CL 128/9-Sup.1


Hundred and Twenty-eighth Session

Rome, 20 – 25 June 2005

International Conference on Agrarian Reform and Rural Development- New Challenges and Options for Revitalizing Rural Communities

Concept Note

International Conference on Agrarian Reform and Rural Development: New challenges and options for revitalizing rural communities

1. Background

The Committee on Agriculture, at its 19th Session, unanimously approved the proposal for FAO to convene an International Conference on Agrarian Reform and Rural Development in 2006 as a critical element of FAO’s programme to fulfil the commitments of the 1996 World Food Summit, the World Food Summit: five years later, the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The Committee considered that such a conference would assist in mobilizing national governments and the international community to support ongoing agrarian reform and rural development processes, and in securing tenure rights and access to land and other natural resources by the poor. The Committee welcomed the offer by the Government of Brazil to host the Conference, and recommended that the Secretariat, in consultation with Brazil and the regional groups as required, should elaborate a proposal for the organization of this important event, including detailed financial and administrative implications for submission to the Council at its Hundred and Twenty-eighth Session in June 2005.

2. Rational and justification for the conference

Despite considerable improvements in food production over the last 50 years, food security still remains a problem in many parts of the world. Food insecurity and agrarian reform are closely interlinked and without assuring adequate access to land (and water), the most basic productive resource, the goal of eradicating poverty, reducing hunger and promoting more broad-based and inclusive rural economic development will remain elusive. Around the world, the poorest of the poor are the landless in rural areas, followed closely by the land-poor - those whose poor quality plots are too small to support a family. They make up the majority of the rural poor and hungry.

While globalization and the increasing intensity of urbanization, industrialization and intensive agriculture production are creating economic wealth in some areas, they are also inducing changes in rural communities, landscapes and the environment that pose profound and far-reaching challenges. Population dynamics and significant demographic changes, such as rapid urbanization, migration, and rising mortality rates in some areas from HIV/AIDS, contrasted with longer life-expectancy and the ageing of populations in other areas, are impacting on both developed and developing countries. Trends in climate change, competition between agriculture and other sectors for land and water, land concentration, loss of biological diversity, land degradation and desertification, and technology development are transforming the availability and use of natural resources, particularly in fragile and critical ecosystems. Investment policies in general and particularly in developing countries have favoured industrial, urban and service sectors versus agricultural and rural sector development. Within the agriculture sector the high potential areas and lowlands have received greater attention than the highlands and drylands where the majority of the rural poor are living. These trends exacerbate competition and conflicts over access to land, water and biological resources and accentuate extreme poverty and hunger.

At the same time, the livelihood assets of rural communities and territories, if fully recognized and adequately managed and supported, can contribute significantly to addressing many of these challenges. Human capacities, institutions and networks, and financial, physical and natural assets which are already present in rural communities and territories constitute an important, under-utilized potential that are important for livelihoods improvements of rural communities, as well as for achieving socio-political stability, ecological sustainability, protection of agricultural heritage, and prosperity in urban and rural areas throughout the world. Revitalizing rural communities by supporting diversity and diversification, better integration of family agriculture and assets into national, regional and global economic development, stronger civil society institutions and governance structures, and improved policies and planning for a smooth continuum and transition between urban and rural landscapes are among the paradigm shifts required to achieve sustainable agriculture and rural development.

The increasing number of democratic governments in developing regions and Central and Eastern Europe, combined with decentralized governance in all regions, are enabling the emergence of a stronger civil society that is better equipped to partner with the state and private sector. The ongoing decentralization processes and devolution of responsibilities to local institutions needs to be accompanied by the allocation of legal rights and adequate resources to local stakeholders to enable meaningful governance and poverty alleviation. Therefore the traditional political focus on agrarian classes needs broadening to incorporate new social forces interested in the social correlates of land-based inequality – ‘new social movements’ and their domestic and international alliances. Such consideration should include the classic agrarian reform in its dual contributions to direct relief of poverty and democratising effects which enable other pro-poor reforms to work more efficiently. Recognising that reform of property systems and enablement of social democracy contribute to poverty reduction in most rural societies, a new agenda for pro-poor action must retain the core elements of the World Conference on Agrarian Reform and Rural Development (WCARRD, 1979) and yet recognise the potential of larger coalitions for the poor. The strategies and actions are needed to secure rights and access to resources by the poor in both customary and formal systems of rules and regulations, some of which have already demonstrated ability to adapt and respond to the needs and specificities of rural communities and territories.

