Background and Objectives of the ITF
Rapid growth of organic markets in developing countries presents promising opportunities for producers, and exporters, as well as for resource conservation and socioeconomic structures not only in the developed world but also in developing countries.
However, a plethora of certification requirements and regulations are considered to be a major obstacle for continuous and rapid development of the organic sector, especially in developing countries. Sharing great concern in this regard, IFOAM, FAO and UNCTAD decided to join forces and agreed, that harmonization, mutual recognition and equivalency in the organic sector offer the only viable solution to overcome the problems indicated above.
As a first step towards more harmonization and equivalency, the three organizations jointly organized “The Conference on International Harmonisation and Equivalency in Organic Agriculture” in Nuremberg in 2002, to bring together relevant stakeholders from the public and the private sector. One of the key recommendations of the conference was to establish a “multi-stakeholder task force” in order to elaborate practical proposals and solutions.
In response to this recommendation, the “International Task Force on Harmonization and Equivalency in Organic Agriculture” was launched at its first meeting on 18 February 2003, in Nuremberg. According to its Terms of Reference (ToR), the task force serves as an open-ended platform for dialogue between private and public institutions dealing with trade and regulatory activities in the organic agriculture sector. For further information please refer to the "Terms of Reference” for the ITF below. Since its establishment, the ITF has held a number of meetings. At these meetings and out of session discussions several studies have been presented discussed and finalized.
These discussion papers can broadly be grouped as dealing
with topics related to the three main phases of the ITF project:
1) The Review Phase, wherein the current situation is assessed, including its impact on international trade, extent of international harmonization, and models and mechanisms of equivalency and mutual recognition.
2) The Proposal Formulation Phase, wherein, building on the results of the first phase as well as the recommendations of the Harmonization Conferences in February 2002, and the second ITF meeting in October 2003, the ITF will formulate proposals for the consideration of governments and relevant intergovernmental and other bodies.
3) The Political Support Mobilization Phase, wherein the members of the task force will be asked to seek commitments from their governments and other organizations to implement relevant solutions.
On the Documents section of this website you will find the draft and final versions of the discussion papers. They are presented in a chronological order and if available together with their presentations as held at the different ITF meetings. This will allow those interested, to track the development of the papers over time. On the Documents section you will also find further background documents with relevance to the work of the ITF.
Some of final discussion papers were also compiled and published as books. These books can be found on the Publications section of this website. At the Meetings section you will find the discussion papers, related presentations and the final reports in a meeting based order. ITF Management and Administration The ITF is managed by the ITF Steering Committee. The ITF Steering Committee is made up of representatives of the three conveners (FAO, IFOAM, UNCTAD) of the ITF and is supported by the ITF secretariat. For further information on the Steering Committee members and Secretariat team, and regarding the website management, please refer to the Contact Us section of the website.
The ITF has been generously supported by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) and the Swiss government.
Terms of Reference for the International Task Force on Harmonisation and Equivalence in Organic Agriculture
The International Task Force on Harmonisation and Equivalence in Organic Agriculture, convened by FAO, IFOAM and UNCTAD, will serve as an open-ended platform for dialogue between public and private institutions (intergovernmental, governmental and civil society) involved in trade and regulatory activities in the organic agriculture sector. The objective is to facilitate international trade and access of developing countries to international markets.
the Task Force will:
1. Review the existing organic agriculture standards, regulations and conformity assessment systems including:
- Their impact on international trade in organic agriculture products;
- Models and mechanisms of equivalency and mutual recognition;
- Extent of international harmonisation.
2. Build on the recommendations of the IFOAM/FAO/UNCTAD Conference on International Harmonisation and Equivalence in Organic Agriculture (2002), and on the reviews mentioned above, to formulate proposals for the consideration of governments, Codex Alimentarius Commission, relevant bodies of FAO, UNCTAD and IFOAM and other appropriate organisations on:
- Opportunities for harmonisation of standards, regulations and conformity assessment systems;
- Mechanisms for the establishment of equivalence of standards, regulations and conformity assessment systems;
- Mechanisms for achieving mutual recognition among and between public and private systems;
- Measures to facilitate access to organic markets, in particular by developing countries and smallholders. These proposals will take into account their impact on production systems, their relevance to consumers and the need for transparency.
3. Advise stakeholders and provide information on developments following discussions of the above proposals .