A fundamental problem in international relations is the lack of cooperation between nations on national policies impacting other nations. This has led to the inadvertent destruction of livelihoods in poorer nations by protectionist agriculture policies of developed countries. A report by Mcneely and Norgaard shows that the impact of such uninformed policy goes far beyond economic harms, and threatens national resources of the impacted country, as well as leading to loss of biological diversity.
When developing nations export food and other resources to developed nations, the capital gained is invested in technology to improve farming techniques. According to the report, “When returns per resource unit are high, the amount of resources needed to achieve a given level of investment (i.e. development) can be kept to a minimum” (195). This means that when the receiving developed nations subsidize production of similar agricultural goods on their own land, the price of the crop artificially falls, resulting in a lessened trade benefit for the developing nations that cannot afford the same level of subsides. As a result, there is incentive in the market to increase supply to increase income, and the developing country increases production. Policies following this model have led to desertification in the Sahel, loss of biodiversity in Botswana, and economic ruin for those following a traditional approach to agriculture.
Each country should develop its own “Foreign Policy on Agriculture and Environment.” This policy will review the impact of international agricultural trade and aid on individual national level and evaluate the negative effect current policies have on underdeveloped countries. The policies will be collected together in a database, which would be publically disseminated and be readily accessible by any party. Thus, they will be the base of international trade negotiations taking place inside the World Trade Organization as part of the Doha Project (a project that aims to improve international trade and its effects on affected countries). By making each country’s needs and interest widely and clearly known, this solution would discourage infringing upon poor countries interests, thus leading to an improvement in agriculture, environment, and the overall economic situation in underdeveloped countries.
We will work with the World Trade Organization (WTO), United Nations (UN), and the International Court of Justice (ICJ). The UN would be used to create the database and convince member nations submit their own policies to the database. These policies will be the base of negotiations inside the World Trade Organization, as a part of the Doha Project and be enforced by the ICJ.
The net impact of such a policy is greater knowledge and understanding of international issues. As a result, officials representing each country would consider the interests of other nations as well to maximize policy advantage and minimize conflicts. The decisions made at these negotiations will lead to changes in both local and international practices, because governments impacted by a particular policy would have to reach agreement on the best possible solution.
A possible scenario where this succeeds is in Ghana. According to Oxfam, “The plight of rice farmers in Ghana shows how western policies and unfair agricultural subsidies in the US and the EU are destroying the livelihoods of farmers in developing nations” (Moore).Ghana is one example where US and EU subsidies on rice, forced into its market by unfair conditions on IMF loans, has caused indigenous farmers to lose market share and become unemployed, forcing migration to cities, where crime and poverty often awaits (Moore).
By publishing an international policy database, Ghana would be empowered to demonstrate the detriments of crop subsidies to the rest of the world and provide incentive to perform more research on the problem. Because such a conditional loan clearly was not in the interests of Ghana’s long term prosperity, it would not be able to pass under international law, and a more suitable compromise would have to be reached.
This requirement will be part of the Countries Protocol. This will regulate the trade on a global scale. The highest improvement will be in the countries located in the African continent, South America, and Asia.
As this solution is addressed at the political level, it is very feasible economically. It does not require additional funds since it relies on international organizations’ means of negotiation.
This solution would most probable take around a year for the countries to evaluate their situation and submit the report. The actual negotiations and change in current procedures of implementations will be based on a 3-5 year timeframe, with such a binding piece of legislation no doubt requiring much compromise to be ratified. But because the international policy database will lead to net benefit on the global scale, prioritizing the well being of the world over the narrow intentions of individual nations, it is sound policy, and as such, ought to be passed.
McNeely, J. A., & Norgaard, R. B. (1992). Developed country policies and biological diversity in developing countries. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment, 42(1-2), 194-204.
Moore, Charlotte. (2005, 11 April). Ghana pays price for west's rice subsidies. Guardian. GlobalDevelopment. Retrieved November 24, 2010, from http://www.stwr.org/imf-world-bank-trade/ghana-pays-price-for-wests-rice-subsidies.html