> Explanation

He was speaking in a special information session organized by the WTO Secretariat and chaired by Agriculture Division Director Clemens Boonekamp immediately after the Agriculture Committee’s meeting. He said the emphasis of the 2010 “Updated Comprehensive Framework for Action” has shifted.

Both versions of the plan distinguish between immediate needs to deal with emergencies and longer term requirements. Dr Nabarro said that in 2008 the emphasis was on the need for humanitarian aid arising from soaring food prices.

Now the framework responds to a wider range of issues that have gained prominence. These include a stronger long term perspective aimed at making food supply more resilient and recognition that investment in agriculture is needed. There is also a sharper focus on the nutritional aspects of food security, the environment, farmers and landholding, women, trade at all levels the right to food, and improved coordination and governance, he said.


The “Framework for Action” is produced by the High Level Task Force on the Global Food Security Crisis, which Mr Ban Ki-moon chairs himself, with FAO Director General Jacques Diouf as vice-chair, and comprises representatives of 22 international organizations, including the WTO. Dr Nabarro is the coordinator.

The task force defines food security as:

  • Production and availability of food
  •  Access to food and nutrition
  • People’s use of food and nutrition to lead their lives to the full potential
  • Stability of supply

Dr Nabarro said the updated framework included more detailed treatment of some difficult issues, where opinions differed and negotiation was needed, such as the environmental impacts and countries’ sovereignty over food policies.

Disagreements existed within governments, civil society groups, the media and the 22 agencies in the task force. That meant the negotiations were tough, but the document was produced and many are comfortable with it, he said.

Trade and aid for trade are important, he told the WTO audience. Local, national and global markets have to be meaningful, prices have to send the proper signals and farmers have to be able to work in markets that they can use, he said.

When trade functions, farmers can use it to “capture value” as products go through various levels of processing. Dr Nabarro said this can have more of an impact on tackling poverty than anything else — so long as markets work.

The task force also strongly supports concluding the WTO negotiations. “The Doha Round is good for poor nations,” he said.


WTO delegates from Brazil, India, Uruguay, Egypt, Pakistan and Japan appreciated the presentation and asked questions or commented on issues such as the impact of biofuels on food security, and whether or not developing countries should be allowed extensive use of contingency measures such as special safeguards.

Some welcomed the “rarely” expressed view that trade can benefit food security and asked for more case studies of countries that have improved food security through trade.

Dr Nabarro said that broadly he is uncomfortable if biofuels are produced from staple foods or pulses. If other products such as sugar are used, then the problems are fewer, unless there is competition for land and water, he said.

He added that countries imposing export bans are a worry because this can have a domino effect — other countries following the example. He said the group would try to produce more case studies.

These are Dr Nabarro’s speaking notes:

Presentation of the Updated Comprehensive for Action (UCFA) to WTO
18th November 2010

First of all, allow me to thank you very much indeed for this invitation. My name is David Nabarro. I work as the United Nations Secretary General Special Representative for Food Security and Nutrition. I am very pleased to have such an excellent opportunity to be here, to spend a few moments talking with you about efforts on food security undertaken by the international community during the last three years. I would like to start by providing some background that might be helpful.

Background: In 2008, soaring food prices and the intensification of food crisis, with food riots reported in more than 35 countries, called for a more sustained, action-oriented and effective response to global food insecurity. Food systems showed they were in crisis.

Since then, arrangements for responding to food insecurity challenges looked at four different elements:

  • the countries affected by food insecurity
  • the investors in countries’ efforts to improve food security
  • the organizations that support both countries and investors (including the UN system, regional bodies like CAADP [Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme], CGIAR [Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research] institutions), and
  • the governance of international assistance to affected countries.

High Level Task Force (HLTF): In April 2008, the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon established the High Level Task Force (HLTF) on the Global Food Security Crisis. He asked 22 different organizations, funds, programs and other entities within the United Nations family, also the Bretton Woods institutions, the World Trade Organization, the OECD to come together and work out how to address food insecurity in a more sustainable, coordinated and comprehensive way.

