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School of Social and Political Science: Research


Global food fights: How the United Nations contests trade rules that threaten world food security

Event Name Global food fights: How the United Nations contests trade rules that threaten world food security
Start Date 5th Oct 2017 3:30pm
End Date 5th Oct 2017 5:00pm
Duration 1 hour and 30 minutes

World Trade Organization (WTO) rules on agriculture are among the most contentious issues in the international political economy due to agriculture’s importance in the production of tradable commodities as well as economic development and food security in developing countries. In this presentation, I examine a surprising and unexpected actor playing an important role in shaping WTO rules on agriculture – the United Nations (UN). While UN actors do not have a seat at the bargaining table at the WTO, they invoke their expert and moral authority to shape the terms of trade rules in the interests of food insecure populations. I demonstrate that UN actors have influenced the discourse, agenda and outcomes of trade negotiations by analysing three cases: 1) the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) orchestrating a Uruguay Round agreement in favour of food insecure developing countries; 2) the World Food Programme’s (WFP) blocking of trade rules on food aid during the Doha Round; and 3) the proposal by the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food for a legal waiver that was adopted to shield India’s public food stockholding programme – which provides subsided food to nearly 800 million people – from legal challenge.

Speaker bio

Matias E. Margulis is Senior Lecturer in Political Economy and Director of the Centre for Policy, Conflict and Cooperation Research at the University of Stirling. His research examines the nexus of global governance, international trade and human rights. His work has been published in Global Governance, World Trade Review, Globalizations, Current Opinion on Environmental Sustainability and Geopolitics. He is the editor of The Global Political Economy of Raúl Prebisch (Routledge 2017) and co-editor with Nora McKeon and Jun Borras of Land Grabbing and Global Governance (Routledge 2014).

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