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Struggles and Resistance

People’s Autonomous Response to the UN Food Systems Summit

FOOD SYSTEMS NEED A RADICAL TRANSFORMATION 

According to the latest UN Report on the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World (SOFI 2021), the number of people who are chronically undernourished has risen to an alarming 811 million. The report acknowledges that hunger was increasing already before the pandemic and estimates that around 118 million more people were facing hunger in 2020 than in 2019. 
The Covid-19 crisis has exacerbated the already existing deep structural problems of corporate and increasingly globalized food systems. A radical, human rights-based and agroecological transformation of food systems is more urgent than ever, towards food sovereignty, gender justice, climate justice, economic and social justice, biodiversity, people’s and planetary health, preconditions for lasting peace.       

CONFRONTING INDUSTRIAL AGRICULTURE

Corporate food systems, and the increasing influence of corporate actors in political decision-making on food and nutrition at the local, national, regional and global levels, pose a universe of threats and harm to human rights and the rights of workers, women, peasants, indigenous peoples, fisherfolk, pastoralists, migrants, consumers and the urban poor.
Those who contribute most to world food security, the smallholder producers, are the most threatened and affected by corporate concentration of land, seeds, markets, natural and financial resources, and the related privatization of commons and public goods.
The Covid-19 pandemic held up a mirror to our food system. The pandemic ratified the great failure of the industrial food system that permanently affects our territories and bodies, and causes serious damage to our health, biodiversity and natural ecosystems. In addition, Covid-19 showed to the whole world the depth of the structural inequalities, discrimination, exploitation, racism and sexism prevalent in our societies, exacerbating their consequences on hunger, health and poverty.    

SOLUTIONS ALREADY EXIST: AGROECOLOGY AND FOOD SOVEREIGNTY 

A radical change in the way we produce and consume food is needed. There is much to learn from the networks of solidarity and care that people – often the most vulnerable and historically oppressed – have put in place during the pandemic. 
There is no need to develop dangerous new technologies such as genetically modified organisms, nor to push for euphemisms such as “sustainable intensification”, “climate-smart agriculture” or ‘nature-positive solutions’. The solution already exists, and it is on our plates. Currently, 70% of the world gets food from the peasant food web, which works with only 25% of the resources.
Millions of smallholder farmers, fishermen, pastoralists, agricultural and rural workers, and entire indigenous communities practice agroecology, a way of life and a form of resistance to an unfair economic system that puts profit before life. Agroecological farming constantly adapts to local needs, customs, soils and climates. As countless experts have attested, agroecology improves nutrition, reduces poverty, contributes to gender justice, combats climate change, and enriches farmland.   

THE UN SHOULD NOT PURSUE THE AGENDA OF CORPORATE FRONT GROUPS

The UN Food Systems Summit is not building on the legacy of past World Food Summits, which resulted in the creation of innovative, inclusive and participatory global food governance mechanisms anchored in human rights, such as the reformed UN Committee on World Food Security (CFS). The FSS follows a strong multi-stakeholder approach, which puts on equal footing governments, corporations, other private sector actors, philanthropies, scientists, and NGOs. 
While FSS organizers aim to create an illusion of inclusiveness, it remains unclear who is in control of taking decisions and by what procedures decisions are made. 
Despite the increasing recognition that industrial food systems are failing on so many fronts, agribusiness and food corporations are trying to maintain control. On the one hand, they are coopting our language. The World Economic Forum is also calling for a “transformation of food systems”, and the FSS is self-proclaiming as a “people’s summit”. On the other hand, they are deploying digitalisation, artificial intelligence and other information and communication technologies to promote a new wave of resource grabbing, wealth extraction and labor exploitation; and to re-structure food systems towards greater concentration of power and even-more globalized value chains.     
The upcoming Food Systems Summit is an illustrative example of how corporate-driven platforms in close cooperation with like-minded governments and high-level UN Officials intend to use the United Nations for supporting and legitimizing a corporate-friendly transformation of food systems while promoting at the same time new forms of multistakeholder governance to further consolidate corporate influence in public institutions at national and UN level.     

