Timeline

Food & Sustainability

We promote informed and balanced discussion about what agricultural systems are best suited to different circumstances and needs.
October 2016

QUNO to Co-Host Side Event at Committee on World Food Security in Rome

On the occasion of the CFS 43 in Rome next week, QUNO will co-host a side event with the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation. The side event is entitled ‘Who Will and How Will We Feed Humanity’ and will be moderated by QUNO’s Food and Sustainability representative Susan Bragdon.

A panel of four speakers, representing the private sector, civil society and farmers, will be trying to find complementarity between contrasting approaches to achieving food security and nutrition. Discussions around how to achieve food security and nutrition and the related targets of Agenda 2030 are often polarized — and charged. How core challenges are framed, often rooted in a particular ideology or perspective, lead to different and sometimes contrasting approaches to solving them. Discussions on the role of trade and the value of on-farm innovation and biodiversity will be enriched as a result and lead to practical outcomes.

Panelists will describe how their organizations contribute to the food security of hypothetical nations, how their interventions articulate with one another, and identify appropriate roles for governments. The side-event will be opened by Manuel Flury, Co-Head of the Global Programme Food Security at the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation.

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October 2016

QUNO Submits Contribution to Special Rapporteur on Human Rights & the Environment

Following up on a public consultation on Biodiversity and Human Rights at the 33rd session of the Human Rights Council, QUNO submitted a contribution to Special Rapporteur John Knox’s upcoming report on biodiversity and human rights.

The contribution focuses on the application of a human rights approach to agricultural biodiversity. QUNO finds the latter to be a critical subset of biodiversity, upon which all of humanity depends. Small-scale farmers are the active managers and developers of the majority of this diversity worldwide. QUNO believes that a human rights interpretation of agricultural biodiversity may encourage States to proactively develop legislation, programs and policies that are supportive of small-scale farmers.

QUNO therefore calls upon Mr. Knox to consider including agricultural biodiversity in his report on human rights obligations as they relate to the protection of biological diversity and ecosystems to be released in March 2017.

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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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September 2016

QUNO attends Public Consultation on Biodiversity and Human Rights at the 33rd Session of the Human Rights Council

On September 22, 2016, QUNO attended a public consultation on biodiversity and human rights obligations at the Palais des Nations in Geneva. Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment, John Knox, presented his approach for his report to be introduced at the upcoming Human Rights Council session in March 2017. The release of the report, which will focus on human rights obligations as they relate to the protection of biological diversity and ecosystems, will be closely followed by QUNO.

While attending the public consultation, QUNO intervened to emphasize the importance of agricultural biological diversity and small-scale farmers in this discussion. QUNO stated its opinion that the unique characteristics of agricultural biological diversity could usefully be elaborated upon in the upcoming report. 

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September 2016

QUNO submits statement to 31st session of WIPO's committee on IP and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore

© WIPO 2016. Photo: Emmanuel Berrod

QUNO attended the opening of the 31st session of the World Intellectual Property Organization’s (WIPO) Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore (IGC) in Geneva on Monday September 19, 2016.

Following a panel discussion of Indigenous Peoples on a draft text and international legal instrument to ensure the effective protection of genetic resources, traditional knowledge and traditional cultural expressions, QUNO submitted a written statement to emphasize the importance of small-scale farmers in that discussion.  

In its statement, QUNO acknowledged and appreciated the essential representation of Indigenous Peoples present at the 31st WIPO IGC session. However, it called upon the IGC and those who take part in it to also encourage the participation of small-scale farmers, whether or not they identify themselves as Indigenous.

The statement was submitted on September 22, 2016. 

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June 2016

QUNO releases policy brief on intellectual property and small-scale farmer innovation

The relationship between intellectual property (IP) and small-scale farmer innovation is far from straightforward. The majority of innovation in agriculture is not driven by the promise of exclusionary rights that some IP tools afford — it takes place on the farm and is a collaborative and incremental process, the outcomes of which cannot be attributed to individual rights holders.

However some IP tools – when carefully selected and adapted to suit domestic circumstances – may have the potential to help drive small-scale farmer innovation or, at minimum, allow the space for it to occur unimpeded.

