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International policies for agrarian reform and rural development

VIII. International trade
IX. Economic and technical cooperation among developing countries
X. Foreign investment
XI. Development assistance
XII. Programme of Action for FAO and other organizations of the United Nations system

Agrarian reform and rural development should be strengthened and supported by further improvement in the present system of international economic relations in order to overcome protectionist policies, distortions in international markets for production inputs and technology, inadequate technical cooperation and insufficient resource flows. The New International Economic Order, designed to bring about the equitable participation of the developing countries in world economic activity, is essential to the success of national efforts to attain rural development.

VIII. International trade

Changes in international trading systems to improve access to industrialized markets for raw and processed agricultural commodities, particularly from developing countries, and to ensure market stability and steadily expanding levels of trade and earnings have an important contribution to make to the achievement of rural development goals. International trading systems should be based on principles of equality, sovereignty and non-interference in internal affairs. External trade policies of the developing countries should be geared more directly to objectives of rural development and alleviation of rural poverty.

A global rural development strategy is essential to the international development strategy for the 1980s. To this end, governments of developed countries should take action to:


(i) Untertake the early and faithful implementation of all commitments aimed at the liberalization of trade and continue the process of negotiating jointly with developing countries in appropriate international fora with renewed determination to resist protectionism.

(ii) Move toward the progressive reduction and elimination of tariff and non-tariff barriers to the entry of agricultural and rural products, both raw and processed, of particular interest to developing countries.

(iii) Expand the Generalized System of Preferences to a wider range of processed and semi-processed products and wherever possible agricultural products, and adapt systems of open or concealed subsidies for competing synthetic substitutes to meet the export needs of developing countries, as well as avoid undue restrictions under any selective enforcement of safeguard measures.

(iv) Participate in and speedily conclude, jointly with developing countries, international commodity agreements or arrangements negotiated under the UNCTAD Integrated Programme of Commodities and work toward making the Common Fund fully operational at an early date in accordance with the relevant UNCTAD resolutions. 1

(v) Recognize the important role and support of the funding and operations of the second window of the Common Fund, according to Resolution 1 (III) adopted at the UN Negotiating Conference on a Common Fund under the Integrated Programme for Commodities, which would finance commodity development measures aimed at improving the structural conditions in markets and at enhancing the long-term competitiveness and prospects of commodities.

(vi) Implement the recommendations of the World Employment Conference of ILO which call for alternative economic opportunities for farmers and farm workers displaced by import liberalization measures. For this purpose, governments should follow the FAO Guidelines for International Agricultural Adjustment.

(vii) Increase the financial and technical support to national and international organizations with competence in the field of trade promotion assistance to developing countries, in particular the UNCTAD/GATT International Trade Centre.

[ 1 UNCTAD Resolutions 93 (IV) and 124 (V), and United Nations Negotiating Conference on a Common Fund under the Integrated Programme for Commodities Resolution 1 (III). ]

Governments of developing countries should take action to:


(i) Examine carefully, from the point of view of equity and efficiency, any special financial measures (discriminatory exchange rates, export taxes, and other fiscal policies) which discourage exports of raw and processed agricultural commodities and remove inequities and disincentives for increased production, especially for small producers.

(ii) Ensure that small producers share equitably in the benefits from favourable price changes in international markets and that transnational corporations, trading companies and governments do not pre-empt such benefits.

(iii) Strengthen the dissemination of information to small producers in respect of foreign market opportunities for their products; create special marketing institutions (for example, cooperatives) to identify and exploit such opportunities; establish the organizational and technical conditions conducive to direct access by producers, including small farmers, to foreign markets through their own or national enterprises; and promote direct trade contacts between producers in developing countries and buyers in countries of consumption.

(iv) Devise methods, which might use international financial and other assistance, to protect the incomes of small producers and agricultural labourers from extreme fluctuations in international prices, for example, through the creation of national price and income stabilization funds and the establishment of support prices.

(v) Identify opportunities for and support the promotion of local processing of agricultural export crops to increase value added in the country and thus the benefit accruing to rural people, particularly to small farmers.

(vi) Ensure that the increase in land allocated to export crops does not lead to reduction in the availability of food supplies and deterioration in nutritional standards.

