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Commission on Sustainable Development
CSD 2000

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Decision on Agriculture adopted 

1. Introduction

1. Agriculture as an economic sector is being considered by the Commission on Sustainable Development at its eighth session from the broad perspective of sustainable development, highlighting the linkages between economic, social and environmental objectives. As contained in Agenda 21, particularly chapter 14, and the Programme for the Further Implementation of Agenda 21, adopted by the General Assembly at its nineteenth special session, agriculture has to meet the fundamental challenge of satisfying the demands of a growing population for food and other agricultural commodities, especially in developing countries. The particular focus of the discussion has been promoting sustainable agriculture and rural development (SARD), in accordance with the principles of the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development and the internationally agreed objectives contained in chapter 14 of Agenda 21 as well as, inter alia, the Rome Declaration on World Food Security and the World Food Summit Plan of Action adopted by the World Food Summit (Rome, November 1996). The basis for achieving SARD in all countries is contained in these and other commitments; what is needed is their full implementation at all levels.

2. Agriculture has a special and important place in society because it ensures the production of food and fibre, is essential to food security and to social and economic development, employment, maintenance of the countryside, and conservation of land and natural resources, and helps sustain rural life and land. The major objectives of SARD is to increase food production and enhance food security in an environmentally sound way so as to contribute to sustainable natural resource management. Food security - although a policy priority for all countries - remains an unfulfilled goal. About 790 million people living in developing countries and 34 million in industrialized countries and in countries with economies in transition are undernourished. While some improvement in the situation has recently been noted, the international community must be concerned that the average annual decrease of undernourished people is insufficient to achieve the target set at the 1996 World Food Summit to reduce by half the number of undernourished by 2015 (Plan of Action, para. 7).

3. Progress in poverty eradication is critical to improve access to food and promote food security. About 1.5 billion people in the world live in poverty and recent trends indicate this number could rise to 1.9 billion by 2015. In addition, the gap between rich and poor is widening, and the poor in general - especially women, disadvantaged groups, rural people living in poverty and indigenous communities - are being increasingly marginalized. The inextricable link between hunger and poverty means that the goals of achieving food security in the context of SARD and pursuing the eradication of poverty, among both urban and rural people living in poverty, as agreed, inter alia, at the World Summit for Social Development (Copenhagen, 1995), have to be addressed in an integrated manner. It remains essential to continue efforts for the eradication of poverty, through, inter alia, capacity-building to reinforce local food systems and improving food security. The concept of sustainable agriculture and rural development offers such an approach.

2. Priorities for action

(a) Implementation of sustainable agriculture and rural development (SARD) goals

4. Governments are encouraged to complete the formulation and elaboration of national strategies for sustainable development by 2002, as agreed in the Programme for the Further Implementation of Agenda 21. Local Agenda 21 and other local sustainable development programmes should also be actively encouraged. In this regard, Governments are encouraged to integrate agricultural production, food security and food safety, that upholds food security, environmental protection and rural development as central elements in those strategies.

5. All Governments are urged to reaffirm their individual and collective commitments to achieving food security, particularly through sustainable development of domestic food production, combined with the importation, where appropriate, and storage of food, and to reaching the important goal to reduce the number of undernourished people by one half by 2015, as agreed at the World Food Summit. In this regard, Governments and international organizations are encouraged to make available and provide technical and financial assistance to effectively support the achievement of food security in developing countries.

6. Governments are urged to develop coherent national policy and legal frameworks for sustainable rural development, with the emphasis on, inter alia, socioeconomic diversification, employment, capacity-building, participation, poverty eradication, empowerment and partnerships. Governments should take a cross-sectoral approach to integrating agriculture in rural development frameworks and strategies so as to maximize synergies and improve coherence. In particular, Governments are encouraged to assess the effects of agriculture on ecosystems.

