Development Law - Issue #1 of 2019

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In this issue:

Legislating for nutrition

Nutrition is one of the key focus areas for FAO, and brings an added dimension to its food security work. FAO has strong experience in providing advice on legislating for food security1 and food safety2, in both of which nutrition issues are incorporated. Now, however, the demand is for a stronger focus on nutrition perspectives, which includes three dimensions of malnutrition, namely undernutrition (leading to underweight and stunting), overnutrition (leading to overweight and obesity) and micronutrient deficiencies (leading to anaemia, blindness and other ailments). The so-called double or triple burden of malnutrition points to the fact that all of these dimensions may be found in the same country, the same community and even the same household.

Much discussion within FAO has recently focused on the food system and its inability to ensure health, whether for consumers or for those working in agriculture. The Committee on World Food Security (CFS) has established an Intergovernmental Working Group to prepare Voluntary Guidelines on Food Systems and Nutrition . Previously, its High Level Panel of Experts had issued a technical report on the issue. It is hoped that through this process, there will be some consensus on policies that will support healthier and more sustainable food systems that can contribute to food and nutrition security.

“Food and nutrition security exists when all people at all times have physical, social and economic access to food, which is safe and consumed in sufficient quantity and quality to meet their dietary needs and food preferences, and is supported by an environment of adequate sanitation, health services and care, allowing for a healthy and active life.”
(Proposed definition by the Committee on World Food Security Secretariat to CFS - CFS 2012/39/4).

Already, various aspects of the food system are regulated at national and international levels, from the food supply chain (production, processing, markets) to the food environment (affordability, quality, safety, information to consumers). Recent years have seen a trend towards regulating the composition of processed food to limit salt, sugar and salt, and to provide for labelling for foods high in these substances in easy to understand, front of package labelling (e.g. traffic light systems) or by banning certain substances, such as transfats. Efforts have also been directed at marketing to children (as the more susceptible consumers that need protection) of so-called junk foods.

However, none of these efforts challenge the fundamentals of the food system, with its emphasis on global trade in processed food that, through economies of scale, are often cheaper (and easier to use) than locally produced fresh foods that consumers can prepare at home.

It must also be acknowledged that nutrition depends on affordable access to safe and nutritious food and on health services, sanitation and care, all elements that fall outside food systems. Therefore, legislating for the food system with a view to improve nutrition is essential but not sufficient.

In addition to legislation related to access to sanitation, health services and care for oneself and others (in particular, care for children and those with disabilities), it should also be borne in mind that there are strong links between women’s empowerment and nutrition. Studies have shown that education for girls is one of the key drivers of better nutrition. Education not only equips girls to earn more income and use information about nutrition more effectively, it also helps reduce early marriage and early motherhood, factors which can increase the risk of malnutrition in both mother and child. In that regard, FAO’s work on legislating for food and nutrition in schools is worth noting.

Therefore, one of the effective ways of working towards food and nutrition security for all is women’s empowerment. Legislation that forbids discrimination against women and promotes women’s equal rights in practice can be an effective tool. This includes the issues identified by FAO in its Legal Assessment Tool for gender equitable land tenure and the indicators agreed upon by States under SDG 5, such as the proxies adopted to monitor implementation of indicator SDG 5.a.2, reflected in Realizing women's rights to land in the law: A guide for reporting on SDG indicator 5.a.2.

For further information, see Legal Brief for Parliamentarians in Africa No 6: Legislative Approaches to Improve Nutrition .

1. Guide on legislating for the right to food
2. Perspectives and guidelines on food legislation, with a new model food law

Model laws in the areas of food and agriculture: advantages and disadvantages


National legislation in any area of law should reflect the realities of the country that enacts it, including the country’s legal tradition and structure of laws, the relevant international commitments it has undertaken, the pertinent strategies, policies and institutions of the country, and, most importantly, the issues it seeks to address with the law.

In the process of developing or strengthening legislation, countries commonly refer to the laws of other countries and international good practices on how to address particular issues. They also refer to legislative guidance materials developed by international and regional organizations. Some of these guidance materials come in the form of model laws that are meant to serve as guides for, or to assist in the making of, national legislation.6 

This short article reflects on the strengths and weaknesses of model laws as tools to support the development of legislation, with particular attention to the areas of food and agriculture.

A brief look at practice: some examples

In some areas of law such as international trade and commerce, model laws play a key role in the harmonization and unification of the laws of different countries based on the requirements of treaties that States have signed up to.3 For example, the UN Commission on International Trade Law has developed a number of model laws that have enjoyed a high level of uptake in guiding the adoption or updating of national commercial laws. They are developed with the objectives of facilitating international trade and assisting domestic law reform to avoid legal disparities that may keep businesses away from new markets, increase transaction costs and impair foreign direct investment.