IX. Economic and technical cooperation among developing countries

Economic and technical cooperation among developing countries in activities affecting rural development should be expanded. Such cooperation should be promoted, recalling the objectives and programmes of action agreed at ministerial conferences of developing countries, and in line with the relevant resolutions of the United Nations General Assembly, United Nations Conference on Trade and Development and the Buenos Aires Plan of Action on Technical Cooperation among Developing Countries; the recommendations of the FAO Technical Consultation on Economic Cooperation among Developing Countries in Food and Agriculture (1979) should also be taken into account.

Joint measures should be taken to expand among developing countries as well as to improve conditions of trade for agricultural products in international markets. Scope also exists for greater cooperation in the exchange of knowledge and experience in agricultural technology, institutional reforms and rural development planning.

For these opportunities to be further explored and exploited, governments of developing countries should consider action to:

(i) Establish cooperation among producers, including small farmers and tenants and landless labourers and their organizations in regard to research on production, processing, and end uses of agricultural products.

(ii) Exchange information on future prospects for individual commodity markets and coordinate national production policies, as far as feasible, to avert future imbalances between supply and demand in world markets and improve returns to producers.

(iii) Promote among national institutions the exchange of experience and expertise gained in implementing programmes of agrarian reform and rural development, including the establishment and strengthening of regional institutions for research and training.

(iv) Promote through national research institutions an interchange of technology for agriculture, rural industry, energy, construction of housing and other elements of infrastructure, as well as other subjects related to rural development.

(v) Establish a more effective capacity for exchanging technologies among developing countries where similarities of natural conditions and social systems may offer techniques and solutions that are more appropriate than any that can be imported from the developed countries.

(vi) Promote inter-country rural projects such as irrigation and watershed management and cooperate in designing, implementing and seeking financial support for such projects.

(vii) Ensure equitable distribution of gains among countries and improve the relative position of the most depressed among them by promoting every form of specialization among producer countries in processing and manufacturing activities based on primary products, with due regard to the desirability of overall complementarily.

Developed countries and the international organizations concerned, especially those within the United Nations system, should assist in promoting economic and technical cooperation among developing countries in compliance with the relevant parts of the UNCTAD Resolution TD/L. 182.

The role of the relevant organizations of the UN system and other international organizations in gathering knowledge, information and experiences of developing countries and disseminating such material among developing countries should be strengthened.

X. Foreign investment

National and international action with full regard for the right of each country to determine its own national policies and priorities is required to maximize the contribution of foreign investment to the goals of agrarian reform and rural development and to ensure that the activities of foreign investment in developing countries, in particular by transnational agro-industry corporations, are not inconsistent with and do not impede the accomplishment of overall economic and social development objectives. Special attention should be given, with the aid of specialized international organizations as necessary, to the ecological ramifications of such investment, for example, through resource depletion, and to the requirements of technology appropriate to local needs.

In respect of foreign investment and transnational corporations, strategies for agrarian reform and rural development should include action to:

(i) Reaffirm the right of each State to exercise full sovereignty over ownership, use and disposal of all its natural and man-made resources, including the right to nationalize property with provision for appropriate compensation consistent with the Charter of Economic Rights and Duties of States.

(ii) Strengthen and if necessary establish organizations in developing countries, with the help of international agencies, with a view to giving them the technical and administrative capacity to negotiate or renegotiate on an equal basis with transnational corporations and foreign investors.

(iii) Establish policy guidelines to ensure that the activities of transnational corporations and other foreign investors in rural enterprises are consistent with national objectives of agrarian reform and rural development.

(iv) Lend support to the efforts of the United Nations to establish an international code of conduct for transnational corporations.

(v) Support development of the Comprehensive Information System within the United Nations Centre on Transnational Corporations to ensure a continuous exchange of information regarding practices and consequences of the activities of transnational corporations, particularly in respect of agricultural production, processing and marketing, ecological protection and rural development.

(vi) Accelerate the development of national expertise to evaluate proposals for foreign investment in agriculture and other activities affecting agrarian reform and rural development and work jointly with potential investors in formulating investment programmes and projects that are compatible with national needs, priorities and objectives.

(vii) Orient current UN efforts related to transnational corporations toward the formulation of a set of criteria, adjusted where necessary for the special circumstances of each country, for assessing the operations of foreign investors with a view to increasing their favourable impact on rural development of particular benefit to the rural poor and encourage the adoption of policies, regulations and other measures by which these criteria are observed.

XI. Development assistance

The volume, terms and conditions of development assistance through official bilateral and multilateral channels are of great importance in supplementing national efforts by developing countries to achieve objectives of agrarian reform and rural development. Both donor and recipient countries should seek to expand the amount and proportion of resources for agricultural and rural development and in particular consider direct support for programmes of agrarian reform.