The HLTF was designed to ensure coordinated UN system support for governments and other stakeholders as they responded to food security crisis and its effects among many of the world’s most vulnerable peoples.

Comprehensive Framework for Action (CFA): One of the first tasks of the HLTF in July 2008 has been to develop a comprehensive strategy for responses to the food security crisis. This strategy — the Comprehensive Framework for Action (CFA) — was designed to encourage concerted responses to the food price crisis with actions that respond to the immediate needs of vulnerable populations and contribute to longer-term resilience (the twin track approach).

  • It served as the glue which kept the UN system together on food security issue while encouraging synergized system-wide support for this strategy within countries and HLTF agencies and in engagement with civil society and private sector partners.
  •  It has also been of use to governments and development partners as they have planned strategic responses to global food insecurity, seeking more effective means to reduce chronic hunger (and realize the first Millennium Development Goal).

Change is in the wind: Since 2008 there have been some changes in all of the directions identified above:

  • countries affected by food insecurity increased their attention, including political, to food and nutrition security
  •  investors in countries’ efforts to improve food security pledged support (EUFF [European Union Food Facility], AFSI [Aquila Food Security Initiative], GAFSP [Global Agriculture and Food Security Program]) and agreed on adopting 5 principles to guide future work: country based programming with countries in the lead; comprehensive approaches; multilateral actions; coordinated efforts by everybody and increased investments;
  • the organizations that support both countries and investors underwent important reforms (CGIAR) or further synchronized their work on food and nutrition security (HLTF, SUN [Scaling-up Nutrition], AU [African Union], APEC [Asia Pacific Economic Co-operation], ASEAN [Association of Southeast Asian Nations]) and
  • the governance of international assistance to affected countries (CFS [FAO’s Committee on World Food Security] reform).

Updating the CFA: As the food security context changed between 2008 and 2010, there was a growing sense that the CFA would need to be updated to take into account the superposition of economic, climate, environment and food crises and the evolving debates about the relative importance of different drivers for the food crisis and better reflect the importance of some dimensions — particularly the nutrition dimensions of food security, the right to food, women and food security and environmental dimensions of food production — in the approach.

Towards the end of 2009, the HLTF asked that the CFA be updated to better reflect ways in which UN System acts to tackle food and nutrition insecurity. The process of updating the CFA has been conducted by the HLTF agencies with the active and constructive involvement of stakeholders from governments, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), civil society organizations (CSOs), smallholder farmers’ organizations and the private sector.

CFA and UCFA: Compared to the 2008 CFA, the Updated CFA is still based on the twin track approach, but it covers a wider range of issues and contains a more detailed treatment of all aspects of food and nutrition security, including increased focus on ecosystem management, access to as well as tenure and ownership of land, water security, nutrition, urban hunger, pastoralists, gender, private sector involvement, trade and environmental sustainability, employment and right to food approach.

It acknowledges that, while States have the primary role in ensuring food and nutrition security for all, a multiplicity of other actors have vital contributions to make.

As for its predecessor the Updated Comprehensive Framework for Action is now being pursued throughout the United Nations family. What we do in this comprehensive framework while emphasizing growing complexity beyond food issues is seeing the four dimensions of food security as one complete whole. That means:

  •  the production of food
  •  ensuring that people can access the food they need; and get the nutrients they require;
  • once they have consumed that food, those nutrients are available to enable them to lead their life to their full potential
  • and then there is stability of supplies over time.

I am stressing those four dimensions because what we have learnt is that for good nutritional outcomes, food security has to address the four dimensions. It is not sufficient to think only in terms of how much food has been produced by a country or even how much food is accessible to a community. We have to keep the whole picture in mind.

Trade issues and UCFA: Improving the stability of food supplies (forth component stressed above) to ensure food security requires both local and international food markets to work well.

