Questions around sustainable development are often far from the minds of trade negotiators and national policy-makers as they shape regulatory frameworks that affect food and farming. However, rules and policies in areas such as farm subsidies, barriers to markets, or restrictions on farm exports can have a big impact on the livelihoods of small farmers, or on the ability of poor people in both rural and urban areas to produce or to buy the food they need. They can similarly affect the degree to which farmers and other economic actors are incentivised to use land, water and other natural resources in a sustainable way. Governments often have to make difficult decisions about how best to balance conflicting interests between various constituencies, or between competing policy goals.
ICTSD's work on agricultural trade and sustainable development seeks to promote food security, equity, and environmental sustainability by bringing together trade negotiators and government policy-makers, experts from international organisations and academia, and other policy actors such as farm leaders, consumers, industry groups, and aid agencies. The organisation's work in this area brings impartial, timely, and evidence-based analysis to bear on evolving challenges around farm trade and broader public policy goals, with a view to informing policymaking processes and, ultimately, delivering more sustainable and equitable outcomes in both rich and poor countries.
In particular, ICTSD has sought to shed light on the relationship between trade and food security, by building negotiators' understanding of how multilateral trade rules and national policies may affect the ability of poor people to access sufficient, safe and nutritious food in a context of rapidly changing global markets. The organisation has also sought to promote dialogue on how evolving farm trade policies in key countries relate to food security and sustainable development more broadly, by linking national policy actors with negotiators responsible for shaping the future of the multilateral trading system. ICTSD's work on farm trade and the environment has aimed in particular to ensure that policies and rules affecting farm trade help countries both to mitigate climate change and to adapt to it more effectively.