This paper discusses how alternative or sui generis plant variety protection systems, collective and certification trademarks, and geographical indications may encourage on-farm innovation.

On the other hand, IP tools that are more conventionally believed to incentivise innovation in agriculture (i.e. patents, UPOV-style plant variety protection systems, and less commonly trade secrets) have the potential to impede on-farm innovation.

Policy makers at the national level should take into account the value of small-scale farmer innovation for national and global food security when developing national food security strategies, and take advantage of the flexibilities allowed under the WTO TRIPS Agreement when implementing IP legislation that reflects the realities of domestic agricultural sectors.

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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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May 2016

QUNO and International Treaty host consultation on Farmers' Rights

In conjunction with the secretariat of the International Treaty (ITPGRFA), QUNO hosted a small, focused consultation examining progress and challenges in domestic implementation of Article 9 - the section on Farmers' Rights.

Acknowledging the enormous contribution of farmers and local or indigenous communities to the development and maintenance of crop diversity, Article 9 recommends that countries take a number of measures to ensure this continues:

  • Protection of traditional knowledge
  • Equitable participation in sharing benefits of plant genetic resources' utilisation
  • Participation in decision making
  • Farmers' right to save, use, exchange and sell farm-saved seed (subject to national law and as appropriate).

The consultation, held on May 28th at Quaker House Geneva, brought together representatives from state delegations, research institutions and civil society for a half day of rich discussion and experience-sharing. An outcome document was prepared, to feed into the Global Consultation on Farmers' Rights being held in September in Bali, Indonesia.

Photo credit: IITA/Flickr

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May 2016

QUNO presents at WIPO seminar on intellectual property and genetic resources

On 27th May, QUNO's Susan Bragdon (Representative, Food & Sustainability), addressed state delegates and civil society at a seminar on intellectual property and genetic resources, hosted by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) in Geneva.

Her talk laid out the legal landscape for the governance of genetic resources and explained some of the complexities and inconsistencies that currently exist, with a particular focus on plant genetic resources for food and agriculture.

Countries across the world are interdependent on plant genetic resources for fulfilling their food security objectives, but there is a fundamental tension between the international legal architecture and communities on the ground. Susan's talk emphasised the importance of greater inclusivity and coordination between treaty bodies, as well as the need to better account for the needs of small-scale farmers, who play a key role in the maintenance and preservation of genetic resources.

By highlighting Sustainable Development Goal 2: "End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture", Susan offered a uniting objective that countries could use to help reconcile those treaties' disparate provisions.

You can watch the talk here by selecting 'Seminar on intellectual property and genetic resources'. Susan's talk begins at around 13mins in.

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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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February 2016

QUNO presents at international colloquium on global governance

On 4-5 February, QUNO's Food & Sustainability representative travelled to The Hague, Netherlands, to attend and present at a colloquium at the International Institute of Social Studies. Susan was among a diverse set of speakers examining the intersections between global governance and politics, climate justice and agrarian / social justice.

Her paper calls for a reinvigoration of the public sector, with a particular focus on food security, small-scale farmers and intellectual property rules.

 

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January 2016

VIDEO: Susan Bragdon talks about our Food & Sustainability programme

In this video, which is excerpted from a longer film shown at the Friends World Committee for Consultation (FWCC) World Plenary Meeting held in Peru in January 2016, Susan Bragdon discusses the work of our Food & Sustainabilty programme. 

The Food & Sustainability programme of the Quaker United Nations Office addresses the complex and intertwined issues of trade and innovation policy and how they relate to poverty, hunger and food insecurity. We look at these issues with a particular focus on small-scale farmers, including fisherfolk, forest dwellers and pastoralists, a critical yet largely unheard voice in trade and innovation policy-making. Our work is collaborative, providing the space where it is safe to think, share and explore creative alternatives to a food system that does not work for the majority of the world’s population. 

