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Hague Conference ends with non-binding Chair’s summary

The Global Conference on Agriculture, Food Security and Climate Change was held at The Hague on 31 October to 5 November 2010. It was organized by the Government of the Netherlands, in close cooperation with the Governments of Ethiopia, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Vietnam, the World Bank and the FAO.

Prior to the Conference, more than 100 civil society organizations expressed their concern about a lack of transparency, participation and consultation with governments, farmers and others in civil society in preparing for the conference and its “Roadmap for action”. They also called on the Conference to promote the system change needed from industrial to ecological agriculture, avoid questionable technological fixes such genetically modified organisms and other patented technologies and practices, focus on adaptation to climate change in the agriculture sector, promote public financing rather than carbon market mechanisms, and to implement rather than ignore IAASTD findings. (See TWN Info Service on Sustainable Agriculture, 1 November 2010.)

The civil society groups present in the Hague issued another statement on 4 November, rejecting the Hague Roadmap for Action (see Item 1). They objected to the portrayal of the Roadmap as a collective and shared understanding, when those most impacted by climate change and whose livelihoods are most at risk, in particular small-scale farmers, indigenous people and women especially from developing countries, were not present, or consulted, nor had genuinely participated in the process.

In addition, the civil society groups objected to the unanimous endorsement of carbon markets and market mechanisms in the draft document, which are not only controversial, but which allow developed countries to claim that they are fulfilling their legally binding commitments to finance adaptation and mitigation (including for agriculture) in developing countries.

In the end, the Conference ended with a watered down non-binding Chair’s summary following concerns raised by both governments and civil society. However, the Chair’s summary still remains “a collation of a broad spectrum of ideas—none of them agreed and several of them controversial—that cover various propositions through the course of the six days of panels, side events and the ministerial roundtable” (see Item 2).

Many of the key issues facing agriculture and food security were not addressed, such as the urgent need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions particularly by developed countries to avoid the worst impacts of climate change on agriculture, or not addressed adequately, such as the priority of developing countries to focus on adapting their agriculture to the impacts of climate change. However, a number of controversial issues were included, such as “carbon finance”.

With best wishes,

Lim Li Ching
Third World Network
131 Jalan Macalister
10400 Penang
Malaysia
Email: twnet@po.jaring.my
Websites: www.twnside.org.sg, www.biosafety-info.net

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Item 1

We, the undersigned civil society groups who have been present here in The Hague, collectively reject the Hague Roadmap for Action. 

More than 100 organisations, many of which have not been invited to this Conference, have also expressed their serious concerns in a Civil Society Statement on October 31.

Those most impacted by climate change and whose livelihoods are most at risk, in particular small-scale farmers, indigenous people and women especially from developing countries, have not been present, or consulted, nor have genuinely participated in this process. A democratic and participatory process should have involved all sectors of civil society engaged on these issues in a process designed to genuinely engage and dialogue with civil society. The “roadmap for action” drafted by a few cannot be claimed to have been “collectively developed”, even by those present at the Conference.

We therefore have strong objections to a Chair’s summary that portrays a “shared understanding” on challenges and solutions for a so-called roadmap on highly complex linkages between food security, climate change and agriculture.

The conference also lacks the legitimacy of a UN process where all governments are represented, and negotiate and adopt decisions.  It therefore cannot produce as its output an agreed Roadmap for Action, but should only issue a Chair’s summary of the various discussions that have taken place at the conference.

In addition, a process that genuinely seeks to draw together the linkages between agriculture, food security and climate change should have involved participants from both the agriculture and climate change sectors and processes. Otherwise, the outcome of the conference could be interpreted to be an attempt to undermine or pre-empt on-going negotiations in the UNFCCC.

Our understanding of the problems and solutions differs fundamentally from the framing posed by the organizers.  We believe that adaptation has to be the main priority of this conference.   The agricultural challenges faced by the poorest and most vulnerable, in Africa but also in Asia, in small-island states, in Latin America, are adaptation challenges.  While sustainable farming practices can provide mitigation benefits, the climate crisis is caused first and foremost by the emissions of rich countries and we reject that small farmers are meant now to take on the mitigation responsibilities of the North.  

The unanimous endorsement of carbon markets and market mechanisms in the draft is unfounded.  There are on-going discussions about market-based mechanisms at both the CBD and the UNFCCC.  At the 10th Conference of the Parties of the Convention on Biological Diversity which ended in Nagoya last week, the issue of innovative financial mechanisms, including market mechanisms for financing biodiversity, proved so controversial that a draft decision on it was not adopted.

Also, at the UNFCCC, the issue of carbon market mechanisms is equally controversial. Developing countries support limiting the use of existing carbon market mechanisms, and oppose the introduction of new ones.   Therefore, the conference should refrain from policy prescriptions about carbon markets.

This is because under the UNFCCC, developed countries have legally binding commitments to finance adaptation and mitigation (including for agriculture) in developing countries. So-called innovative “carbon finance” is being promoted by some so that developed countries can avoid, rather than fulfill their obligations. Instead, many developing countries are demanding that fund-based financing should be the focus. Carbon markets, with their speculative tendencies, inherent instability, combined with the complexity of the agriculture markets could spell disaster for food rights, food security and livelihoods in developing countries.