Cooperation among developed and developing countries and international institutions should include action to:

(i) Provide support to developing countries in meeting objectives and targets as outlined in this Programme of Action through provision of substantial increases in development resources to achieve them.

(ii) Take urgent steps, on the part of developed countries, to reach the official development assistance target of 0.7 percent of gross national product established for the Second Development Decade.

(iii) Take urgent measures, on the part of donor countries, to carry out the conclusions of the Committee-of-the, Whole of the UN General Assembly, agreed at its 19th meeting, concerning the magnitude, quality and terms of official assistance and also its conclusions at its 27th meeting on food aid, food security, flow of resources and nutrition programmes.

(iv) Increase the volume and improve the effectiveness of the use of the resources of international financial agencies committed to support rural development and alleviation of rural poverty, and ensure their financing capacity through periodic replenishment of their soft loan resources. In particular, the resources of the International Fund for Agricultural Development should be replenished on a continuing basis, with the Governing Council of IFAD to consider the need for an increase in real terms in the resources of the Fund.

(v) Move toward more flexible criteria for the financing of rural development as follows: (a) Projects or programmes supportive of agrarian reform or rural development under a poverty-oriented aid strategy should be considered eligible for external assistance whatever their size or nature; (b) criteria for selection should include both direct and indirect effects on development and poverty; (c) greater attention should be given to complementarily of projects between and within sectors; (d) increased emphasis should be placed on training of individuals and creation of planning units to strengthen local capacity to identify, plan and manage rural development programmes and projects; and (e) the potential for investment in rural development should be increased by greater use of co-funding between multilateral and national institutions in sectors of common interest.

(vi) In the least developed and most seriously affected countries in particular, donors should be ready to finance: (a) local and foreign exchange costs, as appropriate; (b) recurrent as well as capital expenditures; and (c) an increasing share of programme and sectoral support as compared to the project approach. Greater emphasis should be given to pre-investment studies and preparation of projects in order to shorten the project cycle.

(vii) Revise procedures for handling small-scale rural development projects in order to ensure more active people's participation, greater sensitivity to the needs of the beneficiaries, strengthening of local institutions, more rapid availability of funding and quicker absorption of aid.

(viii) Ensure that proper weight is given to the need for external financing for major infrastructure works such as large-scale irrigation and transportation projects.

(ix) Carry out quickly and effectively the measures in regard to official development assistance debts as agreed in the resolution 2 adopted by the UNCTAD Trade and Development Board at its Ninth Special Session.

(x) Channel an increased share of development assistance to programmes and projects which promote self-reliance and give greater assurance of adequate regular incomes for the landless, unemployed and under-employed.

(xi) Give special attention in allocating aid to those countries which have demonstrated a strong and continuing commitment to poverty-oriented rural development strategies.

(xii) Provide an increased volume of development assistance through existing financial institutions to help finance: (a) agrarian reform implementation and administration measures, including land surveys, establishment of land records, provision of legal services, etc.; (b) indirect costs of any transitional post-reform dislocations in production, provision of inputs and services, and marketing and storage; (c) improvement of marginal lands distributed to small peasants and the landless under agrarian reform programmes; and (d) programmes of environmental education and research and preparation of legislation on environmental protection.

(xiii) Consider increasing food aid and other assistance for a stipulated period to countries undertaking a systematic programme of agrarian reforms to make up for any transitional fall in domestic production.

(xiv) Ensure that food aid, when received on a regular basis, does not conflict with self-reliance and is absorbed in such a way that disincentives to domestic production are minimized, that equity and efficiency in distribution are maintained and that supplies of food for lower-income groups are stabilized.

(xv) Encourage voluntary aid to meet needs not covered by official assistance, channelling such aid multilaterally where appropriate and ensuring that dedicated and cooperative voluntary efforts are coordinated with official endeavours.

[ 2 Resolution 165 (S-IX) - Debt and development problems of developing countries. ]

XII. Programme of Action for FAO and other organizations of the United Nations system

In order to help implement this Programme of Action, the Conference recommends that the appropriate international organizations, with FAO as lead agency, consider the adoption of the following specific measures in the field of agrarian reform and rural development:


(i) The organizations of the UN system assist in sensitizing the populations of member countries, through information campaigns organized by government or non-governmental agencies, to the realities of rural poverty and to the need for global commitments for transfer of resources from the developed countries for the benefit of the rural poor in the developing countries.