The African Union (AU) has developed some model laws that aim to facilitate the implementation of regional treaties, or to help countries enact laws that meet international standards in specific technical areas and promote regional harmonization.4 Some of them require African countries to conduct national assessments and draw roadmaps for their implementation. While there is no definitive information on the extent of utilization of the AU’s model laws, there is evidence of their use as key reference documents.5

The Commonwealth Secretariat develops model laws as part of its work to support decision-makers to draw up legislation and deliver policies. It has developed a number of model laws in the areas of access to justice, trade, business and commerce, information and communication technology, governance and anti-corruption. The model laws draw on pertinent laws adopted in member countries and reflect the principles underlying relevant international instruments. The fact that they target countries with similar legal traditions and that some of the model laws are kept under review to ensure they remain fit for purpose by addressing new developments could increase the likelihood of their utilization at the national level.

In the areas of food and agriculture, the Latin American and Caribbean Parliament (PARLATINO) has adopted a number of model laws, which set out definitions, guiding principles and obligations, to be used by States in creating or improving their domestic laws, policies and strategies. These include model laws on the right to food and food sovereignty (2012), on school feeding (2018) and on family farming (2017). A new draft model framework law on climate change is being developed (see article below). While a comprehensive assessment on national uptake is lacking, there is evidence that countries rely on these model laws in developing relevant national legislation.6

Model laws have also been elaborated by other international institutions, such as the International Committee of the Red Cross and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, to help countries translate their treaty obligations into national legislative provisions. They have also been employed in countries with federal governance systems, such as the United States of America and Australia, to be implemented through the legislation of the constituent provinces, states or territories.

While FAO has developed model laws in areas such as food safety and plant protection, the assessment of their usefulness has been mixed, in light of the need for legislation to address the national circumstances of each country.7

Some other international organizations have developed other tools to assist in the elaboration of national laws. Examples include: the checklist for the legislator that accompanies the manual for the implementation of the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal; the legislative checklist and questionnaire for legal drafters of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora; and the International Labour Organization’s model national provisions on implementing the Maritime Labour Convention. FAO has similarly developed voluntary guidelines that set out broad principles and technical guidance materials that highlight what could or should be included in legislation to achieve stated objectives in the areas of food and agriculture.8 These documents are generally less prescriptive than model laws.

Advantages and disadvantages of model laws

The most common justifications for the development of a model law are: (1) to provide guidance on how to turn international legal and policy commitments into concrete national legislative frameworks; (2) to harmonize laws that are interrelated or have cross-border dimensions in a particular region; and (3) to provide guidance for countries that want to develop legislation governing particular technical areas, where there may be no specific international legal instruments. Inarguably, they provide a cost-efficient guidance tool to a large number of countries.

Nevertheless, the FAO does not generally encourage the development of model laws because laws cannot be developed in a vacuum.9 Rather, they must be tailored to national circumstances, in consultation with national officials and stakeholders. The development of legislation is not simply an exercise in drafting. Model laws may misleadingly suggest that the usual analytical and consultative processes are not required.

It is acknowledged that enacting the text of a model law without adaptation to the national circumstances may expedite law-making processes. However, it could adversely affect the effectiveness of the law. This is because the country may not necessarily have fully considered the institutional and resource implications of the implementation of the law, or it may not have assessed the requirements for effective implementation within the national context. Moreover, in the absence of a detailed legislative analysis, potential conflicts with existing laws are possible. This is particularly the case with laws in the area of food and agriculture, which touch up on a very broad scope of government regulatory actions.

Nevertheless, as indicated above, guiding legal frameworks or model laws may be appropriate in certain areas where States sign up to commitments to harmonize their legislation, where there is broad international consensus on the contents of legislation, or where there is a common regional identity to be protected through national legislation. They may also be more useful when they are developed for a specific group of countries, which generally follow the same legal tradition and share similarities in legal precepts and structures.

In deciding to develop model laws, it is important to recognize their advantages and disadvantages, as well as consider ways of mitigating the latter. They can be useful tools as a starting point for the elaboration of national legislation. However, they must allow a measure of flexibility in terms of structure, status and content, and their use should also involve careful contextual analysis and adaptation.

