Legal Services for Development

Sound legal and institutional frameworks are essential to achieving sustainable agricultural development and food security. Whether the area of focus is land rights, water quality or supporting communities at risk of climate change - well-designed laws, functioning legal institutions and well-informed stakeholders play a crucial role.

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They help:

  • strengthen the foundation for good governance;
  • facilitate the participation of all types of stakeholders, from central governments to rural and indigenous communities; 
  • protect rights and define specific responsibilities; 
  • establish predictable, appropriate and fair rules for encouraging investment and facilitating the operation of markets; and 
  • set norms for environmentally responsible behavior. 

It is also paramount that FAO conducts its business in a legally sound manner as an international organization within the UN system. All aspects of the Organization’s activities must meet the appropriate legal standards. 

Legal support available at FAO

  • Legislative support to Member countries and regional organizations upon request;
  • Support to the development of international treaties and other norm-setting instruments;
  • Legal research and publication of legislative studies, legal guides and papers;
  • Development and maintenance of databases of national legislation and international agreements concerning food and agriculture;
  • Contribution to the legal components of FAO projects in accordance with the Organization’s strategic objectives and in alignment with the Sustainable Development Goals;
  • Advice on regulatory aspects of current themes such as law and climate change, gender equality, agribusiness operations, the right to food, the right to water and the prevention of potential conflicts arising from the competition for natural resources;
  • Support to FAO’s negotiations with donors and to delivery of FAO programmes;
  • Support to standard setting activities of FAO (e.g. CODEX, IPPC);

Key Legal Resources


FAOLEX is a comprehensive and up-to-date legislative and policy database. It is one of the world’s largest collections of national laws, regulations and policies on food, agriculture and management of natural resources. The database is constantly updated and maintained by the Development Law Service.


AQUALEX is a database of national and international legislation relevant to water. It is an open-access resource for lawmakers, policy-makers, researchers, lawyers, water technicians and, in general, government officials who want to know more about the legislative and regulatory framework for water resources.


The Treaties database launched in early 2018, consolidates information on the treaties deposited with the Director-General of FAO. Users have access to the full text of each treaty in all its official languages, as well as to other important information about the treaty.

Latest news

  In this issue: Law as an indispensable tool to achieving SDG 16 on Indigenous Peoples' collective rights to land, territories, and other natural resources An online “Legal-Hub” to inform participatory law reform processes on Sustainable Wildlife Management (SWM) Too many cooks spoil the...
Land is central to the livelihood, culture and identity of millions of people across the world. But the relationships between geographical spaces, law, and society are complex and continue to shape the content and application of tenure rights in natural...
The Development Law Service is pleased to announce the publication of the preliminary version of Transforming agri-food systems: Legislative interventions for improved nutrition and sustainability: Preliminary version for public consultation published by FAO to coincide with the Pre-Summit for the...