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January 2016

QUNO Food & Sustainability publications now available in four languages

Three of QUNO's recent policy briefs from the Food & Sustainability programme are now available online in up to four languages. All QUNO work is published under a Creative Commons license. Copies of all QUNO publications can be downloaded free by following the links below, while hard copies are available on request to quno@quno.ch.

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January 2016

QUNO demonstrates policy tool at Global Donor Platform for Rural Development

Over the past year, QUNO has been developing an interactive tool to help shape coherent food security and trade policies. Attending the Global Donor Platform's annual event in Geneva this week gave us the opportunity to present our progress and discuss ways of taking it forward with a broad variety of grant-giving institutions.

Each year the Donor Platform for Rural Development selects what they believe will be the most relevant topic to them in the coming year. For 2016 the focus is on policy coherence between trade and rural development, a theme that resonates strongly with our Food & Sustainability work. We were therefore able to constructively intervene in sessions, while gaining a better understanding of the issues as-seen from a donor perspective.

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December 2015

Policy Brief: The relationship between food security policy measures and WTO trade rules

This report first provides a historical overview of both the concept of food security and the incorporation of agriculture into international trade negotiations. It then turns to the relationship between food security policy options and the WTO’s trade rules, and highlights opportunities for governments to implement policies that support food security while meeting their international obligations. It concludes by laying out a range of policy measures to enhance food security, assessing the compatibility of each with WTO regulations. 

Prepared by David Elliott, based on a full-length report by Kim Burnett, available below. 

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December 2015

Policy Brief: Small-scale farmer innovation

This policy brief consolidates lessons learned from two sources:

The key message arising from both is that small-scale farmer innovation systems are unique relative to more ‘formal’ agricultural innovation systems. For this reason, the types of policies that are put in place to encourage innovation in agriculture require a fundamental reconsideration.

Read the brief in English, French, Spanish and Chinese, by clicking the links below.

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December 2015

Project Brief: QUNO interactive policy tool

Within our Trade and Investment in Agriculture work, QUNO has been developing an online tool to help explain the complex relationship between food security measures and the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) trade rules. These are liable to come into conflict and the aim of the tool is to help policy makers shape their policies in ways that are mutually compatible and context-appropriate.

In this project brief, Susan Bragdon, our Food & Sustainability Representative, talks through her vision of the tool and how she believes it could benefit small-scale farmer organisations, trade negotiators and policymakers in shaping effective food security measures.

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November 2015

New Report: Small-scale farmer innovation systems - a review of the literature

Small-scale farmer innovation systems have remained an abstract and elusive concept - this document seeks clarification by presenting a review of the academic literature on the subject.

In it, we call for further evidence-based research documenting small-scale farmers' contributions to food security, livelihood improvement and agro-ecosystem resilience. Through this, we hope small-scale farmers may become more visible in policymaking and more supported within national innovation strategies.

Read the full report below:

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November 2015

New Report: The relationship between key food security measures and trade rules

The rules governing international trade in agriculture are often vague and ambiguous, requiring significant legal and administrative capacity to uncover opportunities to support food security and rural livelihoods without breaking WTO rules.

This new QUNO report, prepared by Kim Burnett (University of Waterloo), identifies some of the measures that may be used to help advance developing countries’ food security in ways that comply with international obligations to reduce trade-distorting domestic supports and market protections.

 

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October 2015

Small-scale Farmer Innovation Systems: Report on the First Expert Consultation 26-27 May 2015 in Geneva

In May 2015, QUNO convened a small expert consultation in Geneva to discuss the emerging concept of small-scale farmer innovation systems. The event brought together 19 participants from across 12 countries, providing a platform for discussing first-hand experiences of innovation at this level. The experience of one of the attendees - Joe Ouko, a farmer from Kenya, features in the 93rd edition of Quaker News ('Starting small', p.11): http://issuu.com/quakers-in-britain/docs/quaker_news_93_4f36b9a9828ae7/1 

Over the course of the two days, detailed information was shared, gaps highlighted, working relationships established and future directions explored. The report, which can be accessed by clicking the link below, represents a synthesis of what was discussed; something that will be valuable in informing QUNO’s work moving forward.

Read the report, as well as a literature review of small-scale farmer innovation systems, below:

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