In developing – and using – model laws to produce appropriate and effective legislation, the following should be considered:

1. Legal tradition

International or regional model laws should pay attention to the diversity of legal traditions in the target countries. Whether a country follows or applies the civil law, common law, religious or customary law traditions - or a combination of them - affects the way laws are formulated and structured. In the areas of food and agriculture, most countries have written laws of differing forms and contents. The concepts, institutions and operative provisions included in a model law should be formulated bearing in mind the different legal traditions of the countries that may use it.

2. Form, status and contents of a model law

Countries govern various sectoral areas in different ways. What could be covered by one piece of legislation in one country may be governed by more than one primary and/or secondary piece of legislation in other countries. Some countries, for example in Latin America, adopt framework laws of higher status than other primary legislation to govern cross-cutting issues, such as in the area of food security and nutrition, that directly address different sectors and involve multiple actors.10 Such legislation sets directions for relevant sectoral matters, provides for inter-sectoral coordination mechanisms, and may entail the revision of other legislation to ensure coherence.11 However, legislation of framework law status and coverage does not exist in all countries or regions. In Africa, for example, the closest one would find is the loi d’orientation of some Francophone African countries covering a range of sectors relating to agriculture and establishing inter-sectoral coordination mechanisms.12

In addition to paying attention to the differences in legislative approaches in different countries in terms of the form and status of laws, the substantive contents of a model law should take into consideration the structure of laws and the categorization of legislative areas in the target countries. For example, the constitutions of many Francophone African countries define the domains of primary legislation and leave other areas for secondary laws. This affects the coverage and details of legislation governing different technical subject-matters.

In all cases, a model law should take into account the international legal and policy instruments that are accepted by the countries. It should also avoid prescriptive norms on issues governed by separate sectoral legislation.

3. Process of elaborating the law

A model law in any area should be evidence based. Its drafting should be preceded by an assessment of existing international, regional and national legal and policy instruments in the area to identify common principles, normative elements and implementation mechanisms. The draft should then go through different levels of consultation involving relevant stakeholders. These actions increase the capacity of a model law to be adapted to different national contexts.

Concluding remarks

In light of resource limitations faced by Governments and international organizations, it is essential that cost-effective means to support national legislative processes are developed. Legislative reforms in different countries could benefit from comprehensive and holistic technical guidance materials that draw on the legislative practices of various countries and internationally accepted standards. Such materials can include detailed manuals providing in-depth analyses of the issues to be considered as well as guidance on possible processes, such as can be found in the FAO Right to Food Handbook and the FAO/WHO Guidelines on Pesticide Legislation.13 Other useful tools include checklists accompanied by information on operational aspects to be considered when developing legislation, such as FAO’s Risk Based Imported Food Control Manual.14

In sum, no single tool will result in national legislation that is fit for purpose; a combination of tools and processes are necessary to achieve such an objective. While model laws could be part of this “tool box”, there is always a risk that they are treated as the only tool needed to achieve a given objective.

3. For example, see the WTO Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures, art 3; and the WTO Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade, arts 2.6, 5.5
4. For example, see the AU Model Law for the Implementation of the AU Convention for the Protection of and Assistance to Internally Displaced Persons in Africa, 2018; and the AU Model Law on Medical Products Regulation, 2016.
5. NEPAD and PATH. 2016. Implementing the AU Model Law at the Regional and National Level, available at https://www.nepad.org/publication/implementing-african-union-model-law-regional-and-national-level. See also, Ethiopia. 2006. Access to Genetic Resources and Community Knowledge, and Community Rights Proclamation No. 482/2006 (referring to the country’s agreement to the African Model Law on Community, Farmers’ and Plant Breeders’ Right and Access to Biological Resources).
6. http://www.fao.org/americas/noticias/ver/en/c/459722/
7. See FAO.2005. Perspectives and guidelines on food legislation, with a new model food law, FAO Legislative Study 87, J Vapnek and M Spreij for the FAO Legal Office, pp 182-190.
8. For example, see CFS. 2012. Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of tenure in land, fisheries and forests in the context of national food security; FAO.2009. Guide on Legislating for the Right to Food; FAO. 2017. Responsible Governance of Tenure and the Law. A Guide for Lawyers and other Legal Service Providers. Technical Guide 5; WHO/FAO. 2015. Guidelines on pesticides legislation.
9. FAO Legislative Study 87, 2005..
10. For example, see Ecuador, Ley Organic del Regimen d la Soberania Alimentaria of 2009; Nicaragua, Act No. 693 Law of Sovereignty and Food Security and Nutrition.
11. FAO. 2009. Guide on Legislating for the Right to Adequate Food
12. For example, see Côte d'Ivoire, Loi n° 2015-537 du 20 juillet 2015 d'orientation agricole; Mali, Loi nº 06-045 portant loi d'orientation agricole; Senegal, Loi d'orientation agro-sylvo-pastorale of 25/05/2004.
13. http://www.fao.org/right-to-food/resources/rtf-handbooks/en/; and http://www.fao.org/3/a-i5008e.pdf.
14. http://www.fao.org/3/a-i5381e.pdf.