Trade is a fundamental part of the food security equation. Locally, well-functioning food markets and trade have huge potential to increase small farmers’ integration into value chains so as to increase their value capture (capacity building for their umbrella/apex organizations will be needed to fully exploit the potential).

UCFA promotes regional political and economic integration and better functioning environments for trade, especially for food.

At the international level, well-functioning food markets can help trade benefit LDCs [least-developed countries] and their farmers if those are assisted with proper policy measures on research, infrastructures, extension services, nutritional food security just to mention a few (all of which in the green box of WTO ie, non-distorting [domestic support]).

Again capacities will have to be built for LDCs to realize increasing benefits from trade. UCFA calls for more “aid for trade” and for better trade financing infrastructure among others.

The Doha Round can provide a huge opportunity for trade negotiations to serve the interests of the LDCs by increasing uniformity of treatment and increasing transparency.

At the same time, trade policies need to increasingly be assessed in their impact on food security (and some would even say in their potential to favour the realization of the right to food of people): food security can offer a privileged perspective to appreciate the real cost of subsidies and bans in higher income and/or producing countries; or to frame the debate about (small) food emergency reserve, or to promote debate on coherence between agricultural and trade policies.

Finally, stability of food supply also calls for a tighter oversight of the speculation in international commodity markets as exacerbated price volatility has shown to penalize small food producers who are all too often net food buyers. Limit the scope for excessive speculation in food markets is one element of the UCFA as it is becoming one element for debate in many other arenas (G8/G20/CFS etc.).

Finally, while higher prices in agriculture can stimulate investments in the longer-term and therefore benefit small farmers, there are many non-price variables determining farmers’ choices (land tenure security, access to credit, access to inputs etc.) that also need to be addressed by appropriate agricultural/food security policies.

UCFA Dissemination: The Updated Comprehensive Framework for Action was presented at the last 36th meeting of the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) (Rome, 11-14 and 16 October 2010). It was offered to the CFS Chair to help inform the development of the CFS Global Strategic Framework for Food Security and Nutrition.

This was well received and debates during the CFS week highlighted the importance of nutrition, land issues, social protection, women role and environmental issues to tackle food insecurity. The importance of inter-sector linkages was stressed as well as a strong encouragement to pursue efforts for coordinated actions by the UN supporting the engagement of governments alongside civil society, farmers’ organizations, private sector and research institutions.

The Updated CFA is particularly designed to aid coordination among HLTF member agencies at country level. It is a guiding strategic document for the HLTF but it has been released as a public good seeking to encourage a coordinated engagement by multiple stakeholders and to improve accountability of the international system on food and nutrition security.

The HLTF Coordination Team together with HLTF Agencies is undertaking specific actions to disseminate the use of the UCFA as a tool for stimulating and supporting a comprehensive and partnership approach for food and nutrition security at global, regional and country-level.

We are seeking to encourage an effective pursuit of comprehensive and twin-track approaches within intergovernmental organizations involved in economic, development, agriculture, food, social welfare, health and education.

It is crucial to catalyze, encourage and support efforts to create awareness of and political support for the principles and objectives included in the UCFA among the HLTF agencies as a first priority but also among the broader range of stakeholders at country, regional and global levels towards the realization of agreed outcomes.

The World Trade Organization has been an active and constructive actor throughout the process of updating the Comprehensive Framework for Action. It is now to us to maintain the momentum and facilitate the dissemination and monitoring of the use of the CFA in its updated form.

I trust you will all stay engaged in this process as your support in the progressive synchronization of food and trade agendas and debates will reveal being crucial.

Allow me to congratulate with you as events as such the one we are attending today represents an important milestone towards the mainstreaming of UCFA principles and the achievement of its outcomes.

RSS news feeds

> Problems viewing this page?
Please contact [email protected] giving details of the operating system and web browser you are using.