Options for promoting responsible investment in agriculture

UN Conference on Trade and Development | 3 June 2011

Report to the G20 Development Working Group:
"Options for Promoting Responsible Investment in Agriculture"

Key messages
The agriculture sector in low-income countries has suffered from serious underinvestment for decades. Any investment – public or private, domestic or foreign investment, can contribute to long-term solutions to food security and development, provided that such investment is socially responsible economically and environmentally sustainable. Criteria defining different facets of responsible agricultural investment can guide private investment, including from smallholders themselves, towards desirable outcomes while minimising the potential risks.

FAO, IFAD, UNCTAD and the World Bank have proposed one such set of criteria in their Principles for Responsible Agricultural Investment (PRAI).

The expected benefit of the PRAI is that their application to agricultural investments will reduce the generation of negative externalities and raise the likelihood of positive impacts.

The principles, based on detailed research on the nature, extent and impacts of foreign investment and best practices in law and policy, are intended to distil the lessons learned and provide a framework to which national regulations, international investment agreements, global corporate social responsibility initiatives and individual investment contracts might refer. The G20 can play a leadership role in the application of the PRAI.

Beyond endorsing an appropriate set of criteria, the G20 Governments can, individually or collectively, promote responsible investment in agriculture by:
  • supporting consultation and communication among all stakeholders concerning the definition and implementation of appropriate criteria.
  • advocating and supporting the application of these criteria by investors, governments, international organizations and civil society;
  • establishing mechanisms to monitor progress in the implementation of and compliance with the criteria;
  • furnishing technical assistance in capacity- and institution-building in low income countries to ensure responsible investment in agriculture; and
  • aligning their development policies to encourage responsible investment inagriculture.
The G20 has proposed a twin track approach as the way forward comprising piloting the PRAI (first track) and using the lessons learned to inform a consultation process (second track). The overall strategy envisages: first, the elaboration of the PRAI in the light of field experience, other similar schemes and the ongoing consultation process; secondly, developing guidance for host Government on policies and investors on the practical implementation of the PRAI; thirdly, a capacity building program especially targeting key host countries; and fourthly, creating a sufficient level of support, commitments and understanding that the PRAI are acknowledged as the benchmark with which to guide more responsible investments in agriculture.

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