The International Conference on Agrarian Reform and Rural Development should also be an occasion to review the impacts and lessons learned from recent conferences, processes and mechanisms and take stock of the progress and failures in these areas. It should provide national governments, peasant and other producer organizations, civil society organizations and the international community with an opportunity to renew their commitments to support greater and more secure rights and access by the poor to land, water and other natural resources as well as to appropriate technologies, support services, and capacity-building in their use. The international conference should also provide an occasion to develop action proposals to build local governance capacities in rural communities, in order to enable them to respond to the challenges of sustainable rural development and poverty reduction. It should highlight, as well, the spin-off effects of dynamic rural economies and communities on accelerating development in urban areas and the national economy as a whole.

The conference would directly support the Millennium Development Goals, principally MDG-1 (Eradicate extreme hunger and poverty), MDG-3 (Promote gender equality and empower women), MDG-7 (Ensure environmental sustainability) and MDG-8 (Develop a global partnership for development). It will also contribute to the implementation of the 2003 ECOSOC Ministerial Declaration on “Promoting an integrated approach to rural development”.

3. Objectives of the conference

i. Promote understanding, learning and constructive dialogue to address agrarian reform, sustainable rural development, and rural poverty issues through the creation of a lasting platform of monitoring and evaluation of best policies and practices and the progress on agrarian reform and rural development;

ii. Sharing experiences, fostering recognition, improved willingness, and concrete actions by the international community, governments, producer organizations, civil society organizations, and others to enhance international cooperation and promote more equitable, transparent and accountable access to land and natural resources.

4. Indicative themes and outputs

The themes of the conference will be identified through an open consultative process facilitated by FAO and involving a wide range of partners from governments, UN Agencies, CSOs, and other stakeholders. An indicative list of themes and topics is as follows:

• Policies and practices for securing and improving access to land by the poor and promoting agrarian reform to alleviate poverty and hunger. This theme would address topics such as:

o access for whom (i.e. landless labourers, vulnerable groups, such as women and elderly, indigenous peoples, pastoralists, small and marginal farmers, etc).

o access to what type of resources in different socio-economic and agro-ecological contexts (i.e. physical resources, financial resources, education/training, social resources; the meaning of land as a multidimensional asset, etc);

o the nature of access (i.e. how to secure tenure rights; how to develop flexible, self-maintaining systems; how to support mutually supportive relationships between formal and informal property rights systems; how to foster socially, economically, and environmentally appropriate territorial development; the role of governments, communities, markets, and others in these processes, etc.)

• Building capacity to improve access to land, water agricultural inputs and agrarian services to promote sustainable natural resources management and rural development. The theme would address topics such as:

o capacity of governments at central, regional and local levels, to design and implement improved pro-poor policy, legislation, land administration, and services (infrastructure, transportation, extension, training, production inputs, markets, communications, information); improving the relationship between local and central levels, and fostering trust, and social legitimacy;

o capacity/empowerment of the rural communities to contribute to government policies and private sector services, to respond to trends, to determine their own solutions, to protect the rights of the more marginalised groups, and to develop partnerships and other mechanisms that capitalize upon existing human, natural, cultural, financial, and territorial resources

o capacity of all actors for integrated planning and management of land and water resources and to monitor and evaluate changes in their access

