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IISD | Economic Law and Policy Program
How IISD's Economic Law and Policy Program is advancing sustainable and equitable development

APRIL 2019


Unequal power structures in rural households mean that women often have difficulty accessing food for themselves, even though they are usually the ones responsible for preparing meals for their families. This persistent and pervasive problem has created significant challenges for women’s nutrition, food security and health in developing economies.

Women have also historically faced challenges in having the same access to productive agricultural resources as men. Unequal property rights and poor working conditions have also been major challenges for women working in this sector, among other problems.  

We have been providing solutions on how to integrate gender considerations in laws and other legal tools over several years, especially in mine development agreements and agricultural contracts between governments and investors or between producers and buyers. Some governments are now also integrating gender considerations in their trade and investment agreements, along with advocating for a deeper examination of the gender dimensions of trade policy, though more could be done to make sure that these efforts have a real impact on women’s lives and livelihoods.

In the area of production and consumption, voluntary tools have become increasingly prevalent, as producers across the globe are seeking new markets adapted to consumer demands for responsible processes and products. This has led to a multitude of voluntary sustainability standards and certification schemes that are sometimes difficult to understand and navigate. For this reason, IISD is committed to making the design and use of these tools more transparent, while ensuring these tools have a positive impact on sustainable development objectives. We are also suggesting improvements that will help achieve those goals.

Our latest guidebook, available in English and French, reviews the contributions of voluntary sustainability standards to gender equality and women’s empowerment in agriculture and explains how voluntary sustainability standards can be used as a tool to meet the targets enshrined under the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. It also provides related recommendations for development organizations working toward gender equality and women’s empowerment in agriculture.

We look forward to your feedback as we explore new ways of ensuring that agricultural investments and policies are pursued with gender considerations in mind, which is essential for ensuring better economic and societal outcomes overall.
Nathalie Bernasconi-Osterwalder
Group Director, Economic Law and Policy Program
Extracting cobalt and lithium from old products and infrastructure is essential for heading off predicted metal shortfalls, supporting a transition to clean energy sources and reducing the risk of human exploitation, according to our latest report.
At an event co-hosted with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, we launched a paper in which we unpack Canada’s commitments under the World Trade Organization’s Government Procurement Agreement and the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement with the European Union, evaluating how they relate to sustainable procurement.
With a view to the much-needed development of a comprehensive and inclusive investment-related dispute settlement process, we participated in the latest deliberations at UNCITRAL.

At the World Bank’s Land and Poverty Conference 2019, we presented our latest research, including our policy brief on gender-sensitive contracts for contract farming. We also listened to new developments on agriculture-related policy around the world.

Together with Grow Asia, we launched the ASEAN Guidelines for Responsible Investment in Food, Agriculture and Forestry at the Responsible Business Forum on Food & Agriculture.

At the ITA-ASIL’s annual conference, we presented on public interest issues arising in contract-based investment arbitration.
We presented our Sustainable Asset Valuation (SAVi) during a workshop in Ethiopia to demonstrate how sustainable infrastructure can deliver better value for money for citizens and investors, as well as at an event in Geneva with international experts on sustainable finance.

Our taxation experts were in Mongolia delivering a training to government officials, strengthening their ability to determine the value of mineral exports and retain revenue generated from the mining sector.

We are in Burkina Faso and Tanzania for a “study tour” of existing agricultural investment projects from April 8–19. Stay tuned for updates from the trip, including a daily dairy in English and French as well as an upcoming photo essay.

Upon request of the government of Côte d’Ivoire, we are currently in Abidjan leading a workshop on the negotiation of bilateral investment treaties, which is part of the suite of advisory and capacity-building services that we provide.


Food security touches on income, poverty, health and more. We break down how sustainability standards support women’s food security and affect their livelihoods in our blog.


What could the new U.S. proposal on special and differential treatment mean for trade negotiations at the World Trade Organization? Find out more in our blog.


How can the Kenyan tea sector continue improving its sustainability efforts with voluntary standards? Read about our workshop in this MediaMax article.


Our study analyzing agricultural progress in 117 countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America to understand which policies have succeeded or failed is the highlight of a Farmer’s Weekly article.


For the third year in a row, CICERO is awarded for its initiatives on green bonds—and we were part of the innovative work leading up to this moment
We invite you to register for our upcoming webinars this month. We will be tackling developments in investment negotiations, dispute settlement and reform on April 16, followed by a discussion on leveraging sustainability standards in agriculture for gender equality on April 17.

We are hosting the Mining and Sustainability Forum of the Americas on May 8 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. This year’s forum focuses on New Technologies: The Future of Mining. The forum is a unique opportunity to engage with government officials from countries in Latin America and the Caribbean on how mining can contribute to sustainable development.

We encourage you to save the date for the Intergovernmental Forum on Mining, Mineral, Metals and Sustainable Development’s (IGF) 15th Annual General Meeting from October 7–11, 2019. This year’s theme is Mining in a Changing Climate.
IISD | International Institute for Sustainable Development
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