The participation of small-scale farmers at the table of international negotiations and the protection of agricultural biodiversity are key to food security, according to the Quaker United Nations which published Office, last month two policy briefs with a list of recommendations. Underlining the fact that half the world’s food is produced by 1.5 billion small-scale farmers, the brief explains the importance of small-scale farmer representation in international discussions related to food and nutrition security, innovation, climate change, human rights, and the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Policy Brief

The policy brief entitled, “Are small-scale farmers at the table: Reflections on small-scale farmers’ participation in global and national decision-making,” was authored by Susan Bragdon of the Food & Sustainability programmed of the Quaker United Nations Office (QUNO). Farmers being a highly diverse group, the brief say, there is a need for guidelines to help countries identify and ensure the “full spectrum of small-scale farmer interests has an adequate and effective voice in negotiating processes and in project proposals and development.” The brief provides six recommendations for multilateral institutions, such as: the adoption of clear and broad criteria for accreditation as observers, funding mechanisms to facilitate small-scale farmers’ direct participation, that international body’s secretariats ensure the right of participation and access to information and justice, and that they consult directly with small-scale farmers.
A second policy brief, titled Evolution of Rights and Responsibilities over Agricultural Biodiversity, also authored by Bragdon, provides a historical perspective on the evolution of rights and responsibilities over that diversity. Agricultural biodiversity “is critical to achieve many of the Sustainable Development Goals,” the brief says, and is being discussed in several areas, such as trade, intellectual property, environment, agriculture, and sustainable development.


According to the brief, there is a need to build awareness of the interrelationships between treaties addressing the issue of the protection of biodiversity. This includes the UN Convention on Biological Diversity; the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV); the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture; the World Intellectual Property Organization Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore (IGC); and the World Trade Organization Council for the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), it says.“It is also critical to understand the central role inequity played, and continues to play, both amongst the treaties and instruments discussed in this paper as well as in the broader international legal landscape that includes trade agreements. Inequity breeds mistrust hindering collaboration and coherence across instrument,” the brief says.