UNFSS Update December 2012

unfss update december 2012

The Forum has received strong interest, and we have continued to present the UNFSS in a number of events.  Most recently at :

We are also organizing a series of briefing sessions in developing countries to promote the UNFSS and consult with public and private stakeholders in those countries on their key areas of interest and recommended priority activities for UNFSS in the first 2 years. Plans are being developed for country/regional-level briefing/mobilization events in China; Kenya and Cote d’Ivoire for East and West Africa, and Thailand. As well we are identifying the most suitable country for a regional event for Central America or the Caribbean.  In addition we are organizing an official briefing session in Geneva for UN/WTO missions, academe and civil society in early February, convened by the heads of all UN partner organizations of UNFSS. These events are also designed to inform and motivate participation in the UNFSS in general, and the launching conference, in particular.

The launching conference has been set for March 21st-22nd in Geneva. It will start off with a ministerial/ambassadorial/CEO-level panel discussion, followed-by a more interactive workshop. The focus of the workshop will be to present the UNFSS, but in particular seek feedback and guidance on the prioritized action plan developed by the Advisory Panel and Steering Committee during the summer. We are identifying government, private-sector and civil society leaders to participate in the ministerial/ambassadorial/CEO panel session and the interactive workshop. We have also met with the Swedish Institute of Standards ( in early November and plans are being made to coordinate activities, in particular on the forthcoming country/regional-level briefing sessions and follow-up activities.

On the analytical and informational tools we are also moving forward. We have begun work on the needs assessment tool and confirmed the process, structure and lead for the UNFSS Flagship document, Matthew Webnar-Smith, which will present the context related to Voluntary Sustainability Standards (VSS) and discuss the key issues related to VSS and sustainable development. Subsequent publications will go into depth on the prioritized key issues. The first issue of the UNFSS Discussion Papers has also been completed (analyzing experience of various meta-governance initiatives on VSS). Finally, we will be using the briefing sessions in producer countries, to create the possibility to validate the Decision-Making Guide on VSS, as well as the Needs Assessment Tool.

Finally, the Swiss State Secretariat on Economic Affairs (SECO), has confirmed their support for the future UNFSS cluster on harmonization and equivalence of VSS.

The United Nations Forum on Sustainability Standards (UNFSS) is a joint initiative of 5 UN Agencies (FAO, ITC, UNCTAD, UN Environment and UNIDO) that seeks to address these challenges. It is a demand-driven forum for intergovernmental actors to communicate among each other and engage with key target groups (producers, traders, consumers, standard-setters, certification-bodies, trade diplomats, relevant NGOs and researchers) to address their information needs and influence concerned stakeholders. It aims to provide impartial information, analysis, and discussions on VSS and their potential contribution to facilitate market access, strengthen public goods and achieve Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Most importantly, the UNFSS focuses on potential trade or development obstacles VSS may create, with particular emphasis on their impact on SMEs and less developed countries.