On 31 January, CONCORD, represented by five of its member organisations, presented the briefing paper “Monitoring a moving target: Assessment of the implementation plan of the EU Food Security Policy Framework” to the Heads of Agriculture and Rural Development units from the governments of EU member states, as well as to DG DEVCO Rural Development Unit.

Representatives of EU member states and of the European Commission expressed interest for the analysis carried out by CONCORD, engaged in a critical discussion around the findings, and agreed on the need for further engagement with CONCORD around the implementation of the EU Food Security Policy and the next progress report to be issued in 2018.

Monitoring a moving target

Food and nutrition security continues to be a key policy area. The 2030 Agenda aspires to zero hunger worldwide by 2030. As well as being the explicit topic of Goal 2, food, agriculture and nutrition are deeply inter-related with many of the other goals. The Committee on World Food Security, reformed in the same wave of initiatives that led to the Framework, is providing an increasingly comprehensive range of policy guidance on food and nutrition security issues. Many of the current issues that we face, from migration to resilience to climate shocks are strongly affected by our food systems.

Monitoring a moving target

In view of this, the briefing paper, available to read below, seeks to contribute to the debate by making the following five recommendations to enable the monitoring process to be a useful, high quality exercise that is able to assess impacts of programmes on the lives of those most affected by hunger.

CONCORD’s five main recommendations:

Policy and strategy processes 

It is understandable that there be evolutions in policy and strategies over time. However, it is indispensable that such evolutions be subject to parliamentary oversight and elaborated with the participation of civil society and beneficiaries; small-scale farmers in partner countries in this case. They should also result in coherent strategies which reserve a central place to human rights as founding values and binding international obligations of the EU and its member states. This is not the case with the evolution of the EU Food Security Policy Framework.

Human Rights Framework

It is crucial to bring back the Right to Food approach to the policy, which has significantly decreased recently, especially in light of the recent recommitment by the European Union to a rights-based approach to development cooperation and of the centrality of human rights in the Sustainable Development Goals. There is also an urgent need to defend small-scale producers’ rights to the land they use, whether managed communally or individually; or under statutory or customary regimes. The worrying phenomena of land grabs needs to be curbed through effective implementation of the African Union Framework and Guidelines on Land Policy in Africa and the Committee on World Food Security Voluntary Guidelines on the Governance of Tenure. This should involve refraining from financial support to large scale land investments and a binding free, prior and informed consent requirement for all land-based investments.

Internal strategic coherence

The original focus of the Food Security Policy Framework is about empowering small-scale producers, particularly women, and on promoting ecological approaches. The goal of achieving significant increase of public investment in basic services to small-scale producers, including in infrastructure, access to productive resources, and increasing farmers’ knowledge and information services needs to be kept in the front line. The EU food security policy should promote ecological agriculture practices.

It is therefore essential that the EU – in consultation with civil society and small-scale producers’ organisations – revisits the Food Security Policy Framework implementation plan to ensure that it adheres to the original commitments of the Food Security Policy Framework while including emerging issues like nutrition and resilience to climate change. This would entail adopting a holistic food systems approach which recognises and respects the diverse functions of agriculture and the requirements of consumers, particularly those most exposed to food insecurity and malnutrition.

This is particularly important given the on-going revisions of the EU Consensus on Development and the EU’s MultiAnnual Financial Framework, both of which should keep a strong focus on inclusive agriculture development and food security.

External strategic coherence 

It is essential that the EU’s policy is placed in coherence with the policy guidance of the Committee on World Food Security, also considering the central role that the Committee on World Food Security will be playing with regard to the food security-related Sustainable Development Goals.

Monitoring methodology and practice 

In order to ensure that the EU policy and practice are grounded on solid evidence, the methodological shortcomings in the biennial reporting methodology should be addressed. Lessons should be learned from experience. Civil society should be engaged in designing monitoring methodology and producing the reports, which should attach far more importance to the impacts of programmes on the ground – the economic impact, but also the social, environmental and governance impacts, since those four dimensions of development are indivisible.

Furthermore, use of qualitative assessment criteria, in addition to quantitative data, should be increased to ensure that strong empirical elements back up the conclusions drawn. Emerging experience in the Committee on World Food Security is relevant here. The EU should support mechanisms to ensure contribution of small-scale producers’ groups, communities and other beneficiaries in programme design and monitoring. Producers’ knowledge of agro-ecosystems, resilience, and seed and natural resource management are critical to identifying challenges and building appropriate local to continental responses.