Finally, tools and strategies needed to address food security, food sovereignty and climate change have been widely discussed in the IAASTD; in ongoing discussions within the UN FAO Committee on World Food Security and key processes led by social movements such as La Via Campesina and other farmers organizations.  The Hague conference need not reinvent the wheel. Conference organizers cannot therefore ascribe a set of tools and policy recommendations to all the participants who have gathered here.

4 November, 2010

Signatories:

ActionAid International

Both ENDS, the Netherlands

ETC Group

ILEIA - Centre for learning on sustainable agriculture, the Netherlands

Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, USA

International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM)

International Forum on Globalisation

Joop de Koeijer, member of NAV (Dutch Arable farmers' Union) and Via Campesina

Platform Aarde, Boer, Consument, the Netherlands

Tearfund, UK

Third World Network

X MinY Solidarity Fund, the Netherlands

Item 2

http://iatp.typepad.com/thinkforward/2010/11/watered-down-roadmap-of-action-on-climate-change.html

NOVEMBER 06, 2010

Watered down 'Roadmap of Action' on climate change

IATP's Shefali Sharma reports from The Hague where the Global Conference on Agriculture, Food Security and Climate Change has just concluded.

The closing plenary of the conference ended with a laser light show about answers to the climate change problem and its impact on agriculture. At the closing, the “Chair’s Summary” of the six-day conference was handed to the participants and speakers made references to the idea that this was a roadmap for domestic as well as international action and its implementation would depend on all that were gathered at the conference.

The outcome at The Hague, in the end, was a non-binding Chair’s summary. This is because both governments and civil society organizations raised serious concerns about the first draft of the outcome document that was distributed yesterday morning in which draft language stated, “We collectively developed the Roadmap for Action on Agriculture, Food Security […] to achieve the ‘triple win’ of improving agricultural productivity and food security […]” 

Though the outcome document continued to have a “Roadmap for Action” as publicized prior to the conference, the language of the outcome document was watered down significantly from claims to a “shared understanding” to simply “Understanding the Challenges” in the final draft.

The organizers announced on Wednesday that the draft would not be a negotiated document but that inputs were welcome. Yesterday, Australia, Egypt, New Zealand, Philippines and the United States were just some of the countries cautioning that an outcome document that is not actively negotiated cannot claim to have a common vision for action. There was also a significant amount of confusion during the course of the meeting as to the intentions of such a roadmap. 

A statement by 12 organizations, including IATP, responded to the first draft circulated yesterday by stating, “Those most impacted by climate change and whose livelihoods are most at risk, in particular small-scale farmers, indigenous people and women especially from developing countries, have not been present, or consulted, nor have genuinely participated in this process. A democratic and participatory process should have involved all sectors of civil society engaged on these issues in a process designed to genuinely engage and dialogue with civil society. The ‘roadmap for action’ drafted by a few cannot be claimed to have been ‘collectively developed,’ even by those present at the Conference.”

They further stated, “Our understanding of the problems and solutions differs fundamentally from the framing posed by the organizers. We believe that adaptation has to be the main priority of this conference. The agricultural challenges faced by the poorest and most vulnerable, in Africa but also in Asia, in small-island states, in Latin America, are adaptation challenges. While sustainable farming practices can provide mitigation benefits, the climate crisis is caused first and foremost by the emissions of rich countries and we reject that small farmers are meant now to take on the mitigation responsibilities of the North.” You can read the full statement here.
The second draft that was circulated this morning no longer had references to the “collective” and “shared” understanding. And the third and final draft in the afternoon made minor edits to the morning version.  However, the outcome document remains a collation of a broad spectrum of ideas—none of them agreed and several of them controversial—that cover various propositions through the course of the six days of panels, side events and the ministerial roundtable.        

Seventeen of the 26 pages are in the form of an annex whereby countries, intergovernmental organizations, companies and a few NGOs have listed the policies, strategies and “incentive mechanisms” they will use to carry out their vision of “climate smart” agriculture—a phrase that has been in popular use in the run up to this conference. Vietnam has offered to host a “follow-up” conference in 2012 as the outcome document claims to have created a “living Roadmap initiated during this conference.” 

During the conference, the World Bank also positioned itself to expand its role into funding agriculture soil carbon sequestration projects through its BioCarbon Fund. Warren Evans, director of the Environment Division at the bank stated, “[…] for the first time, we have been able to move forward with methodologies  for monitoring, reporting and verifying soil carbon sequestration from improved agronomic practices […]. This is particularly important because all of us here today want agriculture and soil carbon to be formally eligible for carbon payment in future climate agreements.” 

A second major initiative that was announced today was the Commission on Sustainable Agriculture and Climate Change which will be launched by the Climate Change Agriculture and Food Security Program of the CGIAR and Earth System Science Partnership. The initiative is being supported by the Global Donor Platform for Rural Development. The initiative hopes to have a panel of nine senior scientists to act as commissioners. The commission would begin in early 2011 and aims to deliver  “a clear set of findings” and policy recommendations on agriculture and climate change to feed into such processes as the UNFCCC COP17 and Rio +20 Earth Summit.

 


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