On behalf of FAO, I wish to welcome all of you to this Regional Workshop on public-private partnership for land investments organized jointly by the International Land Coalition (ILC) and the Asia NGO Coalition (ANGOC). FAO is pleased and honoured to have been asked to host the workshop at the Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific – further bearing witness to our continued cooperation in this area of great importance to the people of Asia and the Pacific.
We warmly welcome our partners, colleagues and friends joining us from many countries of the region to this event to discuss issues and actions required for responsible land investments.
Land is one of the main economic, social and cultural assets of poor rural women and men. Land is a source of food and shelter; a basis for social, cultural and religious practices; and a factor of economic production. Above all, in rural areas, land sustains livelihoods, traditional eco-systems and cultural heritage through agriculture and related activities such as livestock, forestry and fisheries.
For several decades now, the agricultural sector in low-income countries has suffered from serious underinvestment, with considerable consequences for long-term food security and development. Additional investments of $83 billion annually are needed if developing country agriculture is to meet its food needs in 2050. Official development assistance and the national budgets of developing countries together have limited ability to fill in this gap. Therefore, investments from the private sector, including from smallholder farmers, are vital to lift productivity, close yield gaps and generate rural employment.
Over the past three years, we have witnessed new investments in agriculture taking place around the world. As increased levels of investments are critically important to reduce the long-prevailing deficit of engagements, these investments – coupled with increased bio-energy crop production – have heightened demands and pressures on land and placed tensions on land tenure systems. In some cases, these investments may have been done at the expense of the land rights of poor men and women.
While FAO continues to advocate that investments in agriculture are essential, they need to be responsible, to respect the right and benefit of land use and ownership of small land holders, and serve for the sustainable development interests of local communities. Time should be taken in negotiating contracts to ensure transparent agreements that take into account longer-term public interests, including negotiating land allocations with communities and associating them in the new initiatives. It is also crucially important that the investments should be perceived by the population as being useful for their livelihoods and beneficial for local development.
Governance of tenure
FAO is engaged in two major global initiatives that address the challenges of investments. The aim is to guide investments so that they are beneficial for rural development and food security, both in investing and land supplying countries.
First, FAO is leading an initiative to develop Voluntary guidelines on responsible governance of tenure of land, fisheries and forests. These voluntary guidelines will provide practical guidance to states, civil society and the private sector by setting out principles and internationally accepted standards and practices for responsible governance of tenure.
By stimulating transparency and effectiveness of land institutions and land tenure practices, the voluntary guidelines are likely to improve the way in which such transactions for land investments are assessed, negotiated, and implemented – both directly and indirectly.
Second, FAO, IFAD, the World Bank and The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) are developing Principles for responsible agricultural investment that respect rights, livelihoods and resources. These principles identify different facets of agricultural investment and propose a set of criteria to guide investment towards desirable outcomes while minimising the potential risks. They provide a framework to which national regulations, international investment agreements, global corporate social responsibility initiatives and individual investment contracts might refer. The principles build on existing international commitments and extensive research on the impacts of international investment in agriculture.
FAO’s global mandate and work Asia
The development of the Voluntary guidelines on governance of tenure and the Principles for responsible agricultural investment are directly related to the mandate of FAO to lead international efforts to defeat hunger. Serving both developed and developing countries, FAO acts as a neutral forum where all nations meet as equals to negotiate agreements and debate policy. FAO is also a source of knowledge and information. We assist developing countries and countries in transition to modernize and improve agriculture, forestry and fisheries practices and ensure good nutrition for all.
First and foremost, I should like to emphasize that FAO’s and my personal interpretation of the concept responsible agricultural investments (RAI) is aimed to protect resource-poor farmers and rural dwellers. In the same vein, RAI should ensure equitable benefit sharing between all parties concerned – as documented and expressed in our recent joint ventures on this subject.
Ladies and gentlemen,
In Asia, FAO has led the dialogue on governance of tenure and on investments. A regional consultation meeting on the Voluntary guidelines on governance of tenure was organized in Viet Nam in October 2009.
FAO also continues to monitor the situation in the Asia-Pacific region and has pursued this issue as an important agenda item in different fora and conferences, including the Asia-Europe meeting (ASEM) in Chiang Mai last month, the April 2011 Bangkok Regional consultation on policy and programmatic actions to address high food prices in Asia, and the ASEAN/FAO Food Security Consultation last year, among others.
In particular, I wish to stress that FAO has been instrumental to mobilize – with financial and other means – the close involvement and cooperation of civil society in Asia-Pacific in several high level governmental mechanisms, such as the Pacific Food Security Summit in Vanuatu last year May, the ADB/FAO/IFAD Food Security Forum in Manila in July 2010, and the 31st session of the FAO Regional Conference for Asia and the Pacific hosted by the Republic of Korea in September-October 2010.
The two last events – and with FAO largely in the driving seat to give a voice to civil society – have resulted in the issuance of civil society declarations which were submitted to governments and incorporated in the reports of the meetings.
Consulting stakeholders on the Principles on responsible agricultural investment, FAO is committed to an inclusive process for the further development of the guidelines and the mobilization of required resources to operationalize regional frameworks as a key pre-requisite for enhanced regional initiatives to support Asia-Pacific communication with the Committee on World Food Security (CFS).
Objectives of the workshop
This workshop brings together various civil society and NGO organizations from Asia to build a better understanding of the various faces and modes of land investments. The workshop will be an occasion to share experiences and knowledge, to inform about the on-going global initiatives and to frame strategies for appropriate future actions.
The programme of the workshop includes the presentation of country case studies carried out under the ILC/ANGOC umbrella.
I wish to encourage civil society to bring the outcome of such national case studies to our attention, in particular for bringing to light the country needs in the areas of technical cooperation, capacity building and resource requirements. The continuation of our cooperation and the inclusive process for the development of the voluntary guidelines will no doubt further strengthen regional processes and providing contributions for CFS consideration, inter alia by the open-ended CFS working group tasked with reviewing the first draft of the voluntary guidelines.
In this connection, I welcome Ms Anni Arial, based at FAO headquarters, who is a specialist and the FAO resource person for the meeting.
Finally, I wish to stress the importance of our constructive dialogue and spirit of true partnership for mutual understanding and consensus building.
Once again, I wish to express our deep gratitude for all of you who share your time for the benefit of this Workshop. I wish you all for a highly successful event.