Governing food systems in a multi-stakeholder era, an example from Brazil

Is the Brazilian CONSEA a “multi-stakeholder process” or a platform for participatory politics?

By Matheus Zanella

This entry is part of a special series of blog posts about the UN’s Committee on World Food Security (CFS): The Future of the CFS? Collectively reflecting on the directions of UN’s most inclusive body. Read more about this project here.

We quick off the first post of the year by continuing with our third the thematic cluster: “CFS: Multi-stakeholder or multi-actor? And does it matter?”  In this post, Matheus brings us a national-level example, the Brazilian National Council on Food and Nutrition Security, aka CONSEA,  and argues that more conceptual precision is needed when comparing and assessing the transformative potential of multi-stakeholder platforms.

This is not an exclusive project. If you would like to participate, please let us know: foodsecuresolutions@gmail.com

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If you have been following the CFS and food security governance at the global level there is a good chance that you have heard about CONSEA. And if you have visited Brazil, I am almost sure that someone dropped this acronym in conversation, at least once.

In the past few years, CONSEA – the Brazilian National Council on Food and Nutrition Security in Portuguese – has become the showcase example of a successful “multi-stakeholder model” that promotes food security and nutrition. It has been featured in a number of international reports as an inspirational experience to other initiatives governing food policies. Members of CONSEA have been participating in CFS activities since at least the CFS 2009 Reform. At CFS43 last October, for example, the omnipresent David Nabarro delivered a video message in one side-event where he stressed the importance of CONSEA in influencing the CFS Reform process itself towards a “multi-stakeholder model”. The governance structure of the Council was also presented as a positive case to the plenary of CFS40 in 2013 and in a number of side-events.

CONSEA works; well, it has been working until now at least, considering that many of its members are highly suspicious of the new government administration intentions towards the Council – but that would have to be subject of a different blog entry.  The fact is that report after report confirms the importance of the Council in forging innovative, participatory and accountable food security policies that managed to take Brazil out of the FAO food hunger map already back in 2014.

So if CONSEA works, where is the problem?

The importance of CONSEA is unquestionable. Nevertheless, I fear that there is a conceptual misunderstanding when labelling this Council as an example of a multi-stakeholder model. For those that are more interested in the kind of policies that work for addressing food and nutritional insecurity, this might not be very relevant. But it is for those willing to understand the political economy that drives the adoption of a policy A instead of a policy B – that is, people concerned with the governance of food security.

First, CONSEA has little to do with the multi-stakeholderism that has been propagating in global governance circles (including the Agenda 2030 discussions). While the growth of multi-stakeholder platforms is associated with the changing nature of States and other non-state actors in the international system, the constitution of CONSEA reflects political changes within Brazil itself – re-democratization in the 90s and the left-oriented government of the 2000s. There are obvious interactions between the national and the international dimensions, but they do represent very different political disputes and power shifts.

Second, the composition of the Council is substantially different than other bodies that normally carry the multi-stakeholder label with pride – for instance the CFS. In terms of number of participants, CFS is still frankly dominated by Member-States, in despite of the 2009 reform that substantially opened space for non-State actors, including civil society and private sector. CONSEA has a much stronger presence of social movements, NGOs and small farmer associations, on the other side. In its 2013-2016 composition, out of the 40 seats, these groups had more than 30 seats, with just one seat assigned to the national large farmer association and another one for the agro-industry.

That implies that more critical and progressive thinking manages to flow more easily within the Council, shifting the challenge to the design and implementation of public policies that would be needed to make those transformative ideas reality. Indeed, the differences between the CONSEA model and the standard multi-stakeholder model are so evident that – still lacking a better terminology – I propose to consider CONSEA a platform for participatory politics or – if you prefer – participatory democracy.

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More conceptual precision needed to assess the transformative potential of multi-stakeholder platforms

If you are not from Brazil, why is this relevant? Because conceptual precision is needed to compare and assess the real transformative potential of multi-stakeholder platforms, such as the CFS. Analytical tools can assist us in un-folding the actor composition, in classifying their discourses, in identifying the power relations and asymmetries between actors, among other elements that shed light on the political economy of these platforms. Very recently, colleagues and I tried to do this exercise using the theory of deliberative democracy, in a manuscript that is still under review by a scientific journal. This is just one example of bringing political theory to empirical analysis of multi-stakeholder platforms.

