Opportunities for policy engagement in NEN and beyond
01 October 2020
All too often, the path to sustainable development is blocked by outdated policies and legislation. An old land use policy or market association law, for example, can very much hinder progress in rural areas.
In a rapidly changing world – one that is simultaneously contending with the emergence of many new challenges – governments need to be quick and efficient when it comes to updating their policies and legislation. If the world is to achieve the SDGs by 2030, the enabling environment has to be flexible and responsive. To achieve sustainable socio-economic transformation, dated policies should be reformed and integrated – particularly in the rural context. It is time to push for policies that will speed up rural economic transformation, open up income-generating opportunities for women, enhance farmers’ abilities to cope with a changing climate and make rural areas more attractive for ambitious youth.
It is safe to say that IFAD is uniquely positioned to engage with governments and advocate for policies and legislation that benefit rural areas. It is the only United Nations agency with an International Financial Institution (IFI) status, and it is the only IFI that focuses on agriculture and rural development. Nearly all IFAD projects are implemented through governments, making IFAD a reliable government partner when it comes to rural development. IFAD-supported projects frequently pilot innovative interventions and generate evidence-based knowledge, and their typically large scope and scale means they can serve as a great reference for best practices and lessons learned. Lastly, IFAD’s decentralization process has opened up a number of opportunities to enhance its operations across the globe. In addition to closer proximity to ongoing projects, improved visibility, and the chance to foster partnerships at sub-regional levels, decentralization has also broadened the platform for policy engagement at both country and regional levels.
IFAD’s expansion of policy work in the NEN region
Having recognized the significance of policy engagement, IFAD has recently been strengthening its connections to policy work, both through projects and through non-lending activities, particularly throughout the Near East, North Africa, Central Asia and Central Europe (NEN) region.
In Tunisia, IFAD is supporting the development of a rangeland strategy by contributing to a strategic paper on sustainable rangelands management within the framework of two of its ongoing projects. In Georgia, IFAD is working on the national climate change adaptation plan for the agricultural sector, the regulatory impact assessment for the draft law on windbreaks, and the draft law on soil protection. Similarly, a regulatory framework for private financial institutions is currently being planned in Moldova, with IFAD positioned to take part. And in Egypt, the STAR project will develop a policy paper on mainstreaming digital agriculture, in line with the country’s priorities and IFAD’s ICT for Development (ICT4D) strategy.
IFAD’s efforts in this regard have already begun to see some early successes. In Tajikistan, for example, a series of roundtable and public discussions in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture and Parliament led to an update to the pasture law in 2019.
Beyond these local perspectives, IFAD has been active at the regional level as well. IFAD’s NEN Regional Forum, conducted every three years, has long been an important platform for facilitating the exchange of ideas and the transfer of knowledge among project management units from various countries. Meanwhile, IFAD’s partnership with the International Labour Organization has enabled considerable progress on gender equality in rural areas of the Middle East and North Africa through improved monitoring and evaluation. The initiative has helped expand the capacity to measure results, particularly for women’s empowerment, through the use of tools like the Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index; by supporting research on the impacts of gender and employment interventions for rural women; and by initiating a policy dialogue targeted at governments, employers and workers to distribute the findings.
IFAD is also keen to contribute to regional initiatives in collaboration with other UN agencies, especially the other Rome-based agencies. IFAD is currently part of the Arab Regional Strategic Framework for Zero Hunger, along with FAO, WFP, the League of Arab States and the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia. It is also serving as the key knowledge exchange platform for FAO’s Water Scarcity Initiative, working to ensure the complementarity and unity of efforts across the region. IFAD is also contributing to the UNEP-led Second Environment Outlook for the Arab Region, ensuring that agriculture and rural development are highlighted as priority areas for the region.
Further opportunities for policy engagement
Current country-level and regional policies continue to be challenged by ongoing and emerging events such as climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic. However, whenever challenges emerge, so do opportunities.
As five years have already passed since the Agenda 2030 was announced, many governments will be looking to review their policies – including their agriculture and rural development policies – in order to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. This represents a great opportunity for IFAD to influence changes in these policies through its ongoing and newly designed projects.
The new generation of Nationally Determined Contributions, each country’s pledge to achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement, is also currently under development. Each new set of contributions represents a chance for IFAD to further highlight not only the need for climate adaptation and mitigation in the agriculture sector, but also the inclusion of other key areas of its work, such as the promotion of sustainable diets, as pillars of climate action.
Lastly, the COVID-19 crisis has already brought about big changes in economic, social and health policies, with implications for all sectors. Shorter-term solutions, such as IFAD’s Rural Poor Stimulus Facility, are currently helping countries cope with the crisis. But ultimately, long-term policy engagement will be the key to helping rural economies recover from the impact of the crisis and build back better.
Find out more about IFAD’s approach to policy engagement.