Reflections on the G20 and Rio+20

G20 and Rio20 logos

Two of the world’s preeminent conferences have now come to a close: the G20 Summit and the Rio+20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development. The content and outcomes of these meetings signify a continued shift in the international agenda toward green growth and sustainable development; food security has been a high priority as well. However, while this shift holds positive implications for a more prosperous and sustainable future, commitments and planning from global leaders must be more resolute.

The G20 continued to show strong commitment to enhancing agricultural productivity and food security, but more definitive action is required. The growing level of transparency amongst governments has been encouraging and has allowed for the effective tracking of progress. However, implementation has been too slow on key actions developed at last year’s summit, including the Agricultural Price Risk Management (APRM) and Platform on Agricultural Risk Management (PARM). It is time to advance beyond rhetoric and move forward on priority actions such as promoting free and open trade to calm food markets, reducing the competition between food and fuel, supporting regional emergency food reserves, and implementing risk management tools for smallholders.

One of the significant developments in the past two years has been the active participation of the business community in the G20 process. In the lead up to the G20 Summit, the B20 Summit provided a forum for collaboration on efforts to significantly advance global food security. As recommended to G20 leaders by the B20 Food Security Task Force, in which I took part, public-private partnerships will continue to be important to increasing overall agricultural investment and strengthening national food security programs. The development of clear accountability measures to monitor private sector engagement will be crucial, however.

The Rio+20 Declaration, “The Future We Want,” offers a strong vision for sustainable development, but holds few definitive long-term recommendations and its core messages are watered down. The document calls for a wide range of actions, including the formation of sustainable development goals, the promotion of private sector accountability in sustainable practices, a framework for sustainable consumption and production, and other important measures. While these represent significant steps on the road to sustainability, policy commitments should be more firm, measures of accountability should be clearer, and strategies for pursuing sustainability goals while promoting food and nutrition security and economic growth should be more evident and concrete.

A positive development is the change in thinking on the interface between the green economy and other development objectives. It is increasingly evident that instead of trade-offs, there are synergies and win-win opportunities that can be exploited. Another positive development is that non-government sectors, like youth groups and farmers’ organizations, the private sector, and research institutions, have become a major force in influencing the discussion around green growth and broader development objectives. As we move forward, coordination amongst these actors will be crucial and research-based evidence will be critical in policy planning, strategic direction, and reformed governance structure for a more inclusive green economy. IFPRI, with its clear mandate to cut hunger, malnutrition, and poverty while protecting natural resources, has a unique role in providing research-based evidence for decision-making by various stakeholders including but going beyond national governments.

Food and Nutrition Security Should Stay High on the Agenda at the G20 Meetings
Press Statement. June 15, 2012