Areas of Work

Agricultural Trade and Investment

QUNO believes that food security must be a central concern in the governance of agricultural trade, to ensure that trade policies support, rather than hinder, global efforts to meet long-term food security needs.

The relationships between food security measures and the WTO's trade rules however are extremely complex. For this reason, we are currently developing an interactive tool to help those seeking to shape policy at the national and international level – be they small-scale farmer organisations, trade negotiators or policy makers. By making it easier and quicker for users to identify the measures relevant to their particular contexts, we hope to facilitate a process of policy-making that is appropriate, coherent, and helps governments meet food security goals while maintaining compatibility with global trade rules.

Recent Timeline Events

September 2016

QUNO Attends WTO Public Forum 2016 on Inclusive Trade

During the last week of September 2016, QUNO attended the WTO Public Forum on Inclusive Trade. Throughout various plenary sessions and side events, QUNO followed the discussions on how to enable a wider range of individuals and businesses to participate in the trading systems and how WTO rules can help to ensure everyone benefits from trade. In particular, QUNO paid close attention to the panel discussions on the roles of agriculture and small scale farmers in today’s global trading system. 

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June 2016

QUNO signs joint Quaker statement on TTIP

In a written statement, five Quaker organisations from Europe and the United States have called on governments around the world, to ensure that trade contributes to a more equal, economically just and sustainable world. The statement comes in the context of building opposition to the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), that is currently being negotiated between the European Union and the United States of America.

American Friends Service Committee, Friends Committee on National Legislation, Quaker Council for European Affairs, Quaker United Nations Office and Quaker Peace & Social Witness are concerned that some aspects of the global trade system are working counter to their vision of equality, truth, integrity, simplicity, and peace and global commitments, such as the Paris Agreement on Climate Change and the Sustainable Development Goals. TTIP exemplifies these concerns, which however, also apply to other trade agreements such as the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).    

The shared Quaker statement states that while “properly regulated trade can benefit everyone by contributing to well-being and by strengthening relationships and understanding between different countries and culture,” […] it is important to see trade for what it is, namely, a “tool, not an end in itself.” Thus, rather than measuring the success of any trade agreement solely in economic terms, Quakers agree in their statement that “a truly successful trade deal will benefit the whole of society and the environment.”

Quakers are alarmed that in its current form, TTIP and its negotiations are prioritising the prospect of short-term economic gain over the longer-term factors necessary to human wellbeing and the protection of the Earth. Furthermore, the inclusion of the proposed Investor to State Dispute Settlement mechanism or Investment Court System, that “gives investors privileged rights to challenge social, environmental, health or other legislation, not open to ‘ordinary’ citizens, are fundamentally antidemocratic in nature and therefore unacceptable.” 

Quakers state that “truth and transparency are the only way to ensure real accountability.” They are concerned with the lack of public access to details of the TTIP negotiations. Therefore, in their statement, they urge governments to ensure that “trade negotiations are transparent and negotiating parties seek meaningful input […] from a broad spectrum of civil society throughout the negotiation process.”

Read the full statement here.

Photo: GotCredit/Flickr

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April 2016

Research paper: Access to seeds: lessons from the access to medicines debate

Access to seeds.jpg

This new research paper considers what lessons the access to medicines debate provides for those concerned with protecting farmers’ access to seeds. Taking the Doha Declaration on TRIPS and Public Health as its point of departure, this paper explores implications for interested parties at the international and national levels, as well as for multilateral institutions themselves.

Key messages include: 

1) The importance of public opinion and pragmatic coalition-building in raising the political capital to deal with sensitive negotiating topics;

2) The need for national governments to use TRIPS flexibilities in the same way that many already have for safeguarding access to medicines;

3) The urgent need for sustained, productive collaboration between relevant multilateral institutions to clarify the governance structure for plant genetic resources. By doing so they can help ensure farmers' continued freedom to experiment with, store, exchange and re-use seed - essential practices for maintaining biodiversity and achieving food security.

The paper, prepared by QUNO Programme Assistant Patrick Endall (Food & Sustainability, Climate Change) is available here, or by clicking on the link below.

All QUNO work is published under a Creative Commons license.

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