Like it or not, we live in the multi-stakeholder era of global governance. Only understanding these platforms better will allow us to answer if these are bringing us closer to normative ideals that are usually associated with them, from justice, to inclusivity, to democracy.

 

Matheus Zanella is Research Associate at the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) in Germany, visiting researcher at the UNDP World Centre for Sustainable Development (RIO+ Centre) in Brazil. and PhD candidate at the Centre for Development and Environment (CDE) at the University of Bern. He has worked at the FAO, the Brazilian Ministry of Rural Development and farmers’ organizations in his home country, always dealing with topics related to agricultural and environmental policies and their interaction with food security and sustainable management of natural resources. He is also a co-convener of this special blog series.

Credits for photos:

1_ CONSEA

2_ Ubirajara Machado/MDS

Are equity and accountability a likely outcome when foxes and chickens share the same coop? 

Critiquing the concept of multistakeholder governance of food security[1]

By Nora McKeon

This entry is part of a special series of blog posts about the UN’s Committee on World Food Security (CFS): The Future of the CFS? Collectively reflecting on the directions of UN’s most inclusive body. Read more about this project here. This is not an exclusive project. If you would like to participate, please let us know: foodsecuresolutions@gmail.com

Last week Carolin Anthes reflected on the role of human rights in the CFS and across the UN system.  This week we launch the third thematic cluster of this series: CFS: Multi-stakeholder or multi-actor? And does it matter? In this post, Nora McKeon presents a  critique of the rise of multistakeholder processes in food security governance, warning that a failure to take power imbalances and interests into account is working to reinforce the corporate food regime. 

There is a popular aspiration today for governance arrangements that give voice to those most affected and hold governments to account. Such approaches require clear parameters to ensure effective participation by the marginalized and avoid corporate capture. There is an abyss between this kind of practice – often termed “multi-actor” in civil society circles – and what has come to be known as “multistakeholderism”, which ignores differences in interests, roles and responsibilities among the parties and negates power imbalances. The former can make an important contribution to defending the right to food. The latter is becoming a big part of the problem.

To make the distinction clear it is necessary to disentangle the knots of confusion the concept has accumulated over the past two decades. Multistakeholderism moved out of corporate boardrooms and into the space of global governance in the mid-1990s accompanied by the modality of public-private partnerships (PPPs). Today it has become an integral part of the implementation strategy for the SDGs. This evolution has been sustained by an astonishing ascension of the undemonstrated paradigm of the corporate private sector as a motor of development and food/nutrition security.

The political economy bedrock of this narrative is the advent of what has been termed a corporate food regime  (McMichael 2013) to which the public sector has sold out responsibility for ensuring food security worldwide. In discursive terms, the paradigm reposes on the abiding tropes of modernization and productivity. It profits also from the vagueness of the term ‘private sector’, which is opportunistically taken to cover anything from a family farm to a multinational corporation despite the great differences of size, operational logics and interests that apply across this range.

The rapid concentration of  transnational agrifood corporations along global food chains has benefited from the support of neoliberal  policies. The corporate private sector has a powerful motivation to gain access to global governance arena in which such policies are determined. ‘Business and industry’ was included as one of the nine Major Groups in the 1992 Rio Conference outcome document. This step was strongly contested by participants at the civil society consultations organized in parallel to the World Food Conferences in 1996 and 2002, who decisively refused to be placed in the same box as the private sector.

This logic prevailed during the reform of the Committee on World Food Security in 2009, the only institutional development in the UN system characterized by the direct engagement of social constituencies representing those most directly affected by the policies under discussion. Strongly contested points successfully advocated by social movements included the fact that the CFS deliberates from a human rights perspective; its recognition as the foremost inclusive policy forum promoting policy coherence; civil society’s right to autonomously organize its participation – independently from that of the private sector –and attribution of priority voice  to constituencies of those most affected by food insecurity; and government accountability as the ultimate decision makers.

