Clapp: Responsibility to the Rescue? Governing Private Financial Investment in Global Agriculture


This paper examines the rise of initiatives for responsible agricultural investment and provides a preliminary assessment of their likely success in curbing ecological and social costs associated with the recent growth in private financial investment in the sector. I argue that voluntary responsible investment initiatives for agriculture are likely to face similar weaknesses to those experienced in responsible investment initiatives more generally. These include vague and difficult to enforce guidelines, low participation rates, an uneven business case, and confusion arising from multiple and competing initiatives. There are further weaknesses that are likely to emerge, especially with respect to efforts to govern private financial investment in the sector. The large diversity of investors and high degree of complexity of financial investments complicate efforts to discern who bears the burden of responsibility in practice. Rather than ensuring responsibility, these initiatives may instead only serve to shift the discourse from one that is critical of the potential negative implications of such investment, to one that sees the positive potential of private financial investment in the sector.

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