Buter underlines traditional institutions, i.e. a strongly embedded endogenous business logic and ancient trade dynamics in Africa, that needs to be valued. Clear messages include the importance of transforming land and water governance and building effective, accountable agricultural and market institutions and a supportive institutional environment for farmers and other entrepreneurs to invest in technically and environmentally sound ways of production, transport and storage; not to mention the need for water, energy and nutrient efficient (smart) farming systems. An important innovation in the approach suggested by various authors is ‘nexus-thinking’, to stop thinking and working in silos and to connect the dots between nutrition and food, between the city’s demands and rural production potential, between agricultural, economic, environmental and social policies and practice, etc. Key institutions  Clearly a new Food and Nutrition policy needs to invest in the governance and the transformation of key institutions, to help create en enabling institutional environment for diverse stakeholders to be able to improve food and nutrition security. We all know that an enabling business environment is crucial to help local small and medium businesses to flourish; the new policy should address that. We also know that lack of access to credit, knowledge and other essential inputs make it impossible for family farmers, mostly women, to modernize their farms, the new policy should be able to respond to that. And we know how excessive payments and waste of time at border posts hampers regional trade; the policy should support governments to do something about it. And the policy needs to set specific targets with regard to their joint impact on food and nutrition security to induce coherence between the policies and approaches pursued by different actors and sectors. Many contributors also highlight the political dimensions of food and nutrition security. Clear links are made with growing inequalities and exclusion, i.e. Claudio Schuftan. Evelijne Bruning underlines the fact that the majority of the world’s hungry and extremely poor are women food farmers. They structurally lack fair access to resources, mobility and voice in decision-making, which they would need to be able to transform their businesses. David Sogge cites Olivier de Schutter, the UN’s Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, to call attention to the political economy of hunger and malnutrition. David Connolly and Agnese Macaluso underscore the relationship between hunger and violent conflict, pointing at the long term impact of deliberate starvation on food security and post-conflict transitions and, the lack of political will on the part of key actors to do something about it. Like the 2008 food riots in several African cities, the above observations help us understand that achieving global food and nutrition security is not just a technical, economic or environmental problem; it is certainly political problem too: almost every single recommendation contributed to this consultation requires systemic change, whether it is to include women and youth, to build sustainable value chains, to support small-holder farmers, to reduce food waste, or to change consumption patterns. And such a change touches the way our institutions, our nations, our regions and our globe are governed. In the ultimate instance, achieving global food and nutrition security depends on profound changes in our national, regional and global governance, both public and corporate. Post-2015 A new Dutch policy on food and nutrition security therefore needs to propose an even more intense involvement of Dutch stakeholders in the final round of negotiations regarding the Post 2015 Sustainable Development Goals. Much has been accomplished but it’s not done yet. And this energy needs to focus not just on proposed Goal 2 to “End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture”, but also on Goal 16 to “Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, providing access to justice for all an build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels”. The Netherlands, home to the “Capital of Global Justice”, is in a good position but to do so, the realms of Justice, Governance and Food and Nutrition Security need to be more explicitly connected. In the meantime, Dutch stakeholders and their partners need to continue to address the political dimensions food and nutrition security and think of ways to help nudge national policymakers into adopting more inclusive and sustainable policies, at the very least in areas that affect food and nutrition security. Let me close with some remarks on Europe. Valuable contributions have been made on the need to build support for global food and nutrition security into mainstream European policies. According to the Lisbon Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, such policies, like the Common Foreign and Security Policy, Agricultural Policy (CAP), Trade Policy, and Research and Innovation Policy, are held to contribute to the achievement of development objectives, such as poverty reduction and food and nutrition security, and to avoid working against these. But within Europe there is a long way to go before this will be fully implemented. During the latest CAP reform, despite repeated efforts, also by the Netherlands, to include it, not even the proposal to regularly monitor CAP effects on developing countries made it into the final text. So clearly, a new policy should include a continued, strong effort on the part of the Dutch government and other stakeholders to convince their European partners to implement the Lisbon Treaty to the letter in terms of food and nutrition security. But there is something else. Europe has successfully achieved its own food and nutrition security as a region. Are we drawing the lessons from that to inspire our international policies and strategies? For example, in Europe we have learned how to invest in market orientation and business innovation by family farmers and small and medium size enterprises in marginalized European areas to reinvigorate their local economies and provide job opportunities. Also, we have learned that to make agriculture more sustainable (green), even when all other dimensions for achieving food security are basically in place, is not just a need from an environmental perspective but also an opportunity for increasing the competitiveness of European agriculture. Therefore, during the last reform leading to the Common Agricultural Policy 2014-2020 it was decided to place “the joint provision of public and private goods at the core of the policy. Farmers should be rewarded for the services they deliver to the wider public, such as landscapes, farmland biodiversity, climate stability even though they have no market value. Therefore, a new policy instrument (…) (greening) is directed to the provision of environmental public goods, which constitutes a major change in the policy framework.” In fact the reform of the CAP seems to echo Jose Luis Vivero’s argument to treat “food as a commons”. Why, if we have learned these lessons in Europe, in development policy the overriding emphasis seems yet to be on treating food as a commodity? Latin America So my last point addresses development studies. In Latin America, since many years local development programmes have reviewed and, where possible, have learned lessons from the implementation of the European CAP, Pillar II, Rural Development Programme in order to promote culturally inspired economic and social development in Latin America . Wouldn’t it be wise for development studies to invest more in the reflection and critical analysis of Europe’s own experience in securing food and nutrition for all? Not to transfer such experiences “lock, stock and barrel” to developing countries, of course not, and also not without a thorough understanding of the obvious differences in resources and context between Europe and developing regions. But wouldn’t it be worth trying to understand what made European national, regional and local governments, private sector entrepreneurs, farmers’ organizations, non-governmental organizations move to make this policy into a success? We have seen the importance of comparative policy analysis , may be some critical self-reflection might help as well? Paul Engel Director ECDPM Chair Steering Committee Food and Business Knowledge Agenda The views expressed here are those of the author, and not necessarily those of ECDPM.
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