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Assessing capacities in Mesoamerica to enhance responsible investments in agriculture and food systems

07/02/2017

More than ten million people suffer from chronic undernourishment in Mesoamerica. Lifting these people out of hunger by 2030 will require US$1.5 billion annual additional investments, of which US$276 million should be spent on agriculture and rural development. However, not all kinds of investment are equally beneficial, and some may actually do more harm than good.

Applying guidance instruments such as the Principles for Responsible Investment in Agriculture and Food Systems (CFS-RAI) helps ensure that investments benefit those who need them most, thus contributing to the realization of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Translating the CFS-RAI principles into action requires sustained support, guidance and application of the global principles in regional and national contexts.

Specific support will be necessary to improve the enabling environment. A proper enabling environment is essential to enhance responsible investments in agriculture and food systems. Inclusive institutional frameworks and platforms, adequate legal frameworks and policies all contribute to ensuring that investments increase not only in terms of quantity, but also in terms of quality. Conversely, in countries where governance is weak, investments can carry significant risks for all stakeholders.

Recognizing this key role of a proper enabling environment, FAO and the International Development Law Organization (IDLO) organized a workshop on 24 and 25 May 2016 in Antigua, Guatemala, to explore capacity development needs in Mesoamerica[1]. The workshop was hosted by El Centro de Formación de la Cooperación Española en La Antigua.

Revealing an urgent need for action
Workshop participants highlighted the need to build capacities and improve the enabling environment to enhance responsible investments in agriculture and food systems. Some of the key priorities identified during the workshop were to:

  • increase stakeholder participation in, and efficacy of coordination and decision-making mechanisms
  • review and strengthen the application of laws and policies
  • assess and monitor the impacts of investments

Developing and applying innovative tools
These valuable results were obtained through the use of a unique questionnaire for guided assessment developed by FAO and IDLO. This tool, which is based on the FAO Guide to assess national regulatory frameworks affecting larger-scale private investments, facilitates participation and dialogue throughout the assessment and specifically addresses issues related to agricultural investment. Following the successful workshop in Guatemala, FAO adapted the questionnaire to use as part of a broader capacity assessment in Southern Africa.

FAO is currently refining this tool for future assessments and plans to publish it to make it available for others. Interested practitioners will be able to use the questionnaire to support countries that wish to engage in an assessment of national legal and institutional frameworks related to responsible investment in agriculture and food systems.

[1] The “Workshop on capacity assessment in the context of an enabling environment for the implementation of the CFS-RAI principles in Mesoamerica” was attended by participants from the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras.

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