(ii) FAO and other organizations of the UN system, in cooperation with Member Nations, develop indicators of agrarian reform and rural development and help collect and analyse pertinent data in order to monitor progress toward respective national targets of rural development as laid down in this Programme of Action.

(iii) FAO and other organizations of the UN system, through appropriate inter-secretariat machinery, develop improved criteria and methods for monitoring and evaluating rural development and assist governments, on request, in introducing systematic monitoring and evaluation procedures.

(iv) The United Nations Environment Programme, in cooperation with FAO and other organizations of the UN system, make timely reviews and evaluations of the environmental impact of rural development programmes, projects and technology and incorporate considerations of ecological balance and environmental preservation in their design.

(v) FAO, in concert with other organizations of the UN system, monitor and analyse the levels and terms of flows of resources, both domestic and foreign, for rural development and make reports as requested by the appropriate governing bodies of international organizations.

(vi) FAO, through appropriate UN inter-secretariat machinery and at the specific request of the country concerned, undertake periodic reviews with each country in respect of its policies, programmes and resources devoted to the achievement of the objectives and targets outlined in this Programme of Action and of the support provided to these efforts by the relevant international organizations.


(i) The organizations of the UN system collaborate with Member Governments and other international institutions in socio-economic and technological research, including, inter alia: national economic policies for agrarian reform and rural development; institutional factors of administration, programme implementation and delivery of inputs and services; decentralization and promotion of people's participation; provision of physical and social infrastructure such as transport and communications, health services and education; alternative systems of organization of production such as shifting cultivation; the socio-economic impact of new technology; appropriate technology for small producers and for crops grown and consumed by the poor; and problems of rainfed agriculture.

(ii) FAO and other organizations of the UN system strengthen the indigenous capacity for research in developing countries in terms of institutions and physical facilities and promote research and training in technical and socio-economic aspects of agrarian reform and rural development, with emphasis on poverty alleviation.

(iii) FAO and other organizations of the UN system promote the exchange among developing countries of experience and analysis at global, regional and sub-regional levels in agrarian reform and rural development in conformity with relevant decisions and recommendations by UNCTAD in respect of Economic Cooperation Among Developing Countries (ECDC).


(i) FAO, the United Nations Development Programme, other organizations of the UN system and other relevant international financing institutions expand assistance to developing countries in all areas of agrarian reform and rural development, including, in particular, implementation of this Programme of Action.

(ii) FAO and other organizations of the UN system, through the appropriate UN inter-secretariat machinery, undertake periodic review and analysis of performance and progress in technical assistance activities related to agrarian reform and rural development, including the extent to which these activities are directed to the needs of the rural poor.

(iii) FAO, in concert with the UN Centre on Transnational Corporations and in cooperation with other organizations of the UN system, assist member countries, on request, in evaluating in terms of national objectives the impact of external private investments, in particular those of transnational corporations, on agrarian reform and rural development.


(i) FAO act as a catalytic agent for the stimulation of development projects and of public and private investment in rural development, with special regard to projects and programmes which have a significant impact on poverty alleviation. To this end, the FAO Investment Centre should continue to serve as a focal point to assist multilateral and bilateral financial institutions in the identification and formulation of investment projects in agrarian reform and rural development.

(ii) FAO, in cooperation with multilateral and bilateral external financing agencies, expand its activities in the identification, formulation, implementation and monitoring of agrarian reform and rural development projects and, on request, assist member countries to strengthen their indigenous capacities in this respect.

(iii) International financing institutions, in cooperation with FAO and on request from member countries, assist in organizing donor-recipient consultations for countries wishing significantly to expand investment programmes for rural development.

(iv) FAO and other organizations of the UN system facilitate economic cooperation among developing countries in order to promote inter-country rural development projects.

NOTE: The Declaration of Principles and the Programme of Action were approved by acclamation, with a few reservations made by some countries on certain specific provisions.


"This Declaration of Principles and Programme of Action will certainly have deep moral force and constitute objectives, the need to achieve which will be ignored at everyone's peril.

In the Declaration of Principles, we have defined not only what we mean by agrarian reform and rural development, but we have also provided the conceptual and moral orientation of all that we do in the future to achieve the fundamental purpose of rural development. Without hesitation I will call it the Peasants' Charter."

Food and Agriculture Organization
of the United Nations

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