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Food security remains an overriding objective for many developing countries still experiencing low-income levels and vulnerability to internal and external shocks. Amidst a world of plenty, poverty levels have increased over the last ten years in many countries because of low or non-existent economic growth. Worldwide, poverty continues to be heavily concentrated in the rural populations.

Successful strategies and policies for agricultural growth and poverty alleviation must be formulated taking into account each country’s own context. While decision-making at the nation-state level remains critical, developing countries are more and more engaged in regional integration and cooperation endeavours in a context of growing global interconnectedness. Regional trade arrangements are becoming an increasingly important element of the global trade environment.

Ample scope exists for regional integration and cooperation particularly in areas that can be considered regional public goods and that could frame the general environment favourable to food security, such as management of natural resources, transport and telecommunications, agricultural research and extension, peace, political stability and order.

To the extent that regionalism promotes increased intra-regional trade, which fosters economic growth and increases employment prospects and the income earning capacities of the poor, it will enhance food security. Increased intra-regional trade can also promote food security by augmenting domestic food supplies to meet consumption needs and by reducing overall food supply variability.

The aim of this paper is to provide background information on motivations, processes and constraints to regional integration and cooperation. It presents the main issues in identifying the potential role which regional trade arrangements can play in promoting food security among their members. It looks at the interface between regionalism and food security, namely the consequences of regional integration (and, especially, regional trade integration) for food security and the opportunities which exist to address food security issues within a regional framework. Finally, the paper intends to serve as a guide for all those involved in the preparation of food security strategies in the context of regional integration arrangements.

We hope that this paper will contribute to the debate and to policy making on the design and implementation of integration and cooperation arrangements that will promote food security and thereby add to current efforts on governance structures at global and regional levels conducive to sustainable food and agriculture development. We shall welcome feedback and comments.

Santiago Funes
Policy Assistance Division

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