Local Solutions for Global Challenges: The Role of UNFSS National Platforms’ Network in maximising benefits of Voluntary Sustainability Standards (VSS)

UNFSS National Platforms

Everyday life has been struck by climate change effects, deepening poverty and hunger, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the crisis in Ukraine. As a result, the world is witnessing accelerating existing vulnerabilities and widening inequalities. The value of multilateralism and trade cannot be undermined in providing a sustainable recovery path, especially for the most vulnerable groups.

In light of the above, the UNFSS National Platform and Initiative Cooperation Network (NPICN) met on 24th May 2022, to discuss ways to foster sustainable development via leveraging Voluntary Sustainability Standards (VSS). The meeting was opened by the NPICN Chair, Ms. Vivian Xia, China Association for Standardization. This was followed by a brief introduction to the work of UNFSS by Mr. Santiago Fernandez de Cordoba, Senior Economist UNCTAD and UNFSS Coordinator.

” The National Platforms’ Network is imperative for furthering sustainable trade via maximisation of benefits of VSS. UNFSS would continue supporting the work of these platforms to facilitate collaboration on areas of work that are mutually beneficial to all participating parties.” Mr. Santiago Fernandez de Cordoba, Senior Economist UNCTAD and UNFSS Coordinator.

Thereafter, Ms. Xia presented a proposal for a common research agenda, that the NPICN members could potentially pursue jointly, to better understand smallholder farmer access to VSS-compliant markets. This work, she explained, would also aid in examining the robustness of VSS in eradicating poverty among smallholder farmers in the agricultural sector in developing economies.

Further, given the recent adoption of the Traditional Medicine Strategy 2014-2023 by WHO, the NPICN members also discussed the role of a Voluntary Certification Scheme for Traditional Community Healthcare Providers. This was led via a presentation by Dr. Manish Pande, Director & Head, Project Analysis & Documentation (PAD) Division, Quality Council of India (QCI). Dr. Pande provided a background for the need for this kind of scheme. The discussion aimed to understand the best practices in the sector from the respective countries of NPICN members to establish a way forward for this kind of scheme.

UNFSS National Platforms’ Meeting in May 2022

Lastly, and most importantly, the NPICN members examined some of the credibility principles for VSS. This discussion was facilitated by Ms. Eleanor Radford – Associate Manager, Engagement and Events, ISEAL. With a growing number of VSS schemes across the globe, the ISEAL Credibility Principles could provide an opportunity to understand which ones are more credible. The meeting closed with remarks from representatives and a discussion on the next meeting details.

2020, which would ideally have marked the decade of delivery of the SDGs, had instead turned the global economic and sustainability situation precipitous. Moreover, the Russia-Ukraine crisis and the long-standing effects of the pandemic have exacerbated challenges like food insecurity and poverty. It is thus crucial, now, more than ever, for a collaborative approach, especially to help the most vulnerable. To that end, the role of VSS as a tool should not be undermined. Credible and practical solutions from the bottom-up are the need of the hour to maximise benefits from VSS adoption. The UNFSS NPIC Network will thus continue to work towards finding transformative pathways out of the current global crises.

Interested to learn more and support the work of the National Platform and Initiative Cooperation Network? Get in touch: santiago.fernandezdecordoba@unctad.org