One underestimated part of the debate on the EU Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) reform concerns its impacts on the right to food in developing countries, particularly in poor, net-food-importing countries. In the following report, the Special Rapporteur shows that the CAP reform offers a unique opportunity to take these impacts into account in the agricultural policies of the EU.
The report ends in section III with conclusions and suggests a dozen of measures which could be adopted in order for the CAP Reform to make a contribution to the realization of the right to food on a global level.
The possible positive and negative impacts of the CAP reform on the realization of the right to food in developing countries should be an integral part of the impact assessment to be conducted by the Inter-Service Steering Group in 2011.
The Special Rapporteur expresses his readiness to contribute to defining the methodology that could be adopted in this regard.
A. The Special Rapporteur makes the following specific recommendations with regard to the role of the EU as an exporter of food products:
1. The EU should closely monitor the impacts of the CAP on EU agricultural exports to developing countries.
Adequate supply management schemes in the EU aimed at avoiding overproduction could help limit negative impacts of EU support to its farmers farmers (in order to stabilize their incomes and to help them meet various requirements imposed on them) on the local markets of developing countries. The Special Rapporteur, however, considers that mechanisms should be established immediately to shield local agricultural producers in developing countries, to the maximum extent possible, from the negative impacts of EU export policies.
2. Farmers' organizations in developing countries that are EU trading partners should have access to grievance mechanisms
3. Economic Partnership Agreements should allow and encourage net-food-importing developing countries to rebuild and strengthen their agricultural sector.
As part of the EU’s development cooperation policies, farmers organizations in the countries that are EU trading partners should be given the possibility of informing the European Parliament’s standing rapporteur on policy coherence for development of situations where imports of EU products have a negative impact on local markets. They also should be given the possibility of contributing to policy coherence for development (PCD) assessments, both directly by communications to the standing rapporteur and through PCD focal points in European Union delegations in third countries. The possibility for farmers organizations in developing countries to address the standing rapporteur on policy coherence for development is especially important since concerned developing countries face a number of obstacles in relying on WTO dispute settlement mechanisms, and capacity and resource constraints. Moreover, given the weight of political considerations, WTO dispute settlement mechanisms are unlikely to be used, even in situations where it would be legally feasible.
Adequate resources should be devoted to the PCD mechanism, including research capacity, which is not the case today. The EU trading partners in the developing world should also be encouraged to establish mechanisms through which their farmers organizations could file complaints regading the effects of import surges on their markets, and request that their Governments activate the flexibilities permissible under the relevant trade agreements. . This is fundamentally incompatible with demands imposed on developing countries that they further liberalize their markets to imports, or that they renounce using certain tools, such as supply management schemes or tariffs. The Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) proposed by the EU to the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP) should be assessed against this background. The Special Rapporteur is concerned that EPAs include commitments that go beyond the disciplines imposed under the WTO agreements, such as tariff standstill provisions, bans on export restrictions and export taxes, caps on remedy sizes available under the bilateral safeguard clause, and fail to discipline the use of export subsidies by EU partners. A proper assessment of the impact of the CAP reform on the right to food in developing countries should consider this reform in its wider context. It should be seen as an opportunity to reexamine choices made in the past in the light of the new consensus on how to improve global food security and the imperative to realize the right to food for all.
4. The EU should align its export strategies with national strategies for the realization of the right to food of net-food-importing developing countries, and it should support the adoption of such national strategies where they do not yet exist.
Such strategies can play an important role in the realization of the right to food by ensuring adequate resource mobilization, improving coordination across different branches of government, setting timebound objectives, and establishing participatory bodies to ensure that policies address the real needs of people. Most importantly in the current context, such multi-year strategies for the realization of the right to food are particularly relevant when a transition is to be organized towards food systems that benefit the most vulnerable segments of the population and that reduce vulnerability.
The EU export policies should be aligned with those national strategies and support them, and the compatibility of EU export policies with these strategies should be assessed regularly as part of the PCD biennal reviews. In the view of the Special Rapporteur, this is the most effective means by which the EU, as a major food exporter, can help net-food-importing developing countries rebuild their agricultural systems and reduce their current vulnerability to price shocks.
The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, has insisted on the need for States to work towards "the adoption of a national strategy to ensure food and nutrition security for all, based on human rights principles that define the objectives, and the formulation of policies and corresponding benchmarks."31 Such a national strategy should comprise the establishment of appropriate institutional mechanisms, particularly in order to: (i) identify, at the earliest stage possible, emerging threats to the right to food through adequate monitoring systems; (ii) enhance coordination between relevant ministries and between the national and sub-national levels of government; (iii) improve accountability, with a clear delineation of responsibilities, and the setting of precise timeframes for the realization of the various dimensions of the right to food, which require progressive implementation; and (iv) ensure meaningful, inclusive and transparent participation by all segments of society, particularly the most food-insecure. In the 2004 Voluntary Guidelines to support the progressive realization of the right to adequate food in the context of national food security adopted by the 127th session of the FAO Council, Governments unanimously committed to the adoption of nationally-owned strategies. The Final Declaration adopted at the November 2009 Rome Summit on World Food Security reiterates this commitment (para. 9).
5. The EU should integrate the CAP reform into a broader strategy to improve food systems.
This strategy should, in particular, seek sustainable ways to reduce losses and waste in food chains, and reallocate cereals used in animal feed to human consumption.
B. The Special Rapporteur makes the following specific recommendations with regard to the role of the EU as an importer of food products:
1. The EU should review its existing tariff structure
with the view to encourage diversification of economies of developing countries into higher added-value products and the emergence of a food processing industry, which will create employment opportunities that can contribute to the realization of the right to food for the urban poor.
2. The EU should address power imbalances in food chains by more effectively applying its competition law
to address the creation, maintenance and abuse of buyer power not only to protect suppliers, particularly in developing countries, from the impacts of abuses of dominant positions, but also to ensuring the longer term stability of supply for consumers.
3. The EU could put in place a system of positive incentives to encourage the import of agricultural products to the EU that comply with certain environmental, social and human rights standards
, in particular by ensuring fair revenues for producers and living wages for agricultural workers.
4. The EU should mitigate the negative impacts of increased biofuel production
that are encouraged by EU subsidies and fiscal incentives and by the adopted target of 10 per cent of renewable energies in the transportation sector by 2020.
Olivier De Schutter was appointed the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food in March 2008 by the United Nations Human Rights Council. He is independent from any government or organization, and he reports to the Human Rights Council and to the UN General Assembly.