An evaluation of a global network has found it contributes to increased sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) capacity in developing countries.

The Standards and Trade Development Facility (STDF) was created by the World Trade Organization (WTO), the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the World Organization for Animal Health (WOAH), the World Health Organization (WHO), and the World Bank Group.

The evaluation, carried out by Project Economics Consulting, covers the performance of the STDF in strengthening sanitary and phytosanitary systems in developing countries from 2020 to 2024.

Data used to support the report’s findings includes interviews with more than 130 stakeholders, such as partners and donors, and surveys with 81 respondents. Fieldwork was conducted in Switzerland, Thailand, Guatemala, El Salvador, Mozambique, and South Africa as part of project impact evaluations.

According to the report, the demand and need for support for SPS capacity development continue to grow. Applications for technical assistance demonstrate that developing countries still require support to attain international standards and benefit from a funder of projects.

Main findings and recommendations
Projects are selected based on applications. Examples funded under the current strategy include several pilots, such as the ePhytosanitary Certificate system.

It was noted that the COVID-19 pandemic impacted project delivery and engagement with developing country experts.

Stakeholders reported that increased SPS management capacity improves food security through access to safer or pest-free foods. There is also evidence of a decline in notifications to developing countries and improved food security through reduced contaminants or other food safety issues.

Limitations included the capacity to conduct outreach and distribute knowledge and challenges in measuring and reporting progress. There was also some concern about the ability of some projects to sustain achieved results after they end.

Jean-Marie Paugam, WTO deputy director-general, said: “The STDF is doing an excellent job in helping developing countries increase their food safety, animal and plant health capacity, protecting health and reaping the benefits from trade. Thanks to the STDF’s work, small businesses can join global and regional value chains.”

The evaluation report listed six recommendations, including the possibility of expanding the STDF’s mandate to address non-SPS issues around trade and improving co-financing of projects, with possible private sector involvement.

Francesco Branca, director of the Department for Nutrition and Food Safety at WHO, said: “The report identifies important areas to develop further the STDF, which should be reflected in the next strategy. This includes strengthening connections between the STDF and others working in SPS capacity development and the broader landscape.”

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