Using International Law to Achieve the Sustainable Development Goals: Food Security and Sustainable Agriculture - An Overview

[forthcoming in Inter-American Juridical Committee, XLV Course on International Law (2018)] 

This paper explores how international law can be used to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and, by way of illustration, identifies legal tools and principles from a range of specializations within the discipline that can be called upon as instruments for change to reach SDG#2 “to end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture.”  Through the identification of existing legal instruments, some of which perhaps are underutilized or not well-known, it is expected that better and more effective use of these tools will be encouraged and that those areas of the law where further work is needed will also become evident. Part I takes a global perspective to consider relevant international legal instruments, followed by Part II with a review of regional initiatives and a few examples of legal instruments from the Americas.

Assessing Impacts on Food Security – EIA, SIA, or Both?

35th Annual Conference of the International Association for Impact Assessment (April 2015), Florence, Italy 

"Agricultural production increases can only be achieved in one of two ways: greater efficiency... or an expanded land use base. Both of these have environmental impacts. Clearly, EIA would be, prima facie, an appropriate forum in which to consider food security."

IAIA15 Reviewed Papers:

Environmental Impact Assessment: A Tool for Global Food Security? 

33rd Annual Conference of the International Association for Impact Assessment (May 2013), Calgary, Canada


"Dear Reader, if you had to (re)design environmental impact assessment (EIA) as a tool for global food security, what, if anything, would you do differently? Imagine, if you will, an assignment from the Government of Utopia to do just that: to develop EIA legislation that would encourage sustainable development while at the same time would ensure food security for future generations."

IAIA13 Reviewed Papers:

Using Participatory Urban Design to “Close the Nutrient Loop”: A Case Study from the Philippines.

23 Urban Agriculture Magazine 31 (June 2010)  


"A shift towards resilient cities will require more than rethinking the built form; it will require the redesign of systems to facilitate more sustainable urban living practices. 'Closing-the-nutrient-loop' is an important principle in sustainable urban design, but challenging to implement. Engaging the community in the design of such systems is therefore
critical to their successful implementation."

Lectures & Round Tables


Trade Law and Agricultural Exports: Who’s Minding the Farm?

[forthcoming on March 28, 2019 at the 113th Annual Meeting of the American Society for International Law, in Washington DC]

Jeannette will be chairing a round table discussion among legal experts on international agricultural trade law to consider the relevance of recent advances, such as the “Nairobi Package” and their potential impacts on achieving global food security.

Chairing a round table discussion  

Using International Law to Achieve the Sustainable Development Goals:

Food Security and Sustainable Agriculture – An Overview

Lecture given at the XLV Course on International Law that is offered by the Inter-American Juridical Committee on an annual basis, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, August, 2018. (Learn more here)


"Achieving Food Security Through Private-Public Partnerships (PPPs)"

International Law Institute

Intensive 2-week seminar on effective use of PPPs to strengthen the agricultural sector.

Course Coordinator   

"Shifting to Climate Smart Agriculture: ESIA and Other Tools"

International Association for Impact Assessment (IAIA)

IAIA Annual Conference 2017

Panel hosted by Section on Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry

Organizer and Chair

"Launching EIA in New Sectors Presently Underserved"
IAIA Annual Conference 2015
"EIA and Food Security"
IAIA Annual Conference 2013

"Food Security and Political Stability"

University Club of DC

October 2016 - to commemorate World Food Day

Round Table Discussion with 5 Experts  

Organizer and Moderator 

"The World of Water – Abundance and Scarcity"

University Club of DC

March 2016 - to commemorate World Water Day

Round Table Discussion with 3 Experts 

Organizer and Moderator 


Malakas! Using ABCD for the Design of Sustainable Cities is a documentary film that tells the story of how three barangays (villages) in the Philippines were engaged in a community participatory process to design their own systems of organic waste management in support of local food production.


The film features scenes from the consultations that took place using the method known as Asset Based Community Development. The project and film was made possible through an ECOPOLIS award from Canada’s International Development Research Centre.

Trade Law and Agricultural Exports


Electronic Warehouse Receipts for Agricultural Products

In her capacity as Senior Legal Officer with the OAS Department of International Law, Jeannette has been the lead in providing technical secretariat services on this project for the Inter-American Juridical Committee.


Draft Principles were developed and approved by the Committee in 2016; at its latest session in 2018 the OAS General Assembly requested further work on the topic. For a synopsis of the project as of 2016, see the newsletter here.

Philippines – Integrating Urban Agriculture and Organic Waste Management

Jeannette engaged three communities (“barangay”) in the Philippines in a participatory process by which the communities designed their own plans for the integration of organic solid waste with urban agriculture.

While managing a Technical Working Group comprised of experts from local government, she helped this team acquire and adapt skills in Asset Based Community Development so that community consultations could be conducted in the local language. As Jeannette's documentary illustrates, not only is participatory planning a more effective way to empower communities to make their own choices for food security, it is also fun!

Urban and Rural Farming Communities

Jeannette has worked with urban and rural farming communities in Canada, Europe, East Africa and Southeast Asia. Here are a few examples:


Jeannette has…

- conducted economic feasibility studies with sectors of the Canadian agriculture industry so that members could assess for themselves whether or not to expand operations in the face of pending trade sanctions.

- worked with community garden associations to help them develop their own locally-based resource network.

- managed an international development project to enable communities to build their own local capacity for village health, income generation, and sustainable food production.

 - worked in tandem with local researchers to help them establish their own seed bank for genetic ecotypes of various grassland species.

- developed methodologies for calculating price spreads of various agricultural commodities, thereby providing policy makers with an effective tool to track changes in the producer's share of the consumer's food dollar.

- orchestrated and managed several complex legal research projects.

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