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- Question of the week
The Netherlands face the difficult challenge to combine international trade and development cooperation. The combination is much needed because whenever these topics are dealt with separately, this can lead to problems such as the exclusion of people from development, negative externalities of trade on development and unequal distribution of the benefits of trade, including in the area of food and nutrition security and food systems.
In 2010 the Scientific Council for Government Policy (WRR) stated that food security is a public good. Per default public goods cannot be left to market forces and trade alone. Moreover food is a human right, meaning that the government has certain responsibilities to respect, protect and promote the right to adequate food. Therefore measures need to be in place to ensure that the combined agenda of “trade and aid” does what it should do: facilitate sustainable, participatory and democratically controlled food systems that realize the right to food.
Specific measures are required to reach the most excluded and disadvantaged groups
First of all it is needed that these groups are allowed a voice in policy making spaces. At global level the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) is the most inclusive multi-actor platform to debate food security issues and promote policy coherence and coordination. In the CFS also organizations of the most excluded have a say and policies that are agreed by the CFS reflect their inputs as well. It is needed that these voices are also heard when these policies are concretized at national level. The Dutch government can improve in two ways:
National governments are responsible
Policies set the frame for actions and programs that are implemented by other actors. However there is no implementation without money. Donors have a special responsibility because of the power that comes together with the money. Donors are very diverse (governments, private foundations, etc.) with diverse visions. Donors should abstain from individual contributions following their own ideals but rather create a global fund that is democratically controlled and through which countries or organizations in need can apply for money to improve food and nutrition security. Civil society plays several roles: mobilization of communities and people to develop sustainable food systems. But also watchdog role, in case of the violations of rights. CSOs can also provide policy makers with good practices, considering the fact they often have connections with the most marginalized or are even direct representatives of these groups (e.g. organizations of ethnic minorities, urban poor, etc.). As such they have a say in policy consultations, as rights holders.
Socially responsible private sector in developing countries
What or who is “the” private sector? In the context of sustainable food systems we need to think local: There are many examples of private sector actors that produce, transform and distribute locally and in a sustainable way. Added value remains in the locality, contributing to local economic growth that benefits people locally. Dutch policies should promote this local development, for example by providing seed capital, but also by promoting trade rules that allow local private sector to flourish instead of foreign companies to take over. The Netherlands could also support the development of networks of small and medium enterprises in developing countries. If asked so, Dutch companies can support local companies through coaching trajectories. In addition (Dutch) private sector can transform its business model from an isolated CSR policy via “doing business right”, to “doing good business” favoring the realization of human rights. This transformation could be steered by rules where needed and supported by CSOs where they have specific knowledge and expertise.
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