The Principles for Responsible Investment in Agriculture and Food Systems recently approved by the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) are to ensure that cross-border and corporate investment flows lead to improved food security and sustainability and respect the rights of farm and food workers. The Principles were hammered out over a two-year consultation and negotiation period and were approved by governments around the world in mid-October 2014. They build on and are complementary to the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security, endorsed by the CFS in May 2012 amid heightened global concern about rising food prices and large-scale purchases of agricultural land and operations in developing countries, dubbed “land grabbing” and widely seen as a threat to smallholders.
The principles address all types of investment in agriculture and food systems – public, private, large, small, and in both the production and processing spheres – and provide a framework that all stakeholders can use when developing national policies, programmes and regulatory frameworks, corporate social responsibility policies and programmes, and individual agreements or contracts. The agreement also outlines the roles of all types of investors from states to business enterprises and smallholders, who are in aggregate the world's largest investors in primary agricultural production.
While the Principles are voluntary and non-binding, they do represent the first time that governments, the private sector, civil society organisations, UN agencies and development banks, foundations, research institutions and academia have been able to come together and agree on what constitutes responsible investment in agriculture and food systems.