RISE UP AGAINST CORPORATE FOOD SYSTEMS!    

The power that today’s agribusiness corporations exercise over governments and the UN must be dismantled so that the common good is privileged before corporate interests. It is time to connect our struggles and fight together for a better world based on mutual respect, social justice, equity, solidarity and harmony with our Mother Earth. 

Join the peoples’ counter-mobilization to transform corporate food systems. Check out the online & offline programme of our four-days event which will soon be published on this website!

7 reasons NOT to participate in the UN Food Systems Summit 2021

1.     The Summit is not based on human and peoples’ rights: although the official event promotes an apparently inclusive structure, from the beginning the process of organizing the Summit was opaque and side-lining the existing human rights-based UN institutions as well as the legitimate platforms of organized civil society organizations and Indigenous Peoples. It has also largely ignored the COVID-19 crisis and the multiple and systemic violations of human rights exacerbated by the pandemic.

2.     The Summit is dominated by corporate interests: corporate front groups and corporate-driven platforms such as the World Economic Forum (WEF), the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), the International Agri-Food Network (IAFN), the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WCBSD), the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), the EAT Forum, Scaling-Up Nutrition (SUN) Business Network, as well as leading corporate Philanthropies such as Rockefeller Foundation, Gates Foundation and Stordalen Foundation have been playing strong roles in the Summit process. The President of AGRA, Agnes Kalibata, was appointed as UN Special Envoy for the Summit.

3.     The Summit promotes highly problematic models of governance based on multistakeholderism. The strong threat that a deliberate multi-stakeholder approach poses to the UN system must not be underestimated. Multistakeholderism treats all actors as the same, regardless of their different roles and responsibilities, enormous asymmetries in power and resources, and evident conflicts of interest. The attempt to replace governance models of inclusive multilateralism, as established in the UN Committee on World Food Security (CFS), with a multi-stakeholder model with supposedly equal responsibility of all, firstly weakens the role of the member states themselves; secondly facilitates an undue influence of corporate interests, a trend of corporate capture in the UN; and finally makes a clear definition of effective accountability systems impossible.

4.     The Summit promotes a very narrow concept of science and frontally attacks the existing High-Level Panel of Experts (HLPE) of the CFS. The Summit’s Science Group proposes a new Science-Policy Interface that would weaken and side-line the existing HLPE. The HLPE has a clear mandate to serve as a global food Science-Policy-Interface and works through a participative science-policy process, including open consultations that enable input from civil society, Indigenous communities and all relevant actors. The Summit’s initiative for a new SPI, however, proposes a one-dimensional focus on modern science, ignoring many of the other knowledges (e.g., Indigenous, experiential, farmers’, tacit, feminine). Such exclusive approaches to knowledge and science tends to favour the powerful, especially the corporate sector, and to neglect the huge problems posed by conflicts of interest for research and science.

5.     The Summit drives transformation of food systems into the wrong direction: it does nothing to pave the way for the urgent and profound change needed in food systems. With the UN event being hijacked by representatives of the food industry and agribusiness, it is likely that the Summit’s narrative supports industrial food systems that promote ultra-processed foods, deforestation, industrial livestock production, intensive use of pesticides and monocultures of commodities, which causes soil deterioration, contamination of water courses and irreversible impacts on biodiversity and people’s health, will continue to grow and wreak havoc.

6.     The Summit promotes multi-stakeholder platforms as a replacement of public institutions on the national, regional and global levels: in this sense, big data and scientific evidence are increasingly being used to displace people’s direct participation and subjective knowledge in democratic deliberations within policy-making spaces. At the same time, multi-stakeholder platforms tend to be oriented towards “solutions” to cherry-picked problems and are therefore characterized by a mix of pragmatism and urgency, which does not allow uncovering root causes and unjust, historical power asymmetries.

7.     The Summit does not provide solutions to combat malnutrition, hunger nor the climate crisis and ignores what is most needed and urgent: a profound human rights-based and agroecological transformation of food systems towards, food sovereignty, gender justice, climate justice, economic and social justice, biodiversity, people’s and planetary health which are all preconditions for lasting peace. 

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