5 things you need to know about the CFS

This week I am teaming up with Nadia Lambek to research, reflect and write about the CFS. 

In our conversations with people over the last few days (well actually, the last 6 years), we have been asked a lot of questions about the UN Committee on World Food Security (CFS), and often, the questions are the same.

To save you, and us, some time, we have identified the top 5 questions we get about the CFS and provided our answers below.

1) What is the CFS?

The CFS is the foremost UN body tasked with coordinating food policy at the global level and supporting and advising countries and regions on achieving food security and the protection of the right to food. The CFS was established in 1974 but in 2009 it was reformed to be a platform for a broad range of actors to work together to eliminate hunger.

2) How does the CFS define food security?

Food security is defined by the CFS as being achieved when all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.

 The CFS identifies four pillars of food security: availability, access, utilization and stability.  Nutrition is integral to the concept of food security and to the work of CFS (see the CFS Reform Document).

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CFS Plenary meeting at the FAO in Rome

3) Who is active in the CFS?

The CFS is a member organization, meaning it is made up of member governments. What makes the CFS so exciting, at least in part, is that unlike other intergovernmental committees, it also includes a number of participants in its work and negotiations.

Participants include civil society, the private sector, research institutes, other UN bodies and philanthropic foundations. This is how the CFS is able to claim that it is “the foremost inclusive international and intergovernmental platform” concerned with global food security policy.

In practice, this means that the CFS is made up of member governments, participants (including civil society and the private sector) and observers. The Civil Society Mechanism coordinates civil society, while the Private Sector Mechanism coordinates the private sector.

4) How does the CFS work?

Each year the CFS selects 1-2 thematic topics that become the future policy focus for the Committee.

For each theme, the High Level Panel of Experts writes a scientific report and related recommendations. These are translated into political draft decisions, which are then negotiated by member governments and participants. While member governments have the final say on the content of policy outputs, in practice since the reform in 2009, participants have been part of the decision-making process.

After each CFS session, the policy decisions taken by the CFS are added to the Global Strategic Framework. This is a single document that contains all of the outcomes of the CFS since its reform.

5) What outputs does the CFS produce?

The CFS makes policy recommendations – outputs – on key issues related to food security, such as gender and nutrition, food price volatility, and biofuels.

For a summary of the CFS policy recommendations, your best bet is to read the Global Strategic Framework.  However, there have been at least three CFS outputs since the 2009 reform that really stand out:

Fcfs_vggt_th_eninalized in 2012, most people just call them the “land tenure guidelines”, the “voluntary  guidelines” or the VGGT. The Guidelines are a reference tool. They have been designed to provide guidance on the governance of tenure of land, fisheries and forests to support the bigger goal of achieving food security for all and to support the progressive realization of the right to adequate food in the context of national food security.

The Framework focuses on the food security of populations affected by, or at risk of, protracted crises.

These principles aim to address the core elements of responsible investment in agriculture and food systems; identify the key stakeholders; and guide the actions of all stakeholders engaged in agriculture and food systems by promoting responsible investment.

These 5 questions only skim the surface. To learn more, check out the CFS website.

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