[Spanish] [French] [Signatories]


Mr. Maxime Verhagen, Minister of Economic Affairs, Agriculture and Innovation, The Netherlands

Mr. Ato Teferra Derebew, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Ethiopia

Mr. Enrique Dominguez Lucero, Minister of Agriculture, Livestock, Rural Development, Fisheries and Food, Mexico

Mr. David Carter, Minister of Agriculture and Forestry, New Zealand

Mr. Lars Peder Brekk, Minister of Agriculture and Food, Norway

Ms. Thi Xuan Thu Nguyen, Vice Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Vietnam

Mr. Robert Zoellick, President, World Bank

Mr. Jacques Diouf, Director-General, Food & Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

Civil Society Statement of Concern on the Hague Conference on Agriculture, Food Security and Climate Change (October 31 – November 5):

We, the undersigned civil society organizations from around the world, look with concern to the upcoming Hague Conference.  Hosted by the Netherlands Government in cooperation with the Governments of Ethiopia, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Vietnam, the World Bank and the FAO, the conference aims to produce a roadmap of “concrete actions linking agriculture-related investments, policies and measures, to the transition to lower carbon-emitting climate resilient growth.” 

Climate change threatens the livelihoods and food security of billions of the planet’s poor and vulnerable, and it is urgent to get both the analysis and solutions right.  Getting it right also means following a correct process, including by involving those whose livelihoods are most at risk.  Top down solutions are not legitimate solutions.

Participation and transparency

We are concerned about a lack of transparency, participation and consultation with governments, farmers and others in civil society in preparing for the conference and its “roadmap”.  The process addresses agriculture and climate linkages, yet it is not evident that those representing developing countries at UN climate change negotiations where these linkages are being actively negotiated were also included. A regional pre-conference was organized in Africa but not in other regions, raising further concerns about uneven participation.

Ecological versus industrial agriculture

The industrial model of agricultural production threatens the viability of ecosystems and contributes massively to climate change.  Nothing less than a system change is needed in the face of the climate change threat.  The ecological model of agricultural production, based on principles that create healthy soils and cultivate biological diversity, and which prioritise farmers and traditional knowledge, is climate-resilient. This is “climate-smart” agriculture. 

There is also a critical need to reverse the economic concentration of global markets – particularly for grains, livestock and food processing – that has led to unsustainable forms of industrial agriculture worldwide and the bulk of the emissions from the agriculture sector.  Unfortunately, the program agenda does not appear to address these necessary system changes in any significant way. 

Avoid questionable technological fixes

The conference should avoid discussing costly and unproven technological fixes such as genetically modified organisms and other patented technologies and practices.  These technologies are not only prohibitively costly for developing countries, but also create new forms of corporate control over agricultural plant and animal genetic resources.[1]  Their safety is in doubt, and environmental, social and economic harm has already occurred from their use. They threaten to hinder rather than enhance agricultural adaptation to climate change.

A focus on adaptation

Adaptation to climate change in the agriculture sector should be the main priority of this conference. It must emphasize identified adaptation priorities of developing countries and the provision of steady and reliable public finance to developing countries that will have to cope with the worst consequences of climate change.  In addition, adaptation financing should be in the form of grants, not loans. Developed country mitigation and “offsetting” priorities should not and cannot drive the design of climate adaptation strategies.

Public finance not carbon markets

While much is being made of its market possibilities, we must emphatically state that linking soil carbon and carbon markets is not the solution for mitigation or adaptation in the agricultural sector. Money from a speculative market is neither steady nor reliable, and could mean disaster for food security and livelihoods in developing countries.  Moreover, “innovative” market-based approaches distract attention from the responsibility of developed countries for their historic emissions, and their obligations to finance adaptation and mitigation in developing countries. Carbon market mechanisms actually finance the mitigation commitments of developed countries through “offsetting” projects in developing countries, thereby allowing them to continue rather than change their unsustainable production and consumption patterns, while shifting the burden of mitigation and increasing the burden of adaptation to developing countries.

Implement rather than ignore IAASTD findings

The critical issues of agriculture, food security and climate change have in fact been addressed at length in the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD).  Initiated by the World Bank and FAO, sponsored by additional UN agencies and approved by 58 governments, the IAASTD is considered as the “Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) of agriculture,” having drawn on the work of over 400 experts over a six year process.

As a result, the IAASTD contains some of the most complete and authoritative sets of policy and investment options to strengthen the productivity and resilience of the world’s food and agricultural systems, while prioritizing social equity and sustainability. The consultative, multi-stakeholder process that created the assessment imbues its findings and policy options with legitimacy; and its findings were welcomed by many of the developing countries that suffer the effects of hunger and food insecurity most severely.  

The Conference ignores at its peril the IAASTD. The World Bank and the FAO should be championing the IAASTD, rather than attempting to ignore or subvert it.  Given the World Bank’s highly criticized track record on agriculture, its spearheading of the Hague process warrants close scrutiny.


We demand that the Hague Conference support fair and effective solutions to the agriculture and climate crises. We call on it to champion a global transition to ecological agriculture, avoid questionable technological fixes, focus on enabling farmers to adapt to climate change, and ensure adequate public financing for agriculture. Many of these recommendations are embodied in the IAASTD, reflecting broad public consultation, and should be endorsed by this process, and implemented by governments and international organizations, including the World Bank and FAO.

We believe that the international food and agriculture community, in particular, small scale farmers, laborers, indigenous peoples, women and civil society organizations engaged on issues of food security, food sovereignty, the right to food, and the preservation and use of traditional knowledge are essential to this debate and are providing practical, just and affordable solutions to the problems of food security and climate change.  They need to be heard. The international roadmap of “concrete actions” will first and foremost impact smallholder farmers worldwide, and any process that ignores their voices will be questioned for lack of legitimacy.

31 October 2010

[1] Seventy-five percent of patent applications worldwide on so-called “climate genes” are held by transnational seed and agrochemical companies such as Monsanto, BASF, DuPont and Syngenta.