Press release

New legal tool can help governments get food systems back on track

October 26, 2023

October 27, 2023 − Global food systems are near breaking point.

The world has faced an onslaught of crises in the last 5 years. The COVID-19 pandemic. Climate change. War and conflict. Agrifood systems have been hit hard—with millions more people now facing hunger and malnutrition.

“Food systems need to change,” says Sarah Brewin, an expert in agriculture and investment at the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD). “They need to adapt to a changing—and volatile—context. They need to address rather than exacerbate social and environmental challenges. And to do that, they require responsible investment.”

For over two decades, investments in agriculture have been causing harm to vulnerable groups and environments. Local communities have been forced to relocate, losing their homes and livelihoods. Ecosystems and water sources have been damaged. Local food security has been jeopardized. Decent jobs that have been promised have failed to materialize, in some cases leading to social unrest. 

Through their work supporting developing country governments, IISD experts see imbalanced contract arrangements that exacerbate rather than mitigate these issues.

“IISD has launched a new legal tool to support investments in agriculture that help deliver—not derail—sustainable development objectives. This is part of a long-term initiative of IISD to develop innovative tools to support developing countries to enhance their legal frameworks for responsible agricultural investment,” says Nyaguthii Maina, an international law expert at IISD.

The IISD Model Contract Clauses for Responsible Investment in Agriculture offer agricultural investment negotiators, state lawyers, and policy-makers a series of user-friendly, customizable contract provisions to help them design responsible and effective agricultural investment contracts. Such contracts help supplement gaps in domestic laws, not replace them, to get food systems back on track.

Bringing together leading guidance, principles, and best practices on responsible agricultural investment, the provisions are designed to reinforce gender equity and to promote a just and equitable transition toward more climate-resilient production practices. 

Motoko Aizawa, author, independent researcher, and former sustainability advisor for the World Bank, is joining IISD for the launch of the Model Clauses during IISD’s Investment Policy Forum in Panama City today. “The IISD Model Contract Clauses for Responsible Investment in Agriculture are a valuable resource for policy-makers,” she says. “A timely and useful legal tool to add to our arsenal to enhance the regulatory environment governing investment in agriculture and food systems.”

The full suite of model contract provisions is available online. Governments can also download a customizable template, and those seeking support and advice on how to use the IISD Model Clauses can request IISD’s advisory and capacity development services.


For more information or to set up an interview, contact

About IISD

The International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) is an award-winning independent think tank working to accelerate solutions for a stable climate, sustainable resource management, and fair economies. Our work inspires better decisions and sparks meaningful action to help people and the planet thrive. We shine a light on what can be achieved when governments, businesses, non-profits, and communities come together. IISD’s staff of more than 250 experts come from across the globe and from many disciplines. With offices in Winnipeg, Geneva, Ottawa, and Toronto, our work affects lives in nearly 100 countries.