Dodwell in SOM3 Medan - Post 2

June 25, 2013

At last, after 18 fractious months, the Policy Partnership on Food Security is through the starting gate. To the intense relief of those who began to call for an APEC Food Security body more than a decade ago, we now have an Action Plan, a Road Map, Vision and Mission statements – and fairly firm commitments that private sector voices will play a significant role.

It took three days of fairly intense behind the scenes negotiation between Saturday and Monday to get final agreement on a Roadmap to the goal of food security by 2020. From a Niigata Declaration – which provides the Action Plan”, comprising a laundry list of 62 action items – we have now got a Roadmap of just three pages. It plausibly passes muster as “strategic, result oriented, and comprehensive”, but there will be many in the APEC business community who say this still lacks the discipline of a corporate plan, with concrete and measureable objectives, timetables, milestones, and metrics by which progress is measured.

And the commitments to private sector influence pepper the entire document: each of the four Working Groups have been tasked to develop an “implementation plan which details in a style of a multi-year business plan, integrating the private sector in very specific ways, including who exactly will do what, when, where, how and how actions will be funded.” The Roadmap promises that “public private partnership will be the main approach”.

Quite what shape these commitments will take in the years ahead is of course anyone’s guess, and I am sure there are cynics aplenty, but completion of the Roadmap is a major milestone for the PPFS: drafting of the Roadmap – along with a massive (350 page) stock take of other food security related initiatives around the world – was the responsibility of the PPFS’s Working Group 1. Until its work was complete, then the other three Working Groups - Sustainable development of agricultural and fishery sector; Facilitation of investment and infrastructure development; and Enhancing trade and Markets - could not begin to roll up their sleeves.

But here in Medan, for the first time, these three implementation-focused Working Groups finally got down to work, and by all accounts made creditable progress. By Monday, all had embryonic implementation plans in progress. By the time the PPFS Management Council meets in Kyoto early in July, there should be even more substance.

While we have to confess that few of the 65 business members of the PPFS were actually in attendance in Medan, the business presence was notable – and the impact of ABAC was equally strong, with muscular and influential input from Hong Kong, New Zealand and Canadian business representatives.

Indonesia’s concern to give priority to protecting small farmers’ welfare was properly respected, but so too was the business call for free and open trade in food products – so long as it “supports food security, improves incomes, and improves availability or access to nutritious food, and improves price stability”.

Between now and the first PPFS meeting next year, working Groups 2,3 and 4 are tasked to flesh out the details of their multi-year plans. Whether in the process the plans balloon out towards a Niigata Action Plan laundry list, or slim down to a focused and “doable” strategic plan to achieve measurable targets by 2020, is yet to be seen.

At least now, after 18 months of demoralizing stutter, business can re-engage with specific plans and proposals, and a commitment to enforcing some business discipline in tracking progress towards the 2020 goals. As a template for future business-public sector engagement in APEC, it needs to succeed.

⇒  More blog posts from the SOM3 Medan meetings series.

⇒  Dodwell's other meetings blogs.


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