Briefing parliamentarians on laws related to food security and nutrition

FAO has been working with parliamentarians for a number of years. The parliamentary fronts against hunger in Latin America and the Caribbean have proven their worth in increased legislative activity on food security and nutrition (FSN) within individual countries and at the level of PARLATINO, the Latin American parliament.

More recently, parliaments in Africa are treading a similar path and are enjoying FAO’s support in different ways. The Pan-African Parliament of the African Union established a parliamentary alliance for food security and nutrition in 2016, and a number of national parliaments and sub-regional parliamentary groupings are following suit.

FAO works with national and regional parliaments in strengthening the capacities of parliamentarians to leverage their law-making, budget allocation, oversight and representational roles for food security and nutrition. It prepares legal briefs and conducts face-to-face training to this effect. The purpose of the legal briefs is to provide parliamentarians with easily accessible technical and legislative information on FSN, based on the wide array of existing studies and technical guides.

As FSN relates to a range of technical areas, FAO identified a series of issues that it considered to be of vital importance for parliamentarians to understand. It then developed seven short briefs that are mainly directed at parliamentarians in Africa, but will also be of interest to anyone who is interested in legislation to promote food security and nutrition. The seven issues are:

1. Right to adequate food in constitutions;

2. Framework law on the right to adequate food;

3. Legislating for adequate food and nutrition in schools;

4. Enabling legal environments for the responsible governance of tenure;

5. Enabling legal environment for responsible investment in agriculture and food systems;

6. Legislative approaches to improve nutrition;

7. Legal measures to eradicate rural poverty.

The aim of the briefs is to increase the awareness of parliamentarians on international and regional legal and policy instruments, the duties, roles and responsibilities of state and non-state actors, and the practices of different countries in terms of legislative measures on FSN. They provide checklist of actions that parliamentarians may take in line with their mandates without going into the precise content of FSN legislation or technical legal drafting issues.

Now, having published this series for African parliaments in English, French and Spanish, FAO plans to look also to other regions, starting with Latin America and the Caribbean. In that region, there are numerous good practices on many of the issues chosen for Africa. Are the same issues equally relevant for other regions? Should there be a different selection of issues for other regions, or will adaptation to the region in question be more appropriate? One indication from FAO’s Regional Office for Europe is that parliamentarians in that region may benefit from information on land consolidation, an issue on which FAO expects to publish a legal guide during 2019.

Perú adopta una Ley Marco sobre Cambio Climático para responder a los compromisos surgidos del Acuerdo de París

De acuerdo con la Convención Marco de las Naciones Unidas sobre el Cambio Climático (CMNUCC), el Perú presenta siete de las nueve características necesarias para calificar a un país como “particularmente vulnerable” al cambio climático. Cifras del Ministerio del Ambiente del Perú indican que el 67% de los desastres en el país están relacionados con fenómenos climáticos como las sequías, las precipitaciones y las heladas. Esto convierte a más de 14 millones de personas en el Perú, es decir, aproximadamente al 45% de su población, en vulnerables a la inseguridad alimentaria. Además, las proyecciones indican que el impacto del cambio climático en la agricultura generaría disminuciones en la producción de casi todos los cultivos, siendo los más afectados algunos productos que forman parte de la canasta básica familiar como la papa, algunos tipos de maíz, la cebada grano, el arroz y el plátano.

Por ello, no es de extrañar que el 15 de marzo del año 2018 el Congreso de la República del Perú aprobase una Ley Marco sobre Cambio Climático. Se trata de la primera ley adoptada en la región de América Latina y el Caribe con posterioridad a la entrada en vigor del Acuerdo de París en el 2016.

La Ley Marco nº 30754 consta de siete capítulos que, con un total de 23 artículos, tratan de sentar las bases para crear la institucionalidad necesaria e indispensable que permita prevenir los riesgos y reducir la vulnerabilidad del Perú ante el cambio climático, determinar los instrumentos clave de gestión del cambio climático a nivel nacional, y definir las áreas prioritarias para adoptar medidas de mitigación y adaptación. Acompañan al articulado trece disposiciones complementarias finales.

