Climate change has been front and center of the global agenda recently, driven by the historic COP21 meeting in Paris in December and concerns about the ongoing El Niño cycle.

By: Joseph Glauber, IFPRI
A strong El Niño continued through December, as indicated by above-average sea surface temperatures (SST) across the central and eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean. The strength and duration of the current El Niño event has raised concerns about global crop prospects and food prices.

Knowing which types of policies are appropriate in a given country’s political, economic, and social context is key to ensuring that enacted policies are truly effective and inclusive. This is especially true for agriculture and food security, when well-timed and targeted policies can have significant effects on vulnerable populations.

The current El Niño cycle, one of the top three strongest on record since the phenomenon started being tracked in 1950, is expected to continue through the winter in the Northern Hemisphere, according to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)’s National Centers for Environmental Information.

International trade has grown significantly over the past 60 years; the WTO (2008) estimates that between 1950 and 2007, the rate of growth of world trade in real terms was 6.2 percent, compared to 3.8 percent growth in global GDP. The impact of increased world trade cannot be measured simply in terms of economic activity, however; issues like gender equity, health, and nutrition (all key aspects of societal wellbeing) are also affected.

International agricultural trade has been a major headline recently, but as the latest WTO Ministerial Conference proves, disagreement about the best way to conduct such trade remains widespread.

Photo Credit: Flickr: WTO

On December 19, the 159 members of the WTO concluded the 10th WTO Ministerial Conference with the signing of a new international trade agreement, the Nairobi Package. The agreement contains several important outcomes on the issue of agriculture and represents the first major achievement by the WTO on this issue since the end of the Uruguay Round talks and the birth of the organization in 1995.

The Doha Development Agenda has long been a stumbling block for WTO trade talks. The Bali WTO made some headway in addressing the agriculture and food security-related issues that have held up previous agreements, but much remains to be done. The following links provide detailed analysis of both the Doha Development Round's history and the Bali Ministerial talks.

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  • The Road to Bali
  • In a report to the G20 Development Working Group released in September of last year, FAO and the OECD (with inputs from the Asian Development Bank, IFAD, ILO, IFPRI, and WTO) discussed the vital role that food security plays in the G20’s overall growth agenda. Food insecurity and malnutrition come with a high economic cost, reducing countries’ human capital and decreasing productivity and opportunities for growth.

    In 2013, the G20 Leaders’ Declaration included a framework on food and nutrition security (FSN Framework). This Framework was designed to provide the basis for a long-term, integrated, and sustainable food systems approach to food security and nutrition, recognizing that action is needed both within and beyond the agricultural sector.