On Thursday morning, participants met in a plenary session to hear four keynote presentations. The draft roadmap for action was then introduced by the Chair for further discussion. After presentations, participants made comments and provided elements to further elaborate the draft roadmap. Two closed parallel Ministerial Roundtables were also held throughout the day.
HRH Princess Máxima of the Netherlands, UN Secretary-General’s Special Advocate for Inclusive Finance for Development, emphasized that financial services underline and accelerate rural development, and underscored the importance of financial inclusion. She highlighted that: small farmers and small and medium enterprises need access to a range of financial services; financial services will only be effective within a broader enabling environment; and initiatives need to be scalable and sustainable.
Kofi Annan, Chairman, Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, expressed optimism that Africa, which is hardest hit by climate change and food insecurity, can be part of a global solution to combat climate change, for example by transforming carbon sources to carbon sinks. He shared the work of the Alliance, which focuses on smallholder farmers and provides access to new crops and knowledge, reliable weather information, better land and water management programmes, and investment. He noted access to voluntary carbon markets could provide support that is essential to develop best practices, potentially providing double dividends to farmers.
Jeffrey Sachs, Director, Earth Institute, the United States, by video message, said urgent needs to be addressed are: financial means for impoverished farmers for purchasing quality fertilizers and seeds to boost yields; improved local food production to increase quantity, quality, and diversity; a second green revolution to address environmental problems; a dryland initiative, particularly for Africa, for food security in dry areas; additional multilateral funding streams for adaptation; REDD+ and additional approaches, such as improving fertilizers and farm practices, to realize the mitigation potential of agriculture; better monitoring of agricultural landscapes, that includes, inter alia, biodiversity, climate change and food production; and a global agriculture research programme, for example by strengthening the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research system.
Feike Sijbesma, CEO, DSM, said the three main drivers of his company’s approach to sustainability are: global urbanization and increased consumption; climate change and energy; and people’s health and wellbeing. He stressed the: potential of biotechnology, particularly for waste utilization, to support a shift from fossil fuel use; importance of innovations; and need for stronger private-public partnership for knowledge and technology sharing.
Michael Jenkins, CEO, Forest Trends, reported on Wednesday’s Investment Fair, which included discussions on whether large-scale commodity production can be turned from a leading cause of deforestation to a driver of sustainability. He also highlighted commitments by the World Bank’s BioCarbon Fund and the Eco-Asset Management.
WORKING GROUPS MORNING SESSION
In the morning participants convened in one working group to continue discussions. Working Group Co-Chair Akinbamijo asked participants to discuss the draft roadmap, noting that the objective is to obtain consensus and achieve ownership of all conference participants. The United States noted that the tone of the document and the co-chair’s remarks are inconsistent with his delegation’s understanding of the status of the document, saying it is not a negotiated document but a chair’s summary, and that it will be very difficult to achieve consensus. Joined by Indonesia and Morocco, he expressed concerns on the status of the document’s annex titled “The Hague action plan.” The United States also called for greater emphasis on the responsibility of governments for policies, technologies and finance and for a stronger role for the private sector. Indonesia welcomed the emphasis on integrating agriculture and climate change, and urged that technologies for climate-smart agriculture be content-specific and affordable to smallholder farmers.
Iran said the document should create a background for the participation of all stakeholders globally, and suggested including: transfer of appropriate technologies to developing countries; improved market access; consideration of vulnerable groups; and fair distribution of financial resources. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) suggested adding specific reference to sustainable ecosystem management, and said more recognition of women’s role in agriculture and food security and their empowerment is needed. Sweden suggested refocusing the document to give due importance to food security in addition to climate-smart agriculture and echoed the need for women’s empowerment.
Living Lands stressed that there is no one-size-fits-all solution and said emphasis should be on successful national initiatives that require further financial support, and highlighted the importance of local collaboration to overcome knowledge, policy and other institutional constraints. The Common Fund for Commodities called for highlighting the need to help farmers develop entrepreneurial skills, increase their productivity and assess markets. Egypt proposed reference to adverse trade policies and their negative impacts on agriculture and food security, particularly for developing countries. He also said the goal of the roadmap should be more “human-centered” and called for greater emphasis on mitigating negative impacts on the most vulnerable groups than on achieving low-carbon emissions growth. The Technical Centre for Agriculture and Rural Cooperation suggested reference to the need to engage media to raise public awareness and involve the public in efforts to achieve sustainable agriculture and food security. India suggested including reference to identifying the most vulnerable areas in different countries and developing contingency plans for extension.
Morocco lamented that not all countries are accurately reflected, suggesting: assessment of country vulnerability; development of a logical order of actions; identification of water as a scarce resource; expansion of genetic resources to address climate change risks; dissemination of risk management tools to farmers; and increased agriculture research.
The Philippines highlighted efforts in other processes such as the Commission on Sustainable Development. The UN Standing Committee on Nutrition called for a comprehensive definition of food security that encompasses food access and nutrition security, and for coherence of global processes with the Committee’s policies.