• New opportunities to revitalize rural communities would include identification of:

o contributions of family farming to economic growth, conservation of agricultural heritage and sustainable rural development

o rural assets and complementarities of rural/urban development through integrated planning and management of land and water resources

o roles of diversity and diversification in income generation, poverty reduction and economic growth

o improved strategies for pro-poor investment in rural areas

o insurance and credit policies for disaster risk management to protect income failure, rural poor and vulnerable groups and as support for development of property markets

o urban-rural linkages and roles of new rural cities in sustainable development

5. Proposed outputs and follow-up

The outputs of the Conference would include the following:

i. A lasting Platform of understanding, learning and dialogue on Agrarian Reform and Rural Development, and rural poverty issues, supported by an International Observatory Panel,

ii. A range of best policies and practices and lessons learned on Agrarian Reform and rural development agreed upon by member governments, civil society organizations and other stakeholders to promote priority actions, partnerships and international cooperation in support of more equitable, transparent and accountable access to land, water, other natural resources, agricultural inputs and rural support services.

The outputs of the Conference would feed into the following processes:

o The conference would be expected to generate a report for the Commission on Sustainable Development’s 2008/2009 Sessions which will focus on Agriculture, Rural Development, Land, Drought, Desertification, and Africa.

o The member governments will report to the FAO Committee on Agriculture (COAG) on actions and dialogue in support of agrarian reform and rural development on a 4-yearly basis, when Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development (SARD) is a standing item on the agenda (first report in 2009)

6. Dates, location and audience


27-30 March 2006


Brazil (Porto Alegre, Rio Grande de Sul – to be confirmed)

Level of participation

Ministers or their delegates, scientific community, civil society organizations and FAO-accredited NGOs


Approximate numbers to be confirmed

7. Organization of the conference

A steering committee will be established to support the overall organization of the Conference. It will be composed of one representative from each regional group, supported by an Executive Secretary from the Secretariat. Functioning as the bureau of the Conference, the steering committee will supervise and conduct the whole exercise in cooperation with the FAO Secretariat through the Executive Secretary and/or any eventual independent consultant hired to perform technical duties. The process of organizing the Conference must be driven by the member countries. Among its responsibilities the steering committee will have the overall responsibility for directing the substantive and technical content and structure of the conference, including:

o preparing draft letters of invitation, including questions for countries to answer in their preparatory processes

o preparing the draft issues papers

o providing guidance and supporting preparation of national reports

o preparation of the Conference agenda, etc.

A reporting format and guidelines will be provided to enable countries from all regions to prepare standard reports as the basis for providing substantive input on lessons learned and best policies and practices to the Conference. The reporting format and guidance notes will be prepared by the Steering Committee when the decision of Council in relation to the Conference is known. The completed national reports may be circulated and discussed as at the International Conference.

The FAO Secretariat, in cooperation with the steering committee, will be responsible for undertaking and implementing the preparation of the substantive and technical aspects of the conference, including the aspects noted above.

A Brazilian national secretariat will have the responsibility for hosting the conference and organizing its logistics, as well as leading the conference preparatory activities in Brazil.

8. Conference programme

The proposed duration of the Conference is four days, with the draft outline as follows:

Day 1

Plenary session
  • Conference opening
  • Presentation of 3 keynote issues papers

Day 2

Parallel sessions (maximum 2 at any one time)

• Technical discussion in working groups on selected themes. Working groups to include representation from Governments, scientific community and CSOs.

Day 3

Plenary session

• Reports by working groups and synthesis

Day 4

Plenary session

• Presentation and adoption of the final reports
• Conference closing

9. Conference cost: (4 days Conference, 6 days DSA travel time included)



Cost USD

Preparation of issues papers, stocktaking and case studies, national workshops

3 issues paper, support to national consultation and best policies and practices reports, design of a Global Platform and Framework for Action


Conference staff

Facilitators, guides, information desk, etc. (details to be included in the LoA under preparation);

In kind contribution

to be provided by Brazil


If Candidates are selected between those agreed by FAO, there is need for an FAO supervision and they can be hired locally by Brazil

