Timeline

Food & Sustainability

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

Expert Consultation on the Role of Government in Supporting Small-Scale Farmers and Agricultural Biodiversity

On November 6-8, 2016, the QUNO Food and Sustainability Programme hosted an expert consultation on the role of the public sector in supporting small-scale farmers and agricultural biodiversity at Chateau de Bossey, just outside of Geneva. 15 participants from around the world and representing a variety of professional backgrounds came together to discuss how to best help governments determine their roles in ensuring food security and to develop tools for them to create national food policies with small-scale farmers and agricultural biodiversity at their core.

While this consultation was only the beginning of a process with the long-term objective of achieving more just and sustainable food systems, the below documents were produced in preparation for the meeting as well as a result of the discussion held throughout. 

 

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November 2016

QUNO Attends 32nd IGC on Intellectual Property, Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore at WIPO

On November 28, 2016, QUNO attended the opening day of the 32nd session of the Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore at the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) in Geneva. Some of the issues to be discussed during this week-long meeting will be around the development of an international legal framework to protect traditional knowledge, genetic resources and traditional cultural expressions. Member states will continue the negotiations around policy objectives, beneficiaries, scope of protection, rights holders, transparency, incorporation of customary law and complementary measures with the goal of narrowing the existing gaps on core issues.

Prior to today’s session, we also attended the Seminar on Intellectual Property and Traditional Knowledge (November 24-25), during which indigenous peoples and people from local communities from all around the world discussed, among other issues, the importance of the distinction between ‘sacred and secret and narrowly and widely diffused traditional knowledge’. The diverse set of speakers of the seminar included intellectual property attorneys, a member of the Maasai People of Kenya, and a member of the Kichwa/Kayambi Peoples of Ecuador, among others.

QUNO welcomed the opportunity to be part of both events and is looking forward to the outcomes of the sessions. QUNO supports the statements made by the Indigenous Caucus this morning to call on member states to continuously support the existence of the voluntary fund. This fund is essential in ensuring the participation of indigenous peoples and local communities in these negotiations, which in turn speaks for the legitimacy and credibility of the instrument to be developed. 

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November 2016

QUNO moderates for the FAO Event on Peace and Food Security

During Geneva Peace Week, QUNO representative Diane Hendrick moderated an event for the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) on “Contributions to peacebuilding and prevention:  Agriculture and food security perspectives”. The event was an opportunity to for participants with peacebuilding and/or agricultural backgrounds to explore the linkages between agriculture and food security and sustainable peace, which largely remain as separate areas of work.

The panelists discussed the linkages between sustaining peace, food security and agriculture at both system level and on the ground bringing an example of FAO work in South Sudan. The discussion highlighted the importance of protecting and investing in rural livelihoods and sustainable food security before, during and after conflict as this can play an important role in peacebuilding processes.

Below are links to relevant FAO publications. The GreeNTD document illustrates the FAO’s practical work in improving resilience of livelihoods and land disputes in DRC, and the Peace and Food Security paper provides a broader understanding of investing in agriculture for sustainable peace with interesting facts.

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November 2016

QUNO hosted consultation on the role of governments in supporting small-scale farmers and and agricultural biodiversity

QUNO hosted an expert consultation on the role of governments in supporting small-scale farmers and agricultural biodiversity on November 6-8. In this excerpt from the latest Geneva Reporter newsletter, our Food & Sustainability Representative Susan Bragdon discusses the event.

 

Can you tell our readers about your upcoming event? Who will be participating? 

We are bringing together small-scale farmer organizations, economists and experts in public administration—people who don’t commonly sit at the same table—to discuss the role of governments in supporting small-scale farmers, agricultural biological diversity and ensuring the long-term food security of their populations. We will have small-scale farmers from Bolivia, Cuba, Malaysia, Mongolia, Nepal, Peru, the Philippines, Senegal and Zimbabwe in attendance. We have an economist from India who has been exploring these issues around health and agriculture for a couple of decades. We will have experts in public administration, in food system policy and in public-private partnerships. This wonderful mix of disciplines and geographies should yield interesting insights and results. 

What are your expectations for the consultation? 

This consultation is an attempt to challenge the dominant narrative that orients us to markets. We’re going to develop a strategy for raising awareness among national and international policy makers of the importance of small-scale farmers and agricultural biodiversity, and develop tools for helping governments determine what their roles should be in ensuring food security. Of course, every country is different and food security strategies must be tailored accordingly. This consultation is just the start. We need to keep this conversation going—asking critical questions and bringing together different perspectives—with the long term objective of achieving more just and sustainable food systems. 

We thank all the participants for joining us in this event and are looking forward to moving these discussions along. Next step will be the release of an agreed upon statement on the actions we think government should take in support of small-scale farmers and agricultural biodiversity.

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October 2016

QUNO Attended Symposium on UPOV and ITPGRFA

On October 26, 2016, QUNO attended a joint symposium on possible interrelations between the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA) and the International Convention for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV Convention). 

The issue of interrelations between the ITPGRFA and the UPOV Conventions in the context of Farmers’ Rights was raised at the ITPGRFA Governing Body in 2013 in Oman. Resolution 8/2013 on “Implementation of Article 9, Farmers’ Rights” requested the Treaty Secretariat “to invite UPOV and WIPO to jointly identify possible areas of interrelations among their respective international instruments”. This was in response to concerns that the activities of UPOV and WIPO undermine implementation of Article 9 of the ITPGRFA, which concerns “Farmers’ Rights. One key concern is that UPOV, in particular its Act of 1991, places severe restrictions on the right of farmers to save, use, exchange and sell seeds.

QUNO attended this symposium with a special interest in the discussion on reconciling farmers and plant breeders rights and on strengthening farmers’ seeds systems. Farmers' seed systems provide more than 80 percent of the total food crop seeds used by farmers. In other words, seed security leads to food security. These systems are also the main channel through which small-scale farmers can access new improved variety of seeds from the formal section. 

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October 2016

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

On October 20, 2016, QUNO and the Swiss Agency for Development and Coordination (SDC) co-hosted a panel discussion on Who Will and How Will We Feed Humanity at the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) 43 in Rome. The co-head of SDC’s global food security program, Manuel Flury, opened the side event. It was the first time in the agency’s history that the SDC co-hosted a side event at CFS with a Civil Society Organization (CSO). The panel speakers included Pat Mooney (ETC), Nichola Dyer (GAFSP), Juan Gonzalez-Valero (Syngenta), Netty Wiebe of La Via Campesina and Susan Bragdon as a moderator.

The panelists were asked to discuss two countries A and B based on previously sent out key characteristics. The two questions that guided the discussion were how their organizations would contribute to the food security situation in each country and what they believed the role of the public sector was in each of the country in terms of ensuring food and nutrition security. The event was very well received and several people commented on the diverse panel that provided for an excellent opportunity to bring together different actors to discuss their perspectives. 

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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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