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24 May 2014 | Gurjit Degun
Governments are being encouraged to “exploit the full potential” of food procurement to help increase sustainability and support more nutritious diets.
The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Olivier De Schutter, has come up with five principles for governments to follow.
These include calling on governments to source “preferentially” from small-scale food producers and help them to access tenders; guarantee living wages and fair prices along the food supply chain; set specific requirements for adequate food diets; source locally whenever possible and impose sustainability requirements on suppliers; and increase participation and accountability in the food system.
“Governments have few sources of leverage over increasingly globalised food systems – but public procurement is one of them. When sourcing food for schools, hospitals and public administrations, governments have a rare opportunity to support more nutritious diets and more sustainable food systems in one fell swoop,” said the independent expert in his report The Power of Procurement.
“It may cost governments slightly more to source from a range of smaller-scale, sustainable operators than from major suppliers, but the investment is worth it. It will not only have positive outcomes in terms of health and education, but will also help promote a viable and sustainable small-scale farming sector.”
However, the report added that the World Trade Organisation Government Procurement Agreement (GPA) imposes restrictions on schemes that result in a discrimination between suppliers on the basis of their geographic location.
It added: “Countries that have not signed and/or ratified the GPA have greater discretion with respect to the public procurement schemes that they may lawfully establish. This discretion can and should be used to advance the right to adequate food.”
De Schutter also noted that his five principles should be fully integrated in the future work of the GPA, in particular in the Work Programme on Sustainable Procurement.