7. Governments are urged to promote agricultural practices based on natural resource management, including through integrated farm input management, agro-ecological, organic, urban and peri-urban agriculture and agro-forestry, with a view to providing sustainable management of all types of production systems and other benefits, such as soil, water and land conservation and agro-biodiversity enhancement and recognising the need for technical and financial assistance to developing countries to this end. Environmentally sound traditional and local knowledge should be recognised, protected and promoted.

8. Governments are encouraged to continue studying the economic, social and environmental aspects of sustainable agriculture and rural development, the major objective of which is to increase food production in a sustainable way and enhance food security, based on chapter 14 of Agenda 21, avoiding unjustifiable trade barriers and taking into account the discussions in FAO and other international organisations.

9. Governments are encouraged to pursue an ecosystem approach to SARD, taking into account, inter alia, the actions necessary to mitigate the negative impacts and to enhance the positive impacts of agriculture and animal production on natural ecosystems, in particular on those with high biodiversity. In this regard, it is important that Governments and international agencies continue developing studies on the impact of agriculture on forests with the objectives of identifying appropriate activities and recommendations. The international community is urged to support, inter alia, the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification and its Global Mechanism which should also contribute to conserving and rehabilitating the natural resources in lower-potential land and to control land degradation, especially in developing countries.

10. Governments are urged to pay particular attention to the social dimension of SARD, including health protection. Governments should take fully into account the interests of small-scale farmers and agricultural workers, including the effects of agricultural practices on human health and safety in terms of both consumption and production.

11. Taking into account countries' common but differentiated responsibilities and their specific national and regional development priorities, objectives and circumstances, the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, within its operational requirements, is encouraged to promote the use of its relevant mechanisms to support initiatives in line with national programmes promoting SARD that result, inter alia, in reduced greenhouse emissions or carbon sequestration, as well as increased investments in energy efficiency and the use of renewable energy sources.

12. The Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity, the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification and the governing body of the Global Environment Facility (GEF), within their established work programmes and operational programmes, are encouraged to promote the use of their relevant mechanisms to support SARD-related initiatives, in line with national programmes, that result, inter alia, in the conservation and sustainable use of agro-biodiversity.

13. The Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity and Governments are encouraged to support the strengthening and effective implementation of the work programme of the Convention on agricultural biological diversity and to support FAO and other relevant institutions in their roles in the implementation of this work programme.

(b) Access to other resources

14. Governments are encouraged to adopt and implement measures that guarantee access to technology and research, in particular for women, disadvantaged groups, people living in poverty, indigenous and local communities, in order to ensure a sustainable use of land and water resources. Access to credit, particularly through rural microcredit schemes, is also important.

(c) Poverty eradication

15. All Governments and the international community are urged to implement the relevant commitments they have entered into for the eradication of poverty, including those contained in the Copenhagen Declaration on Social Development and Programme of Action of the World Summit for Social Development adopted by the World Summit for Social Development, and to further promote income-generation through agriculture to achieve this goal in accordance with SARD. Special emphasis should be given to those zones with high levels of poverty and high biodiversity.

(d) Financing for SARD

16. The financing for the implementation of Agenda 21 is expected to be met, in general, from domestic resources. All Governments are urged to provide an enabling environment for mobilising domestic and international resources.

17. Additional international financial support will be very important for developing countries. The international community is urged to fulfil the commitments undertaken for the provision of financial assistance for promoting SARD as set out in Agenda 21. Developing countries and their partners should make particular efforts to ensure that a substantial share of ODA is directed to the agricultural and rural development sectors in developing countries, especially in the least developed countries and net food importing countries, in accordance with national development strategies in recipient countries, given that ODA provided to these sectors has been steadily declining during the past two decades.

18. The international community, including the United Nations system and the international financial institutions, is urged to provide support to institutional reform and development of market infrastructure and access for achieving SARD in developing countries in particular, the least developed countries and countries with economies in transition.

