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Focus on governance for more effective policy and technical support. Framework paper

There are eight years left to reach the SDGs. Agrifood systems transformation is urgently needed if we are to achieve sustainability, resilience and food security and nutrition in a post-COVID world.

This desired transformation can only be achieved by strengthening and capitalizing on the knowledge, experience, skills, and capabilities for collective action of a broad range of public and private actors each of whom bring distinctive interests, needs, resources, influence and capacities. “Governance” is the name for this multidimensional capability for effective and inclusive collective action at all levels.

In many country contexts, it is the governance bottlenecks that lead to a gap between policy expectations and their outcomes on the ground. For example, a given policy intervention can make a lot of economic sense but if it is perceived as threatening a powerful interest group or not sufficiently considering that group’s interests, it will most probably fail. Understanding the governance – both institutions and political economy – behind existing agrifood systems can thus make or break the success of any policy or technical support work.

Bringing together insights from FAO’s rich experience and knowledge and global literature, this paper introduces an operational four-phased framework for analysis and integration of governance analysis and action into formulation and implementation of interventions at country, regional and global levels. It also provides a review of recent trends in expert thinking about governance for sustainable development and highlights FAO’s conceptual contributions to governance in the areas of FAO’s mandate.

The increased use of governance analysis in FAO’s work will stimulate iterative collective learning processes and honest evaluation of potential for change thus supplementing technical solutions with approaches based on a solid understanding of practical and political realities on the ground. With its emphasis on continual learning and adaptation, governance analysis will enable FAO to significantly improve the effectiveness of its policy and technical support to Members to achieve sustainable development that leaves no one behind.

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