SE040 International Digital Council for Food and Agriculture: Discuss and achieve a consensus on the mandate, organization, ToR, Rules of Procedure and position in the global governance architecture


  • FAO
  • IFAD
  • WFP
  • World Bank
  • African Development Bank (AfDB)
  • Technical Center for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA)
  • Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE)

Today, there are more than 7 billion people on the planet, a figure that's expected to reach 9.6 billion by 2050. Overall food production needs to double in a relatively short period of time to meet demand to feed the world's population. The opportunities are huge but in the same time the failure can be dramatic. It is imperious for the International Community to revolutionize traditional agriculture - we need to take immediate actions for the new era of Agriculture 4.0. International Community is committed to ensuring that the transformation in agriculture is made proportionally and in a synergic way. FAO has an pivotal role in this process by drawing and facilitating farmer's access to Agriculture 4.0. in this respect, on 19 January 2019, the agriculture ministers of 74 nations adopted a number of resolutions stated in a political communique about digitalization in agriculture issued during the Global Forum for Food and Agriculture (GFFA).The GFFA Communique 2019 noted that smart solutions are needed to reconcile conflicting goals and meet the current and future demand for safe and nutritious food and feed. Digitalization in agriculture will play an important role in achieving these goals, improving livelihoods and living conditions in rural areas, supporting farmers in their work as well as in transforming lives in rural areas substantially, and contribute to achieving the SDGs by 2030. The collective voice of the ministers emphasized the need for an International Digital Council that will take action on global digitalization of agriculture. With the BMEL support, the foundation for the Council is already in place and in the near future is expected to have a conceptual note of establishing the Digital Council. Against this backdrop the first consultation meeting with multi-stakeholders for the establishment of the Council was held on 12-13th of June. The first meeting was necessary to stress the importance of the Council and to officially start the development phase. As a follow-up, the second consultation meeting, which is crucial for the future design and functionality of the Council.

The Side Event serves as a great opportunity and is a suitable platform for organizing the second consultation meeting as it brings together multi-stakeholders to puzzle the elements of the new mechanisms for functionality of the International Digital Council for Food and Agriculture. The Side Event provides not only as a unique premise for organizing the second consultation meeting, but it also offers possibilities to draw a future roadmap for the International Digital Council operational modules alongside with establishing reliable partnerships with various multi-stakeholders that will support the Council reach sustainable and impactful achievements.

Key speakers/presenters


  • Ye Anping, Senior Advisor, FAO ODG – Welcome and introduction
  • Samuel Varas, FAO CIO Director – Presentation on the concept note


  • Sabine Kolloge, Head of Division 626 Global Forum for Food and Agriculture, G7/G20, Policies against Hunger, The Federal Ministry for Food and Agriculture (Germany) – Stakeholders representatives’ review and feedback session
  • Theo de Jager, President of the World Farmers Organization (WFO) – Stakeholders representatives’ review and feedback session
  • Cor Wattel, Researcher, Wageningen Economic Research – Stakeholders representatives’ review and feedback session
  • George Rapsomanikis, FAO EST Senior Economist – Wrap-up 

102 on-site and 138 online multi-stake holders participate the side event.

Main themes/issues discussed 

Context: presentation of the project, outcomes of GFFA 2019 meeting and Communiqué, BMEL role and overview of the consultation process 

Background: overview of advantages, but also some risks and barriers, brought by digitalization and digital technologies, and the need for a Digital Council

Concept Note content overview: the concept note content developed so far was presented for the discussion, including:

  • Reasons for a Digital Council
  • Roles of the Digital Council
  • First proposal of a governance model

Data: the council should manage as a priority all matters and potential issues related to data, such as privacy, security, integrity, ownership

Representation in the council: smallholder farmers will need to be represented in the council, as well as the private sector

Value added: the council will need to have a concrete impact on rural communities, also guaranteeing access to infrastructure and education

Fair competition: the Council will need to guarantee fairness in the market and avoid unbalanced market concentration

Ecosystem: the council will need to be as inclusive as possible, creating  multi-stakeholder initiatives for working collectively 

Summary of key points 

For the development of the Concept Note, it is fundamental to consult key stakeholders in order to ensure its fit within the UN system. Their cooperation and choral action will also be essential in the Council’s operations after its establishment

The council will catalyze, coordinate and laisse existing initiatives with other organiztions, avoiding duplication of efforts to manage digital disruption in the sector

The council will have to focus on the latest technological trends impacting the sector, but also to consider what farmers can adopt, afford and for what purpose

Data play a crucial role in the development of digital agriculture: the council will need to help spreading the benefits of big data (e.g., increase of productivity, access to information) but also to manage their risks (e.g., data ownership, privacy, trust)  and 

Identification of additional roles, such as:

  • identifying trends and problems
  • analyzing the impact of digitalization
  • suggesting possible solutions
  • making recommendations to government

The council will need to have an inclusive, lean and non-bureaucratic governance model

Key take away messages 

Digitalization has an enormous impact on agriculture, it can take long term dividends but it can also affect the already existing digital divide between people and countries

It is crucial for the council to include all the actors of the value chain and different geographic realities in the digital transformation of agriculture, especially smallholder farms. It is necessary to enable smallholders to properly know and adopt technologies, by sharing best practices that enable technological enhancements at local level

Due to the broad scope of digitalization, the Digital Council will need to cut across sectors, overcome silos of the single stakeholders’ competence areas and work in an inclusive and transparent way 

CFS 46 Side Event: SE040 International Digital Council for Food and Agriculture


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