WORKING GROUPS AFTERNOON SESSION
In the afternoon participants convened in one working group to continue discussions. Discussions in the afternoon continued with the Netherlands calling for: attention to biodiversity and ecosystem conservation, and restoration of degraded lands; an improved socio-economic situation for farmers in developing countries; more sustainable production of biomass; closed nutrition cycles; and, supported by New Zealand and Biodiversity International, a greater role for research and extension services in the sustainable development of agriculture. New Zealand said more emphasis should be given to the role of governments in setting incentives.
France suggested mentioning: favorable institutional frameworks for agricultural development and investment; market policies as part of enabling policies; family holding agriculture; and the Kyoto Protocol and the Clean Development Mechanism as part of the enabling environment for investment.
Burundi, supported by Sudan and Belgium, said the roadmap should give specific consideration to the problems of post-conflict countries. He suggested adding a calendar to the roadmap, so as to measure commitments and progress of implementation. The United Kingdom said: the draft captures the main issues discussed; the inconsistencies with the stated objective of being a Chair’s summary should be easily resolved; and the purpose of the annex should be clarified. He suggested expanding on the role of the different actors, particularly farmers. Monsanto suggested: defining sustainable agriculture based on a life-cycle analysis; and that carbon gains through yield increases achieved by farmers in a sustainable way be considered as carbon credits.
Chair Hoogeveen noted concerns about the nature of the roadmap and use of the word “the conference” in the document. He clarified that the roadmap is not a negotiated document to which people will be asked to commit, that the Secretariat will revise the document based on participants’ suggestions, and will, for example, replace the word “we” with “the conference” or some similar word.
The Avalon Foundation said the roadmap should include reference to the need to adhere to agro-ecological principles, as well as awareness-raising among consumers about a “multi-value shopping bag” containing, inter alia, climate-smart agriculture, food security and biodiversity protection. The African Union Commission requested: referring to the need for additional and predictable finance; giving prominence to the needs of Africa; and including the Convention on Biological Diversity and the UN Convention to Combat Desertification among the processes listed in the roadmap.
The EU suggested to: define climate-smart agriculture; clarify that agriculture intensification be sustainable; and extend research to include livestock management. Sudan echoed Burundi in lamenting that although the roadmap objectives are clear, there is a lack of deadlines and clarity regarding who will pay for what. Belgium requested that the roadmap: stress women’s contribution; support national-level initiatives; and increase access to land to include water and other natural resources.
Biodiversity International re-emphasized the need for financial support for management, use and conservation of agricultural biodiversity as insurance against climate change, referencing the framework of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture. He also suggested that although many mechanisms are known to contribute to climate-smart agriculture, a lot remains unknown, therefore requiring support for additional research.
The Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, on behalf of a group of civil society organizations, rejected the roadmap for action, emphasizing, inter alia, that adaptation, and not mitigation, should be the main topic of the Conference, and that small farmers should not be made responsible for reducing emissions. The European Investment Bank highlighted the importance of savings, suggested that finance should be scaled up for both public and private research, and said domestic and international finance be considered for agriculture. The World Society for the Protection of Animals stressed consideration of human and animal health in addition to plant health, and also underscored the need for sustainable consumption and not just production. The College of the Atlantic suggested that farmer organizations are important for information and research extension, not just for finance, and that attention should be given to the diversity of multilateral finance mechanisms at the intersection of agriculture and climate change.
IN THE CORRIDORS
The penultimate day of The Hague Global Conference kicked off with keynote presentations by some high-profile speakers, such as Princess Máxima of the Netherlands and former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. The plenary was noticeably more packed with the arrival of ministers for the Ministerial Roundtables that commenced immediately after the morning plenary. The tone of the Conference took a slight downward turn when participants engaged in discussions of the draft roadmap, which they had received on Wednesday night. Some initial perplexity surfaced about the nature of the document, and several interventions in plenary showed this. “I got a bit worried that we were actually going to begin negotiating the Chair’s summary!” commented one participant, with another remarking that, “it seems my colleagues are so used to intergovernmental negotiations that they argue even at a time when it is not necessary.” In the afternoon, participants appeared to be more comfortable with the draft, with several commending the secretariat’s efforts in putting a good document together.
In parallel with the working groups, the Ministerial Roundtables proceeded behind closed doors. Informal reports were that ministers had a “rocky start,” with tensions arising about how to move forward, but, as one participant later put it, “having lunch together helped a lot to open up minds and allow more constructive work to continue in the afternoon,” such that expectations began rising about a possible outcome from the continuation of the ministerial consultations on Friday. In the evening, with just one more day to the end of the Conference, participants started reflecting about whether the Conference was worth the time and cost of attendance. One particular benefit that quite a few participants said they derived from the Conference was the opportunity to network, make new contacts and explore new opportunities to collaborate, as the Conference brought together different policy communities. “I made a new contact that is just the person I need for my project” said one satisfied participant.