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Agriculture, sustainable development

Philippine agriculture has a key role to play in achieving our nation’s sustainable development. This is very important now as the United Nations-initiated Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) will conclude in 2015 to give way to Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) from 2016 onwards.

The SDGs are derived from 11 globally identified priority areas. Agriculture is key to four of them: sustainable agriculture and food systems; challenges of social inclusion; good governance of extractive and land resources; and redefining the role of business for sustainable development.

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To support the SDGs, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has called for the creation of a Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) at the national and regional levels (www.unsdsn.org). SDSN is commissioned to “mobilize academia, research institutes, civil society, and the private sector in pursuit of practical solutions for sustainable development.”

Philippine SDSN

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The Philippine SDSN will be launched next Monday, Aug. 3. It will be led by Socio-Economic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan and economist Jeffrey Sachs.

The website states: “The SDSN supports the development of SDGs to address the challenges of economic development, social inclusion, environmental sustainability, and good governance. These goals will build on the success of the MDGs and finish the job of ending extreme poverty in all its forms.”

The SDSN objective is noble. But its success depends on how one interprets the SDSN membership criteria.

One view is lifted from two statements in the SDSN website: (1) “Membership in the SDSN is free and open to universities, research institutions, foundations, civil society, and other organizations;” and (2) “The SDSN and its members work closely with businesses and governments, particularly around the development and scaling up of these institutions.”

This view implies that businesses and government are not part of SDSN, but only potential partners. Management Association of the Philippines’s Cora Claudio, the lone business representative in the legislated Philippine Sustainable Development Council, believes this interpretation will limit SDSN’s effectiveness.

Alyansa Agrikultura President Arsenio Tanchuling agrees. He argues that the Philippine SDSN should include sustainable development champions from both the business sector and government. In this way, they will work together with the two other sectors within the SDSN so that there will be optimum cooperation between the knowledge-providers and the actual implementors. The best-conceived and most realistic solutions will be the result.

The website’s term of “other organizations” can be interpreted to include, not specific business enterprises, but business associations which have accumulated sustainable development experiences and best practices. They will also include the government’s knowledge centers, which likewise have sustainable development expertise. We believe that the Philippine SDSN should have all four sectors: academe, civil society, business, and government. This may be different from other countries that emphasize academe and civil society. We contend that our Philippine SDSN should be tailored to suit our own unique needs.

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Opportunity for unity

Up to now, there is no body in our country that systematically combines these four sectors into one.

As we face 2016 when the MDGs are replaced by SDGs and as we transition from the current administration to the next, it is imperative we have a new body that unites all four sectors. The SDSN provides us the ideal opportunity.

The major agricultural groups can now talk to each other within the SDSN. In addition, they can talk with three other sectors that are critical for agricultural development: academia, for the best knowledge and technologies; business, for optimizing the agriculture supply chain; and government, so that the appropriate support services are delivered.

These four sectors will be linked to the SDSNs in other countries for regional and global synergy. Our SDSN Council should be composed of leaders from the major organizations in the four sectors. This way, they will have the support and implementation capability of their respective organizations. They will then not fall into the NATO (No Action Talk Only) trap that bedevils many of our Councils.

The Aug. 3 SDSN launching is a milestone in our country’s development. It is our best bet for inclusive growth. It will now depend on the commitment of the four sectors to unite in achieving the sustainable development we badly need.

(The author is chair of Agriwatch. For inquiries and suggestions, email [email protected] or telefax (02) 8522112).

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TAGS: Agriculture, Business, column, ernesto m. ordonez, Millennium Development Goals, Philippines
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