The Critical Issues for the Multi-Stakeholder Partnership to Move Forward

Interview with Francois Pythoud

Looking to explore other possibilities to broaden the basis of funding for GASL

In this in-depth interview Switzerland’s Permanent Representative to FAO Francois Pythoud speaks about the importance that multi-stakeholder partnerships as well as sustainable livestock development have for Switzerland.

“Livestock is the main component of Swiss agriculture”, says Ambassador Pythoud. “It counts for more than 50% of the revenue coming from agriculture production.” But it wasn’t only important in terms of food production, for cheese or chocolate. The shape of the Swiss landscape was unimaginable without its cows and meadows, a basis for the Alpine tourism in today’s form – which in turn was also fundamental to rural development in the country.

As Switzerland is currently the sole donor of the GASL, Pythoud felt that it was very justified to ask him about his country’s perseverance with sponsoring the platform. While the GASL was not the only multi-stakeholder partnership that Switzerland supported within FAO, it surely was one of priority. Critical for all partnerships was the ensuring long term financing of the secretariats, without which none of them could exist in reality, without their support to the related process and drive at times.

Switzerland saw their engagement to launch the partnerships but in the long run they would like see all partners contributing to the costs. It was key for the future to convince the partners of added value. An approach with one or two governments supporting a multi-stakeholder initiative such as the GASL was not sustainable.

“We really have to explore other possibilities,” he says.  

Interview Transcript

Pascal Corbé, communications consultant: Francois, what were originally the reasons for you to set up the Global Agenda for Sustainable Livestock?

Amb. Francois Pythoud, Perm. Rep. of Switzerland to FAO in Rome: The main reason was to raise the issue of sustainable livestock production at the international level. The traditional way to do it in the past was, as a government, to raise the issue in a forum like the Committee of Agriculture of FAO. It was more a top-down approach with government trying to develop guidelines for sustainable livestock production.

But in the case of livestock, there was a group of countries that didn’t want to address the issue of sustainable production in the Committee of Agriculture. We had to explore an alternative way and we saw the more bottom-up approach involving all stakeholders will be the most appropriate approach to address the issue of sustainable livestock production.

PC: How close are you now,in terms of what you wanted to do with the Global Agenda?

FP: I think since 2010, we really made some progress. Now, livestock is on the International Agenda. It was part of the Rio+20 Declaration. It’s on the Agenda 2030. We are also able to discuss the issue on how to improve the sustainable footprint of livestock production in an organisation like FAO. For example, in the last COAG, the COAG took note of the progress made within the Global Agenda for Sustainable Livestock and sees this as a good way to tackle the issue.

PC: There are actually strong sentiments in the ‘First World’ against livestock development, because of meat eating patterns and so forth. How did you convince the Swiss Government to get involved and put money into livestock development?

FP: You must know that livestock is the main component of Swiss agriculture. It counts for more than 50% of the revenue coming from agriculture production. In Switzerland livestock is important for food production. For example, cheese or chocolate. But it is also very important for the landscape. Without the cows and the meadows the Swiss tourism would not be as it is today. It’s a very important component of landscape and it is also a very important component of rural development. I think for Switzerland livestock is a priority. Of course, what we would like to see in the future is sustainable agriculture - which is also a priority. To see, what can we achieve at the international level to try to set up a framework to define what could be and what should be sustainable livestock production in the future.

Of course, we have the discussion about meat consumption, but I think this is why we need to address this issue with the multi-stakeholder approach. We need to have all the views and positions around the table and that’s the added value of the multi-stakeholder approach. That’s why for the support of the implementation of the Agenda 2030, we have the SDG17, which recognises that we will never achieve the Agenda 2030 without talking to one another. So, we thought of this multi-stakeholder approach.

PC: How big is Switzerland’s perseverance in being the sole donor in the Global Agenda?

FP: This is of course a good question. Within FAO the GASL is not the only multi-stakeholder partnership that Switzerland is supporting. It really is for us one of the priorities, when it comes to our collaboration with FAO. We are also, for example, supporting the Global Mountain Partnership - which is a multi-stakeholder to promote sustainable development in mountain areas. We are also supporting the Global Alliance for Climate Smart Agriculture, or the Global Soil Partnership. The main issue with all these partnerships is to try to ensure long term financing of the secretariats of these partnerships. Because a partnership will not exist without a secretariat that is somehow driving and supporting the process.

We see our engagement to start the launching of this partnerships. But in the long-term we would like all of the partners to contribute to the cost of the partnership. That is something will be one of our priorities of the future is how to convince all of the partners, for example here in the Global Agenda for Sustainable Livestock, that there is an added value for them to be part of this partnership, so they will also contribute to the functioning of the Global Agenda. Because the approach with one or two governments supporting initiatives like this - a multi-stakeholder initiative - will not continue in the future. We really have to explore other possibilities.

To respond to your question, we are questioning our future financing support to the Secretariat of the Global Agenda for Sustainable Livestock. We would like to explore ways with all of the stakeholders supporting this initiative.

PC: At this MSP now did you hear a perspective from any of the multi-stakeholders on how to actually better implement the Agenda and make it more conducive to its original goals?

FP: One of the objectives for the Agenda was to bring all of the stakeholders together. One of our initial ideas of the Agenda was for it to be able to promote consortiums. By consortiums, we mean groups of different types stakeholders working together to support a project. At the end what you want to achieve, you want to achieve impacting the field at the national level. We are still in the consolidating phase. What I have seen today, for example, the discussion we had this morning, it is strong participation of all the members and really trying to see how, based on the experience developed by the individual organisations, how can we try to develop more common approaches.

We are going in a good way but I think the real challenge is how do we move from where we are now to really have an impact in the field? I don’t think we have the solution, yet. It will be important for the main donors like the World Bank are more involved for the GASL, because I think at the end the challenge is how to convince the main donors that they should invest in  sustainable livestock.

PC: How do you see FAO’s role in getting the multi-stakeholder partnership going?

FP: Again, it’s the view of Switzerland. We see a triple role for FAO. First, FAO should be a facilitator. They have done a great job when it comes to the GASL. Without FAO we would not have a GASL. And it’s not only FAO as an organisation, but it’s also FAO as an intergovernmental body. For example, the role of the Committee on Agriculture was very important for the development of the Global Agenda. This facilitation role of FAO is critical.

Then, of course, FAO is a very important partner. We had a clear demonstration, for example this morning, when we had the presentation of projects that FAO is leading. FAO is a partner at the same level of the other partners. The last, but not least, FAO is playing an important role to support the GASL by providing the secretariat and providing its network. These are the three functions: facilitation, partner and supporting.

PC: Thank you

FP: Thank you, very much.