In kind contribution

to be provided by Brazil


If there is not a specific need, the translations can be done locally at Brazilian costs

In kind contribution

to be provided by Brazil

Printing and Distribution

200.000 Pages copies Approximately

To be done by Brazil

In kind contribution

to be provided by Brazil

Travel of 45 participants paid by the organizers in economy class

Invited and managed by Brazil


Accommodation (DSA rates)

for 45 participants(at UN rate)


Travel of FAO Staff Members to Brazil before and during Conference

5 staff / week involved


Interpreters and translators

Depending on the number of languages to be decided by the Steering Committee

In kind contribution

to be provided by Brazil

Communication strategy, Web page, networking

preparation and updating


technical Support to Secretariat

Consultancies and other human resources


Meeting Rooms and other equipment

one plenary, 3 large size conference room, offices , etc.

In kind contribution

to be provided by Brazil

FAO staff time for Technical and Support Services






Grand Total



*.See annex II for assumptions and details

10. Partners

The preparation for the conference will be carried out in partnership with relevant organizations. An indicative list of organizations and networks that could be approached is:

• UN System, including

o UN System Network on Rural Development and Food Security
o UN Habitat
o World Bank
o International Fund for Agricultural Development
o Global Environmental Facility
o International Land Coalition
o Secretariat of the UN Commission on Sustainable Development
o Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues

• Scientific Community

o CAPRI – CGIAR System-wide Program on Collective Action and Property Rights
o CIRAD (Centre de coopération international et de recherche agronomique)
o CPDA (Centro de Pesquisa e de Documentação Agraria)
o Other Universities and research institutes

• Bilateral development organizations, including

o DfID
o Italy
o Netherlands

• Civil Society Organizations, including

o ANGOC – Asian NGO Coalition for Agrarian Reform and Rural Development
o CIRDAP - Centre on Integrated Rural Development for Asia and the Pacific
o FIG – International Federation of Surveyors
o IFAP – International Federation of Agricultural Producers
o LandNet
o Oxfam
o WLLA – Women Land Link Africa
o Via Campesina
o Action-Aid
o IUF (International Union Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers' Associations (IUF))
o International Cooperative Alliance
o European local partnership networks (e.g. ELARD, PREPARE)
o Specialized international networks (e.g. URGENCI)

• Mayors and municipalities, including

o international and national associations of mayors and municipalities
o selected influential and high profile mayors and municipalities

11. Preparation schedule

Schedule to hold the conference in 27-30 March 2006

Council: June 20-25, 2005
Consultation with regional groups: July 2005
Preliminary identification of topics: July – September 2005
Preparation of reporting format and guidance for preparation of national reports: September 2005
Preparation of 3 issues papers: September – November 2005
FAO Conference: November 19-26, 2005
Regional groups, CSO and e-mail consultations on issues papers and stocktaking December 2006
Finalisation of issues papers: January 2006
Collation of national reports and stocktaking exercise: February 2006
International Conference: 27-30 March 2006

Annex 1: Terminology


“Land” is used broadly to refer to natural and built resources related to an area of the earth’s surface. It includes attributes of the biosphere on the earth’s surface as well as those vertically above and below, including those of the atmosphere, soils and underlying geology, hydrology, plant and animal populations, and the results of past and present human activity.

Access to land

“Access to land” is a term which is used to indicate access to land rights. These rights can have vastly different qualities, and exist simultaneously on the same piece of land, e.g.:

Agrarian reform, land reform

“Agrarian reform” and “land reform” are usually regarded as equivalent terms for a reform to the agrarian structure. A widespread objective of agrarian reform is to promote social justice, usually by providing a more equal distribution of land ownership, including the distribution of (unused) state lands (e.g. forests or wasteland), and improved access to rural services. Another common objective is to improve agricultural production by bringing unused or underused land of large farms into production as a result of redistribution. Agrarian reform includes the restructuring of land tenure, the means of production, and the provision of support services to farmers and other rural dwellers.