In its new policy, announced on 5 April, the Dutch government suggests that companies have a positive role to play in sustainable development. Fairfood appreciates the Dutch government’s recognition of the ‘watchdog’ role of NGOs in ensuring that companies stimulate economic development in a sustainable manner. Having played this role towards Dutch and international food and beverage companies over the last decade, Fairfood is fully committed to continuing this role. Throughout its private sector engagement and campaign work, Fairfood is focusing on specific food sectors (e.g. pineapples, tomatoes) and issues (e.g. child labour, land rights) in countries such as Madagascar, Morocco, Thailand, Nicaragua and the Philippines.
The Dutch government’s plan to stimulate economic development through greater private sector involvement is welcome news. However, Fairfood stresses that companies must take seriously their role in addressing the social, environmental and economic issues associated with their business activities. To this end, Fairfood calls on Dutch food and beverage companies to recognize the important role they have in ensuring global sustainable development and act responsibly throughout their supply chains.
Another positive outcome of the policy document is the special emphasis on food security. Fairfood believes that this is an indication that the government understands the need to stimulate sustainability within the food system. In this way it can ensure the provision of sufficient, safe and nutritious food for over 800 million people around the world who are poor and malnourished. Fairfood would like to stress that as demand for food grows, so do challenges like climate change, income insecurity and land right issues. Therefore an investment in agriculture and food security should also take into account the mitigation of negative social, economic and environmental impacts of the agri-food sector.
Fairfood is, however, disappointed to see that for the first time since 1975 the Dutch government will no longer spend 0.7% of its’ GNI on development aid to the world’s poorest, thereby forsaking its commitment made in Monterey and within the framework of the European Union on the 24th of May 2005. Fairfood is of the opinion that although trade will help a large number of people in the developing world, aid is still needed for the even larger number of people that will not directly benefit from more corporate activity.