19. Governments and the international community, including the United Nations system, are urged to assist developing countries, in particular the least developed countries, in developing strategies and in implementing measures to attract and to promote private capital flows and investment in sustainable agriculture and rural development directed to a wider range of developing countries, in particular the least developed countries, and countries with economies in transition, and to support the private sector's decision to direct a larger share of this capital to agriculture and rural development.

(e) Technology transfer and capacity-building

20. Governments, relevant international organizations and the private sector are urged both to continue and to increase their contribution to capacity-building and the transfer of appropriate technology, in particular environmentally sound technology, to developing countries and countries with economies in transition, as well as to promote partnerships for fostering sustainable agriculture and food security and promoting rural development.

21. International financial institutions are encouraged to further promote the transfer of technology and capacity-building, with emphasis on the allocation of funds to enable developing countries to achieve food security through enhanced agricultural production, including food storage systems and agro-food industries.

22. Relevant international, regional and national bodies and the private sector are encouraged to support developing countries in their efforts to increase research and to achieve national integrated natural resource management, appropriate technology and sustainable agricultural methods to achieve the objectives of food security and SARD, including participatory approaches, and to disseminate information on the results of their research and its applicability. Research should be carried out in a cooperative way involving both developed and developing countries.

23. Governments and the international community are encouraged to promote and share natural disaster early warning systems and enhance national capacities to prevent and mitigate the effects of natural disasters.

(f) Biotechnology

24. Governments are encouraged to explore, using transparent science-based risk assessment procedures, as well as risk management procedures, applying the precautionary approach - as articulated in Principle 15 of the Rio Declaration and recalled in the Cartagena Protocol to the Convention on Biological Diversity - the potential of appropriate and safe biotechnology for enhancing food security for all and sustainable agricultural techniques and practices, taking into account possible effects on the environment and human health.

25. Governments are urged to sign and ratify the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety to the Convention on Biological Diversity and to support its effective implementation.

26. Governments are encouraged to develop the appropriate legal frameworks, administrative and other measures and put into action appropriate strategies for sustainable agriculture and rural development, the protection of biodiversity, and the risk analysis and management of living modified organisms.

27. Governments and United Nations organizations are encouraged to promote only those applications of biotechnology that do not pose unacceptable risks to public health or the environment, bearing in mind ethical considerations as appropriate.

(g) Genetic resources

28. Governments are urged to strengthen their efforts for the sustainable use, conservation and protection of genetic resources. In this regard, Governments are urged to finalize the negotiations on the International Undertaking on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, as soon as possible, and to implement the Global Plan of Action for the Conservation and Sustainable Utilization of Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture of the Leipzig Technical International Conference on Plant Genetic Resources, and to implement and actively contribute to the further development of the Global Strategy for the Management of Farm Animal Genetic Resources. Governments are further encouraged to strengthen their efforts in effectively implementing the Convention on Biological Diversity, with the support of their development partners.

(h) Integrated pest management and integrated plant nutrition

29. Governments are urged to promote only the safe and sustainable use of plant protection products and plant nutrition in agricultural production and to strengthen practical ways to enhance the application of integrated pest management and integrated plant nutrition. All stakeholders, including farmers, the private sector and international organizations, are encouraged to form effective partnerships with Governments, including those that provide capacity building assistance for this purpose.

30. Sanitary and phytosanitary measures are relevant to sustainable agriculture and rural development. Their implementation must be in accordance with WTO agreements.

(i) Desertification and drought

31. Combating desertification and mitigating the effects of drought are crucial elements of SARD. Governments and relevant international organizations should promote the integration of national action programmes to combat desertification, developed under the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, into national strategies for sustainable development.

(j) Access to land and security of land tenure

32. Recognising the existence of different national laws and/or systems of land access and tenure, Governments, at appropriate levels, including the local authorities, are encouraged to develop and/or adopt policies and implement laws that guarantee to their citizens well-defined and enforceable land rights and promote equal access to land and legal security of tenure, in particular for women and disadvantaged groups, including people living in poverty and indigenous and local communities.

