The EIF Steering Committee (EIFSC) held its eighth session, highlighting the programme's progress over the last year as well as providing an opportunity to focus the discussions of the partnership on increasing linkages in trade and agriculture for the Least Developed Countries (LDCs). The EIFSC Chair, H.E. Mr Daniel Blockert, Ambassador of Sweden to the WTO, addressed the EIF partnership highlighting the strategic documents that would guide the course of actions and the modus operandi of the EIF programme, including the EIF Medium-term Strategic Plan (2016-2018) and the Compendium for EIF Phase Two.
"The EIF Donors are committed to the success of the programme and have already committed to the EIF Trust Fund over 75% of the US$90 million pledged to Phase Two of the programme," Ambassador Blockert emphasized in his opening remarks. Providing an update, the Ambassador of Sierra Leone and outgoing EIF Board Chair, H.E. Ms Yvette Stevens, in her final remarks as chairperson of the EIF Board, spoke of the highly beneficial revisions to EIF practices, which were the latest expression of the EIF's commitment to empirical research and adaptation to deliver programme impact. "The implementation of EIF Phase Two pivots on a continuous reform agenda. This is to enhance effectiveness and efficiency and to promote flexibility, dynamism and the sustainability of the programme, including strengthening in-country ownership. Key areas include: Value for money, leveraging of resources, efficient and effective project delivery, advocacy, communications and outreach," Ambassador Stevens noted.
"Updated guidelines have provided more flexibility and responsiveness to the DTIS exercise while ensuring [front-loaded] national ownership, sustainability, efficiency and inclusive stakeholder consultation with a greater focus on jobs, inclusive trade, regional integration and private sector development," Ambassador Stevens added. The meeting also addressed a variety of issues, including staples of the EIF strategic focus, such as trade mainstreaming and sustainability, but also brought forward new analyses of the agricultural sectoral focus, the EIF and partner impact and private sector engagement.
The Ambassador of Benin and incoming EIF Board Chair, H.E. Mr Eloi Laourou, paid tribute to the leadership and diligence of the outgoing Chair and spoke at length about the importance of public‑private partnerships as a driver of growth in the agricultural sector and a necessary focus of the EIF going forward. Ambassador Laourou's vision of the EIF's future application was vividly illustrated by Mr Sébastien Nzimana, Director-General of Commerce, Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Tourism of Burundi and EIF Board Member. Mr Nzimana gave practical examples of the EIF's catalytic impact in trade investment, standards and infrastructure, detailing the success among small- and medium‑sized enterprises in Burundi in conforming to national standards.
Ms Eleonora Canigiani from FAO's food systems programme management team provided an overview of a pilot project in collaboration with the EIF, identifying opportunities in mainstreaming trade into agricultural policy and development initiatives and increasing trade and agriculture linkages in Mozambique, Rwanda, Tanzania and Zambia. The project will compare the Diagnostic Trade Integration Study (DTIS) analyses with the National Agriculture Investment Plans and facilitate the dialogue among relevant stakeholders to harmonize agricultural trade priorities within such policy frameworks. "The key objective is to strengthen capacities of LDCs to develop and implement trade policies and strategies supportive of agricultural development and food security," Ms Canigiani noted, while highlighting the expected outcome of the project that included improving the coordination of agriculture and trade planning processes in the four countries while linking the EIF National Implementation Units and the National Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) structures and providing a standard approach to facilitate replication and scaling‑up in other EIF Countries.
She also highlighted the important changes in the FAO, noting the transition from a sectoral approach, mainly focused on the development of agricultural production, to an integrated food systems approach, in which other economic levers are supported so as to link consumers with producers. She highlighted the importance of coordination and "systems" to achieve structural transformation objectives of developing countries. "There is a need for a more coherent approach where everybody agrees on the objectives and priorities for agricultural trade development" Ms Canigiani noted, calling for continued and improved collaboration between the FAO and the EIF in the harmonization of planning, coordination and resource allocation.
Mr Nzimana also shared insights on the experiences of Burundi in promoting the partnership with stakeholders in the country through specific EIF interventions. Explaining the establishment and development of export consortia, Mr Nzimana said, "EIF support to Burundi has been very crucial, particularly in the coffee sector, which has enabled partnerships through consortiums especially designed for the rural populations."
Mr Melvin Spreij, the Secretary for the Standards and Trade Development Facility (STDF), briefed the EIFSC on the STDF's work as a global partnership to build sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) capacity in developing countries, including the LDCs. Highlighting the immense benefits of agriculture to the LDCs, he called for a more productive integrated strategy. "Growth in the agricultural sector delivers more growth than any other sector and is the most reliable source of leveraging and the most responsive to investment," he said, noting, however, the obstacles that LDC agricultural exports face, in particular non-tariff barriers, such as SPS issues, which were among the major factors that had caused the market share of the LDCs to shrink in this vital sector.
He highlighted the joint work underway with the EIF in order to address this, including strengthening the analysis on SPS compliance; enhancing national capacity to implement SPS recommendations in the DTIS analytical studies; and exploiting synergies in EIF‑ and SPS-related processes. Announcing the latest joint EIF and STDF publication, "Enhancing SPS Capacity to Promote Trade for Development in LDCs", Mr Spreij underlined the publication's wide coverage of SPS challenges as one of the most prominent non-tariff measures to the realization of the agricultural export potential of LDCs.
Mr Simon Hess from the Executive Secretariat of the EIF (ES) highlighted the opportunities to increase the linkages and coherence between the agriculture sector and agricultural ministries with the trade ministries. Emphasizing the need to get rid of silos in agricultural trade and SPS policies and adopt a holistic approach to link agricultural trade to other policies and strategies, Mr Hess underscored the partnership between the EIF and the STDF as well as with the FAO in adopting this approach. Speaking about the joint EIF-STDF publication, he emphasized the strengthening of the LDCs' national capacity to implement SPS recommendations and a more comprehensive assessment of SPS matters and relevant institutions. He also called for the consultation of SPS committees in the DTIS process.
Underlining key findings in the publication, Mr Hess noted, "The EIF funds 27 agribusiness and standard-related projects of the value of US$53 million." He advocated for innovative ways to exploit further synergies in the EIF‑ and SPS-related processes, including enhancing the effectiveness of SPS stakeholders' engagement in EIF processes at the country level; providing more practical guidance on how to effectively address SPS issues in the DTIS process; and considering ways to engage other international organizations involved in SPS capacity-building in EIF processes.
Summing up the discussions, greater consultation, coordination and integration were required to optimize results, and this was echoed by the Executive Director of the ES, Mr Ratnakar Adhikari, who spoke to the highly consultative process that led to the EIF's new strategic plan and the Compendium for EIF Phase Two. "The EIF vision, principles, strategic goals and approach are well defined. The EIF vision is to support the LDCs in harnessing trade and Aid for Trade to promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable growth and development," he said. He also emphasized the EIF principles of partnership, LDC ownership and results for sustainable impact, highlighting standards quality infrastructure projects, which were implemented in line with these principles in Burkina Faso, Burundi, The Gambia, Lao PDR, Mali and Togo.
Notes to the editors:
The EIF is a multi-donor trust fund, which provides coordinated financial and technical support to build trade capacity in all 48 LDCs and three graduated countries. The EIF is the only global Aid for Trade programme exclusively designed for the LDCs and is, therefore, uniquely placed to assist countries to develop sustainable trade strategies, which have a positive impact on people's lives through the promotion of private sector development and job and income opportunities. The EIF is recognized under Goal 8a of the Sustainable Development Goals.