El Perú apuesta con esta Ley por el diseño y articulación de políticas públicas que reflejen una gestión integral del cambio climático, sobre la base de enfoques y principios que promuevan medidas para su adaptación y mitigación en los tres niveles de gobierno (nacional, regional y local) y de forma multisectorial. Las mismas se basarán en un proceso participativo, transparente e inclusivo del sector público, privado y de la sociedad civil, con especial énfasis en el rol de los pueblos indígenas u originarios y con enfoque de género (arts. 1 a 4). El Ministerio del Ambiente es designado como autoridad nacional para el cambio climático, pero todos los niveles de gobierno pasan a tener atribuciones en esa materia. El Ministerio del Ambiente, promotor de la ley, estima que, por cada sol invertido en medidas de adaptación y mitigación del cambio climático, se ahorrarán diez soles por impactos de desastres prevenidos.

La Ley Marco introduce importantes elementos innovadores que están en línea con las disposiciones del Acuerdo de París para reforzar la respuesta global a la amenaza del cambio climático, así como con la Agenda 2030 para el Desarrollo Sostenible. En particular, la Ley incide en la importancia de respetar un enfoque intergeneracional en la gestión del cambio climático, que es uno de los principios inspiradores de los Objetivos de Desarrollo Sostenible.

En cuanto a los instrumentos para la gestión integral del cambio climático, el Capítulo III de la Ley establece que son la Estrategia Nacional y Regional de Cambio Climático, las Contribuciones Determinadas a Nivel Nacional (CDNN) y otros instrumentos relacionados (art. 12). La Ley puntualiza que estos instrumentos son vinculantes y de cumplimiento obligatorio, debiendo ser considerados en sus presupuestos institucionales. En este sentido, las CDNN son uno de los elementos clave del Acuerdo de París y reflejan la postura adoptada por los Estados al considerar que cada país debe tomar medidas para reforzar la respuesta mundial a la amenaza del cambio climático teniendo en cuenta sus responsabilidades comunes pero diferenciadas y sus capacidades respectivas, a la luz de las diferentes circunstancias nacionales.

En relación con las comunidades locales y los pueblos indígenas u originarios, la Ley pone el foco en el respeto y realce del valor de sus conocimientos tradicionales para lograr la mitigación y adaptación del cambio climático basada en la conservación de reservas de carbono y en su participación en todas las etapas de las políticas públicas y proyectos asociados al cambio climático. De esta manera, la Ley se hace cargo de lo dispuesto en el artículo 7.5 del Acuerdo de París.

Además, la Ley dedica un capítulo a la educación ambiental y se refiere a la importancia de la investigación, tecnología e innovación que también son elementos fundamentales en la lucha contra el cambio climático según el Acuerdo (arts. 10 al 12).

Por su parte, las disposiciones complementarias finales abordan elementos interesantes a destacar como es la incorporación del análisis del riesgo climático y vulnerabilidad, y de medidas de mitigación y adaptación al cambio climático en la formulación y evaluación de proyectos de inversión. También se insta al Poder Ejecutivo a emitir un plan de acción para prevenir y atender la migración forzosa causada por los efectos del cambio climático, incluyendo una definición del término “migrantes ambientales” que es innovadora a nivel jurídico. Además, el Poder Ejecutivo deberá emitir un plan de acción para promover la seguridad alimentaria priorizando la atención de la producción agropecuaria de mediana y pequeña escala, a fin de aumentar la resiliencia frente a riesgos y desastres en el país.

En la actualidad, la Ley está pendiente de reglamentación. La propuesta de Reglamento se encuentra en etapa de consulta previa con los pueblos indígenas u originarios y se espera que sea aprobada en pocos meses.

En definitiva, si bien el Perú todavía tiene importantes desafíos por delante para lograr la articulación de una respuesta integral a la amenaza que el cambio climático representa, esta Ley sienta las bases para consolidar una estrategia nacional de adaptación y mitigación del cambio climático.

Cabe señalar que el Servicio de Derecho para el Desarrollo de la Oficina Jurídica (LEGN) lleva a cabo una serie de actividades relevantes en el ámbito de la legislación sobre cambio climático. En efecto, LEGN fue parte del equipo de la FAO que prestó asistencia al Gobierno del Perú en la fase de elaboración de la Ley Marco. Además, LEGN publicará próximamente un estudio legislativo sobre cambio climático y agricultura y se encuentra desarrollando una "caja de herramientas jurídicas para el cambio climático" en colaboración con el PNUMA, la Secretaria de la Commonwealth y la Secretaria de la CMNUCC. Esta caja de herramientas será un recurso en línea de acceso gratuito para apoyar los esfuerzos de los países para implementar el Acuerdo de París.