The role of South-South and triangular cooperation for sustainable agriculture development and food security in developing countries - Note by the UNCTAD secretariat

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Trade and Development Board
Investment, Enterprise and Development Commission
Multi-year Expert Meeting on International Cooperation:
South-South Cooperation and Regional Integration
Second session
Geneva, 14-16 December 2009

Executive summary

With South-South economic cooperation on the rise, there are many opportunities for developing countries to benefit from the experiences of their more successful counterparts in the developing world through enhanced trade and investment links and knowledge transfer. Since 2005, rising international demand for food products, the diversion of some food crops to biofuel production, and excessive speculation in commodity markets have led to sharp increases in the prices of some key food products, ultimately triggering the 2008 global food crisis. The immediate negative impact of the crisis was felt most in lowincome, food-deficit and import-dependent countries, especially those in Africa, whose food import bills grew on average by nearly 60 per cent between 2007 and 2008. Fortunately, prices have come down from their peak in mid-2008, although they are still above their pre-crisis levels. Therefore, food insecurity remains a pressing concern for many poor economies, and must be given a more prominent position on the international development agenda, as UNCTAD has consistently stressed. This background note explores how South-South cooperation, including with the support of development partners (triangular cooperation), could raise agricultural output, particularly in low-income and food-deficit economies, facilitate the transition to sustainable agricultural production, and help tackle the scourge of global poverty.

Since the onset of the global food crisis, agriculture has moved to the forefront of the development agenda. Most of the commentary concerns the failure of agriculture in many developing countries to serve as an engine of development and poverty reduction. But the experiences of developing countries are not all failures. As this background note shows, there are success stories involving the contribution of agriculture to sustainable economic growth, poverty reduction and food security. Their successes offer important lessons to the countries that have suffered most from the crisis, and also demonstrate the tremendous potential that can be played by South-South cooperation. This UNCTAD expert meeting will address how South-South and triangular cooperation can help poor economies reverse the decline in agricultural productivity and increase investment in agriculture, rural infrastructure and agricultural research and development.