CSM Working Group on Agricultural Investment


  • Djibo Bagna – ROPPA
  • Javier Sanchez – LVC


  • Nico Verhagen – LVC
  • Shalmali Guttal – Focus on the Global South

Working Group email address: csm.ag.investment@csm4cfs.org

CSO Working Group Members: List of Agricultural Investment WG members

*Please note that the list is updated approximately once every month, so if your name does not currently appear, it will be added shortly. If you wish to join the working group, please send an email to the CSM Secretariat cso4cfs@gmail.com and copy in the Coordinators.

This Working Group was established to focus on two main CFS issues:

  • 37th CFS Roundtable on “How to Increase Food Security and Small-holder sensitive Investment in Agriculture”
  • Open-ended Working Group for the development of Principles on Responsible Agricultural Investment

The CSM Working Group will continue to interface with the CFS process of consultation to develop “guidelines on responsible agricultural investment” (see below for full history).

WHY is it important to participate in the Agricultural Investment discussions in the CFS?

Final CFS Policy Outcomes:

CSM Statement at CFS 41 on RAI

The Civil Society Mechanism is fully committed to the CFS and we seek to strengthen its work and outcomes because we believe in its potential to help achieve the Right to Food. It is in this spirit that we engaged in the negotiations on the Principles for Responsible Investment in Agriculture and Food Systems, and it is because of our commitment that we are disappointed to say that for the constituencies of civil society – peasants, fisher-folk, pastoralists, landless, urban poor, agricultural and food workers, women, youth, consumers, indigenous peoples, and NGOs – the document is not useful.

As civil society we developed our position on responsible agricultural investment through extensive global consultation.

Regrettably the Principles do not meet the key points on which our position is based, as elaborated below:

  • Be anchored in a rights-sed framework

The Principles refer to human rights but only in the letter not the spirit because this is undermined by repeated references that seek to subordinate human rights to trade agreements and rules, which is unacceptable. Unjust trade rules have removed from governments the resources and policy space needed for responsible investment which can help achieve the Right to Food.

  • Clearly recognise small-scale producers and workers as the main investors in agriculture

In the two paragraphs specially addressing smallholders, this is recognised, but the rest of the document subsequently ignores this and places the emphasis on facilitating large-scale investment. Further, the term “smallholders” used in the document leaves out the millions of people who are landless but deeply involved in agricultural investment

  • Include a commitment to create decent work and respect workers’ rights, and to overcome discrimination against women

We are glad that these issues are indeed taken up in the Principles. However we know that workers rights are harmed by unjust trade rules and women usually lose out the most in situations of trade liberalisation, so again what has been gained is compromised by the priority given to trade agreements.

  • Support peasant-based agro-ecological production systems, and local food systems and markets as well as the defence of peoples’ access to and control over land, forest, water, seeds and fisheries

There is a refusal throughout the Principles to acknowledge that different production systems have different environmental impacts. This silence allows business as usual for agricultural practices that damage people and the planet, which can now be carried out in the name of responsible agricultural investment.

The issues of land, water and resource grabbing was the driving impetus behind the Principles, but the Principles refuse to name these, and offer no protection for struggles on the ground. In fact attempts to block the accepted principle of Free, Prior and Informed Consent for Indigenous Peoples is unacceptable. The CFS should base decisions on the UN’s minimum accepted standard on human rights of Indigenous Peoples.

  • Prioritise effective public policies and investment that support and defend small-scale producers, workers and local food systems

The Principles do not prioritise public policy at all. They prioritise an enabling environment for market-based solutions without any recognition of power imbalances. Markets do not work for the vulnerable and there is thus a strong need for market regulation to address problems that occur for instance in public-private partnerships, contract farming and abuse of concentrated market power.

  • Include a strong role for States for monitoring of the Principles in an inclusive way

The Principles reduce national level monitoring to measuring without actually doing anything about problems.

The Principles stand or fall as a whole and their foundation is fundamentally flawed. They will not help small-scale food producers and workers overcome the economic, environmental and political constraints that hamper their capacities, and they will not assist people who are struggling to defend their land, seeds and territories.

Civil society is concerned that the weakness and incoherence in the Principles will be used to legitimise irresponsible investments. We remind States that they have an obligation to act according to the highest human rights standards. We call upon the CFS to accept responsibility for monitoring what is done in the name of the Principles.

Download the statement


In October 2010 during the 36th Session of the CFS, the CSO delegation successfully blocked endorsement of the “Principles for Responsible Agricultural Investment that Respects Rights, Livelihoods and Resources” (RAI), which were developed by the World Bank, UNCTAD, FAO and IFAD in 2009.

The Civil Society declaration during the Land Tenure Roundtable specifically stated:

“We call on the CFS to not endorse the Principles for Responsible Agricultural Investment that Respects Rights, Livelihoods and Resources (RAI): the RAI is not an adequate instrument to regulate private investment; moreover, RAI principles have been formulated through an exclusive process without the participation of communities and constituencies most affected by agricultural investments, especially private investments.  What is needed instead are nationally and internationally enforceable laws and public regulations on all investments pertaining to land, including provisions on extra-territorial obligations of states to regulate and make private companies accountable for their operations abroad.”

The Final document and decision box from the CFS Roundtable on Land Tenure, can be found HERE 

CSO messages developed during the 2010 Annual CSM Forum, just prior to the CFS session can be found HERE

In October 2011 during the 37th Session of the CFS, the Committee agreed to the following:

“v.iii. Supports launching an inclusive consultation process within the CFS for the development and the broader ownership of principles for responsible agricultural investment that enhance food security and nutrition to be overseen by the CFS Bureau with the assistance of the joint Secretariat and in close collaboration with the Advisory Group and the involvement of all interested stakeholders with a view to submitting these principles for the consideration of CFS.

  1. Acknowledges that the first step of this inclusive consultation process will be to find agreement on the scope, purpose, intended recipients and structure of these principles as well as on the format of the consultation process, taking into account existing frameworks – including the RAI principles developed by FAO, IFAD, UNCTAD and the World Bank – and respecting the need to maintain full coherence and avoid duplication with the Voluntary Guidelines on Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land and other Natural Resources, which are expected to be approved prior to the start of this consultation process”

The full document can be found HERE 

CSO messages developed during the 2011 Annual CSM Forum, just prior to the CFS session can be found HERE 


The consultative process on RAI will involve two steps:

  1. The first step is aimed at developing the Terms of Reference (TOR) of the consultation (scope, purpose, intended recipients and structure of the principles as well as the format).
  2. The second step–once the TOR have been agreed—the consultation process will commence.

Provisional timeline:

Zero Draft is discussed in Open Ended Working Group in Rome

23 & 24 September 2013

Regional and electronic consultations


(Pending availability of funds, consultations may not be held in all regions)

October 2013 – 15 March 2014
Endorsement of way forward at 40th Session of the CFS7-11 October 2013
Release of Draft One1 April 2014
Preliminary discussion on Draft One in OEWG29 – 30 April 2014
Global meeting to be held in Rome to negotiate Final Version19 – 23 May 2014
rai principles are endorsed at CFS 41 PlenaryOctober 2014




Background Documents:  Agricultural investment_briefing_note

Phase 1: July 2 rai Workshop

Phase 1: July 25 rai Workshop

Phase 1: September 6 rai Workshop 

Phase 2: May OEWG & ZERO Draft.


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