Taking a fresh look at GFAR

farmer in Ghana holding seeds

Look up the word “renew” in an English dictionary and you’ll come across words like refresh, replenish, reinvigorate, or reaffirm. Any or all of these could apply to the exciting changes underway in GFAR, which aim to ensure the Global Forum can continue to meet the demand for agricultural research and innovation in the developing world.

From August 24-26, around 150 GFAR stakeholder representatives will take part in the “Renewal & Reform” of GFAR, coming together for its first-ever Constituent Assembly in Bangkok. Over three days they will meet to decide the future role, resourcing and governance of the Global Forum.

This kind of reflection is an essential part of any organization’s life cycle says GFAR Executive Secretary Mark Holderness, and is aimed at keeping GFAR effective and relevant into the future.

“GFAR is critical to all our futures, as a collective movement for change, working to ensure that agricultural research and innovation deliver their required roles in achieving food and nutrition security, eliminating poverty and generating resilient and sustainable systems” Dr Holderness explains.

The Global Forum was established almost 20 years ago, but agriculture today faces very different and complex new challenges, requiring us all to work together to solve them. “We are a Virtual Organization: a worldwide network of agencies, institutions and groups from all sectors involved in agriculture and agri-food research, extension, education and enterprise. We come from many sectors, public, private, civil and producer, and need to find the best ways to work together efficiently and effectively.”

The current “Renewal & Reform” process was triggered by an independent review in 2013,which recommended changes to GFAR’s governance structures in light of its evolving role. Since then, the Strategic Governance Working Group (SGWG) has been leading a strategic reflection on issues raised by the review as they impact on the Global Forum’s governance, including GFAR’s role and purpose, the basis for collective action by stakeholders, new models of governance required and how to resource the actions of the Forum.

These themes will be examined and discussed in more depth at the Constituent Assembly, before participants are asked to make decisions related to each. Mark Holderness says that will require exploring some key concepts, to build understanding and mutual commitments around each – essential items in a voluntary movement.

“Take for instance, the term ‘Collective Action’. None of us can achieve development impacts alone. GFAR provides a unique opportunity to work effectively together in collective actions to achieve development goals. But as a diverse group of actors, with different capabilities, capacities and resources, how can we best implement collective actions in practice? What are the key ingredients for success? And how can we ensure that our actions truly include the people we aim to benefit?”

How indeed… One thing that is certain, however, is that with 150 different perspectives from all relevant sectors and regions in the room, delegates can look forward to some dynamic discussion, and the opportunity to truly influence not only the future of GFAR, but that of global agriculture.

The GFAR Constituent Assembly is being held on 24-26 August 2015 in Bangkok, Thailand. For more information email the Secretariat at GFAR-Assembly-2015@fao.org or call +39 06 570 53189

Picture courtesy Peter Casier/CCAFS


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