Initiated in 2002 by the World Bank and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD, www.agassessment.org) is an interesting experience of an international expertise process aiming at improving global governance for sustainable development. It aimed to understand how agricultural knowledge, technologies and sciences could contribute to reduce hunger and poverty, improve rural livelihoods and at the same time reach environmental objectives. It involved the large mobilization of international scientific expertise, but also the participation of a diversity of stakeholders, and a validation of reports by an intergovernmental plenary. The design of the process was inspired by other global assessments like the IPCC and the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment. Among these international assessments, IAASTD is particularly important as its focus on agriculture necessarily puts the stress on trade-offs and synergies between social and environmental implications of development. Assessing if and how IAASTD managed to reach its objectives will prove useful for other assessment processes, particularly in order to understand how social and economical controversies at the heart of the debate on sustainable development might be structured and dealt with by international expertise processes. Regarding the initial objectives of this assessment and its participatory approach, many analysts criticize IAASTD because it did not reach a consensus among all stakeholders. In this paper, we propose to consider also the alternative perspective of analysis, where this assessment serves an advocacy strategy for a new approach of global agriculture. In this alternative perspective, IAASTD can be considered successful. We also propose to consider that the difference between the two analytical frameworks can be useful in order to re-analyze recommendations for global assessments, and to reopen the diversity of the roles that expertise might play in global debates about environment and development where controversies are central.