Fourth Multi-stakeholder platform meeting

15-17 October 2013 - Ottawa, Canada

The fourth Multi-Stakeholder Platform (MSP) meeting, organized by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, the Canadian Livestock Sector [1], and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, was held at the Marriott Hotel in Ottawa, Canada from 15 to 17 October 2013 (with an optional field visit programme on 18 October) and brought together more than one hundred Agenda partners from all stakeholder groups. The fourth MSP meeting aimed to ensure that the Agenda becomes more effective at catalyzing practice change through: (i) the concrete commitment by individual partners to the achievement of the goals set out in the Agenda Consensus; (ii) a strengthened understanding and agreement on the sustainability issues at the basis of the Agenda objectives, and the underlying science; (iii) the identification of how to facilitate innovation; and (iv) an understanding of the policies, institutions and incentives that catalyze practice change towards sustainability in food and agriculture. The fourth MSP also discussed and agreed on the Agenda’s ways of working and governance options that best support the achievement of its objectives.


To achieve these objectives, the meeting, on its first day, combined an update on the status and history of the Agenda, with plenary presentations on Operating sustainability and Achieving practice change, followed by partner panels addressing the same issues. These sessions agreed that the Agenda addresses all facets of sustainability and that its inclusion of all key stakeholders contributes to a clear ‘voice’ for all facets. The session also recognized that this diversity of interest, systems, and contexts, brings the concomitant need for the Agenda to facilitate the supply of targeted responses. Four elements of practice change, i.e. knowledge and analyses, policy dialogue, tools and innovation, and the importance of the creation of a shared vision (including targets, indicators and actions), were considered key in the identification of all facet wins. In addition, the primary role of producers in practice change and the role of the Agenda in capacity building and awareness creation, in combination with a need for the Agenda to increase functional linkages among global, national and local levels (multi-directional), to become more effective at catalyzing practice change was discussed. The afternoon ‘Presentation space’ on Sustainability and the Canadian livestock sector, as well as the keynote address by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation on Sustainable Livestock Sector Development, showed significant alignment of interests and opportunities for engagement.


Day 2 of the meeting combined plenary presentations on the status of the Agenda Focus Area groups with stakeholder break-out groups to discuss the specific contributions that different Agenda partners can make to the enabling environment for practice change. Subsequent Focus Area breakout groups were organized to use the outcomes and lessons learned from the panels and stakeholder break-out sessions to identify additional relevant activities, processes and partners, needed to catalyze practice change. These sessions provided strong endorsement of the proposed nature, focus, and new ways of working, the elements of practice change, and highlighted the different roles that stakeholders play in facilitating them. It also underlined that the Agenda needs to catalyze national level activities, to move to practice change.


The complementarities among Focus Areas and other initiatives that were identified create clear opportunities to exploit such synergies and to move forward in a coherent fashion. Additional communication platforms are required to facilitate planning and implementation of Focus Area programmes. There is also a clear need to incorporate other skills, stakeholders, and facets of sustainability into the Focus Area Groups. In essence, this entails that the Focus Area Groups need to become more like MSPs.


Although the Agenda is making significant progress, it needs to better manage stakeholder expectations, and emphasize its value-added and role in catalyzing practice change. This includes the large value it brings to the exchange of experiences and the subsequent learning that is driving the Agenda.


Day 2 also hosted two parallel presentation space sessions which looked specifically at a number of examples of multi-stakeholder initiatives in the livestock sector and how these are making progress in practice change towards sustainability. Whilst these approaches have emerged in different contexts and cultures, there are strong generic principles that unite them: i) the recognition that joint action is necessary to address the sector’s challenges effectively; ii) the building of trust, and the sharing of knowledge and experience iii) a common focus and commitment to innovation and practice change; iv) a policy and institutional environment with clear incentives. The second parallel session provided insights into a mix of additional issues that are equally central to the Agenda, including the payment for environmental services and animal welfare.


Day 3 combined feedback from the Focus Area break-out groups with a presentation on the contribution of the livestock sector to greenhouse gas emissions, and specific mitigation actions that can have a significant impact on the social, economic and environmental performance of the livestock sector. These presentations were followed by a partner panel that looked at stakeholder commitments to the additional approaches the  Agenda proposes to pursue, e.g. (i) the establishment of specific stakeholder group clusters; (ii) the establishment of effective linkages among multi-stakeholder initiatives at different levels and in different countries, (iii) the implementation of ‘twinning’ opportunities between countries, and (iv) the facilitation of livestock sector practice change through the establishment of in-country livestock sector  innovation platforms and networks.


The rest of the day 3 was dedicated to the discussion of the proposed ways of working, as well as the governance options that best support the achievement of the Agenda’s objectives. These issues, clearly laid out in the meeting’s discussion document, were earlier introduced by the Chair of the Guiding Group on day 1 of the meeting in his opening address.


 The meeting endorsed all issues raised, including a name change to “Global Agenda for Sustainable Livestock”. The Guiding Group was, however, asked to pay particular attention to the refinements proposed on the Agenda’s governance. In preparation for the transition to a new set-up, the Guiding Group, in collaboration with the Agenda Support Team, will develop this proposal in more detail within the next 6 months for further discussion with the MSP. Similarly, the meeting endorsed the need for adjustments to the Agenda’s strategy and a renewed business and action plan, including funding, which will also be developed by the Guiding Group with the Support Group over the coming months.