The world must learn to live and farm sustainably
By Taro Aso (Japan’s prime minister)
Published: July 5 2009 20:08
Food security will be the highlight of the discussion when the heads of 27 countries and 11 organisations meet on Friday at the Group of Eight summit in L’Aquila. I expect substantial progress to be made, particularly on aid to countries affected by the food crisis. I will also make a new proposal to promote responsible foreign investment in agriculture, in the face of so-called “land grabs” – the growing trend for large-scale investment in farmland across the developing world.
A year has passed since this phenomenon first gained attention, and new deals continue to hit the headlines. The United Nations special rapporteur called for a set of principles, and the African Union discussed the issue at its summit last week. What is needed now is for concerned parties to frame a co-ordinated global response.
Japan, as the world’s largest net food importer and a major donor in agricultural development, believes it has a role to play.
We believe non-binding principles would promote responsible investment and sustainable farmland management. They should include, among other things:
● International agricultural investments, particularly sovereign interventions, must be transparent and accountable. Investors should ensure that key stakeholders, including local communities, are properly informed. Agreements should be disclosed.
● Investors must respect the rights of local people affected by investments, in particular land rights. They should also ensure the benefits are shared with local communities in the form of employment, infrastructure, skills and technology transfer.
● Investment projects need to be integrated into recipient countries’ development strategies and environmental policies.
● Investors must take into account the food supply and demand situation in recipient countries. Foreign investment must not aggravate local food insecurity.
● Deals for land and products should adequately reflect market values. Trade arrangements must adhere to World Trade Organisation rules.
Japan will work with key partners to develop a global platform to agree on principles and compile good practices. We call on interested parties to meet in September. We need a grand coalition with a common vision, for our interests are all entwined.