(k) Emergency preparedness

33. International agencies and other relevant organizations should assist Governments and regional entities, as appropriate, in developing and building capacity for the development and effective use of systems for early warning, natural disasters and environmental monitoring. Efforts to improve resilience of both agricultural and social systems dealing with natural hazards are also encouraged.

(l) Water resources

34. Water resources are essential for satisfying basic human needs, health and food production, energy, and the restoration and maintenance of ecosystems, and for social and economic development in general, and sustainable agricultural and rural development.

3. International cooperation

(a) Trade

35. Commodity exports, particularly primary commodity exports, are the mainstay of the economies of many developing countries in terms of their export earnings, the livelihood of their people and the dependence of general economic vitality on these exports. Commodity earnings instability continues to be problematic. Programmes that enhance commodity-based diversification in developing countries, in a manner supportive to sustainable development, including through improved market access, particularly for least-developed countries, can contribute to increase foreign exchange earnings and employment, as well as provide increased income from value-added production.

36. The Commission stresses the need to implement the Marrakesh Ministerial Decision on Measures Concerning the Possible Negative Effects of the Reform Programme on Least Developed and Net Food Importing Countries, the comprehensive and integrated Plan of Action for the Least Developed Countries of the World Trade Organization and the joint commitment by the heads of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank and the World Trade Organization to work together to assist developing countries in their adjustment process.

(b) Information exchange and dissemination

37. Governments and relevant international organizations are urged to disseminate widely, and to promote the access to farmers and those engaged in agriculture, of information on relevant sustainable agricultural practices, technologies and markets, inter alia, through capacity-building programmes, by utilizing information technology. In this context, special attention must be paid to the needs of women, marginalized groups and indigenous and local communities.

(c) United Nations and other international activities

38. FAO and other relevant international organizations, particularly the World Bank and the IMF are urged to assist countries in developing concrete policies and actions for the implementation of Agenda 21 concerning sustainable production and farming methods aimed at achieving the goals of the World Food Summit and of SARD. In particular, FAO is encouraged to develop a cross-sectoral programme on organic agriculture as part of its contribution to SARD.

39. Relevant international organizations are also urged to assist countries in developing policies for providing food security.

40. IFAD is encouraged to strengthen its assistance to rural communities in developing countries in support of their efforts to achieve SARD, primarily as a means to eradicate rural poverty.

41. Relevant organizations and bodies are encouraged to make further efforts, with special attention to the gender perspective, in developing methodologies and improving coordination for data collection, indicators analysis, monitoring and evaluation of public and private efforts to support sustainable agriculture and rural development.

42. Governments are urged to ratify the relevant legal international instruments, if they have not already done so, and to implement them in order to promote SARD.

43. In this regard, Governments are urged to finalize the negotiations on the international legally binding instrument for the implementation of international action on certain persistent organic pollutants (POPs) as soon as possible.

44. The Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) is invited to increase research and pursue partnerships in integrated natural resource management and to disseminate the results.

(d) Participation

45. Effective implementation of the SARD objectives requires participation of a wide range of stakeholders. Empowerment, participation and partnerships are critical to success in achieving SARD, in particular involvement of women, bearing in mind their important role in SARD. Governments and relevant international organizations are therefore urged, as appropriate, to further develop innovative institutional mechanisms to ensure effective stakeholder participation in decision-making related to SARD.

46. As part of the ongoing review of progress towards SARD and within existing structures and resources, the FAO and the CSD secretariat, in consultation with Governments, relevant international organisations and all major groups are invited to continue the stakeholder dialogue on SARD, including facilitating the adequate and meaningful participation of stakeholders from developing countries. In preparing for CSD-10 and Rio+10, this dialogue should emphasize the identification of specific examples and the development of case studies which illustrate or support the principles of sustainable agriculture and rural development.

Document made available in electronic format by the UN.


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