Project deliverable Open Access

D2.4 Analytical framework

Bassi, Andrea; Guzzetti, Marco; Fontana, Beatrice

The MATS project aims to expand and enhance the available knowledge on the relationships between agricultural markets, trade, investments, policy, environmental sustainability, and human well-being. It intends, through the improvement of the design, governance, and implementation of trade regimes and policies at the private sector, national, EU, African and global levels, to set a new benchmark in agricultural trade policy analysis to deliver novel solutions for the necessary sustainability transition. This deliverable presents the analytical framework developed, and adopted by MATS, to achieve such objective.

Systems thinking is used as the underlying approach for the development of the analytical framework, because of the need to capture (i) vertical and (ii) horizontal dynamics. First, (i) agricultural trade affects several dynamics, from macro, to meso and ultimately micro. This high degree of vertical reach, which results in the emergence of several feedback loops, must be analysed systemically, across the entity of the food system. Second, (ii) agricultural trade policy affects the choices of actors, which result in social, economic, environmental, and governance dynamics. These dimensions of sustainable development are interconnected with one another and form additional feedback loops.

Building on the above, MATS proposes an analytical framework that is problem-driven, multi-dimensional in the definition of sustainability, multi-method in the selection and use of relevant methods and models, uses past trends to learn about social, economic, environmental, and governance dynamics, and uses forecasts to estimate the benefits of sustainable trade policy, allowing to identify the required enabling conditions to unlock action, and finally formulate transition pathways that trigger policy uptake.

Unlike other work in this field, MATS, via the use of this framework, aims at breaking silo-based thinking and analyses, offering a more holistic and comprehensive analysis of the extent to which policy affects behaviour, using an evidence-based approach aided by science.

Eight steps are identified for the implementation of the MATS analytical framework. These are not dissimilar to other research being performed for policy analysis. On the other hand, there are a few peculiarities, especially in relation to the use of a systemic approach, that are essential for the assessment of all facets of sustainability for agricultural trade policy. The eight is presented and then applied to three selected case studies, as illustrative examples.

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