The members of the network are engaged in research, along a number of priorities in a cooperative and complementary way. The research of the Center is by necessity of multi-disciplinary nature and focuses on the development of approaches and tools that would ensure a systematic, adequate and state- of-the-art analysis of issues within two broad areas:
Sustainable development and green growth
Departing from the Brundtland Report and the UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), widely known as the Rio Earth Summit (1992) a radical shift in public policy is observed towards an equal treatment of environment and development as components of an integrated sustainable development policy. Continuation of current unsustainable economic trends will lead, no doubt, to loss of local culture and biodiversity, and to resource-depletion. MED-SEC aims to focus research efforts on sustainable development and green growth along three priorities beyond the state of the art.
- Preservation and sustainable use of resources
- Methodologies and tools for sustainable development and green growth
- Governance and institutions for sustainable development and green growth
Preservation and sustainable use of resources
This priority responds to the need for preservation and sustainable use of natural and cultural resources that suffer from increasing economic and environmental pressures and usage conflicts. A country’s natural resources constitute valuable assets for national, regional and local development.
The focus of the research is on improving the design of public policies by increasing the capacity of the public sector and related entities in dealing with the protection and sustainable use of natural resources, thus supporting the development and implementation of integrated environmental strategies and tools as well as the joint testing of pilot solutions. This analytical approach aims to facilitate a larger uptake of the integrated environmental concept into the public and private sector such as the application of innovative technologies and introducing natural resource efficient solutions.
Methodologies for green growth and sustainable development
This research priority focuses on the development of tools and methods that ensure a systematic, adequate and state- of-the-art analysis of issues related to the preservation, use, planning, management, and operations of such resources and by necessity is of multidisciplinary nature.
It aims to improve capacities of the public and private sector dealing with the protection and sustainable use of resources by supporting integrated approaches. This will allow for coordinating the preservation and management of natural resources with sustainable growth. Research results will include the development of strategies and policies for valorising natural and cultural resources to trigger enhancement of economic opportunities and employment at regional level.
Governance and institutions for green growth strategies and sustainable development
The challenge of sustainable development needs to be met on all levels of the political system, that is, institutions of supra-national governance, national governments and by sub-national actors. In addition, it requires not only strong effort, but also innovative governance practices. At the international level there is strong effort in this direction of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. However, the issue has not received similar attention at national, sub-national or even at household levels due to its complexity and the difficulties encountered in policy analysis and design. Hence, the focus of this priority is on effective national and local governance institutions for natural and cultural resource management that would contribute to sustainability, economic and social development, and conflict prevention. MED-SEC research efforts will also focus on transnational cooperation to increase capacities of the public sector and related entities for integrated management of natural resources. Enhanced governance aims to contribute to better planning, management and decision making thereby reducing usage conflicts and negative externalities.
With evidence on climate change accumulating, the issue of feeding 9.5 billion people in 2050 climbs high up in the international agenda. Thus, the nexus of food security, sustainability and globalization establishes a new perspective in the very old issue of food supply-demand balances. This new perspective should take into account complicated Global Value Chains, responsible investment, sustainability issues and recent advances in economic governance. MED-SEC aims to coordinate research effort on food security in three new priorities beyond the state of the art:
- Explore new approaches in the analysis of food supply-demand balances and food security at country level,
- Investigate the operation of inclusive value chains and of responsible investment in improving the food security situation at local and country level, and
- Examine how governance for food security can be defined and what analytical framework can be used for improving the impact of food security policies.
Food supply–demand balances and food security
A rapid increase in food production and food self-sufficiency may be desirable for various reasons, but it does not necessarily result in an increase in food security. Achieving food security in the longer run is related to prospects of economic growth and poverty alleviation, while in the shorter run, it is a matter of redistributing purchasing power and resources by choosing efficient public policies on a cost-effective way. Public policy should be based on robust research evidence on the determinants of food demand, the conditions of food supply, resource constraints, in particular water, as well as agricultural trade prospects in the shorter and the longer run. The main objective of our analysis is to define cost-effective interventions that increase food security. Developing methodologies for measuring food insecurity and developing modeling tools for forecasting food supply and demand, in the broad context of climate change and water resource constraints is part of our research agenda.
Sustainable Investment, Multinational Corporations and Global Value Chains
Food supply chains have a major role in determining food security, while inefficiencies and waste have a strong negative impact on food availability, productivity and the environment and investment in agriculture is positively correlated with food security and poverty reduction. Investment along the entire supply chain, from farm to food distribution companies and the provision of public goods are important for increasing productivity and efficiency of food systems. Food supply chains have a major role in determining food security, while inefficiencies and waste have a strong negative impact on food availability, productivity and the environment. A strong investment effort is needed, as global demand for food, feed grains and bio-energy grows, and land and water resources are under strong pressure. Further, a wide yield gap between actual and crop yields needs to be addressed through increased investment. Major stakeholders in the achievement of sustainable investment and growth in the agro-food sector globally are Multinational Corporations (MNCs). MNCs lead global value chains and thus play a determining role in food security globally. Our research agenda aims at investigating responsible investment and the impact of MNCs at both global and local level of value chains such as the interaction of large retailers and producers with small farmers, address issues of sustainability in foreign direct investment and provide well informed policy tools and managerial implications.
Governance and institutional dimensions of food security
Strengthening rural governance, institutions and participation is critical for agricultural development, food security and sustainability. However, these institutions are often neglected as a result of isolation approach to food security. Food supply chains have a major role in determining food security, while inefficiencies and waste have a strong negative impact on food availability, productivity and the environment. A strong investment effort is needed, as global demand for food, feed grains and bio-energy grows, and land and water resources are under strong pressure. Further, a wide yield gap between actual and crop yields needs to be addressed through increased investment. Major stakeholders in the achievement of sustainable investment and growth in the agro-food sector globally are Multinational Corporations (MNC). MNC lead global value chains and thus play a determining role in food security globally.