Corporations ignored the CFS reform process, but in the same year the World Economic Forum convened an expert group to formulate a new system of global governance. The final report of this ‘Global Redesign Initiative’(GRI) calls for a move to redefine the international system as constituting a wider, multifaceted system of global cooperation in which intergovernmental legal frameworks and institutions are embedded as a core, ‘but not the sole and sometimes not the most crucial, component’ (WEF 2010, p. 7). Instead, coalitions of the ‘willing and able’ – TNCs, some countries, civil society bodies, parts of the UN – would take the lead in addressing unresolved global issues. The implications for global governance in this model are severe: TNCs heavily influence framing of global issues; the selection of participants is undertaken without public review; decision-making is conducted without concern for power imbalances or different  interests (Gleckman 2013).

The blueprint developed by the GRI is being replicated across a fast multiplying series of issue areas within and outside the UN system in ‘multistakeholder’ coalitions like  Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) or the Global Alliance for Climate Smart Agriculture. The differences between this model and that of the CFS are notable.

The fact that the corporate sector and its allies are investing considerable attention in the CFS is a demonstration of the authority the Committee has progressively achieved. It is only to be expected that these actors are seeking to weaken the political significance and the human rights basis of the CFS.  But the Civil Society Mechanism is not without arrows in its bow.

The 43rd plenary session of the CFS witnessed a striking growth in political maturity and level of analysis on the part of civil society participants. The CFS remains one of the few global arena in which articulate testimony given by small-scale producers themselves provides a powerful antidote to the recipes that others invent for them, as demonstrated in the recent negotiations on ‘Connecting Smallholders to Markets’.

The relations between the interests of the corporate sector and the neo-liberal frameworks that support them are systemic, but also dialectic. The rules of the game seem “just the way things are” until the equilibrium on which they are based starts to wobble. The corporate food regime has promised cheap food coordinated by transnational corporate supply chains, legitimized with a food security – productivity – modernization narrative. Today food crises and health issues are putting into question its ability to feed the world and its high environmental costs are becoming increasing evident. The entry of new governmental players has upset the previous balance, while mobilization by social movements is increasing the pressure for change.  An interesting juncture in which to examine the promises and perils of multistakeholderism, and what better site than the Committee on World Food Security?

 

 

noraNora McKeon studied history at Harvard and political science at the Sorbonne before joining the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations where she worked for many years, opening FAO up to organizations of small-scale producers and civil society. She now engages in research, teaching, and advocacy around food systems, food governance, small-scale farmer movements, and UN-civil society relations. She closely follows evolutions in global food governance including the reformed Committee on World Food Security.  She teaches at Rome 3 University and the International University College of Turin. Publications include:  Peasant Organizations in Theory and Practice (with Michael Watts and Wendy Wolford, UNRISD 2004), Strengthening Dialogue with People’s Movements: UN experience with small farmer platforms and Indigenous Peoples (with Carol Kalafatic, UN NGLS 2009), The United Nations and Civil Society: Legitimating Global Governance-Whose Voice? (Zed 2009), Global Governance for World Food Security: A Scorecard Four Years After the Eruption of the “Food Crisis” (Heinrich-Böll Foundation, 2011), and Food Security Governance: empowering communities, regulating corporations (Routledge 2015).  She has co-edited a special issue of Globalizations on land-grabbing and global governance (Vol. 10, Issue 1, 2013), contributing an article on land grabbing, transnational rural social movements and global governance.

Works cited

Gleckman, Harris (2013). “Multi-stakeholder Governance seeks to Dislodge Multilateralism”. Policy Innovations. http://www.policyinnovations.org/ideas/commentary/data/000269

McMichael, Philip (2013). Food Regimes and Agrarian Questions. Halifx & Winnepeg: Fernwood Publishing.

World Economic Forum (2010). Everybody’s Business. Strengthening International Cooperation in a More Interdependent World. http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_GRI_EverybodysBusiness_Report_2010.pdf

[1] This piece draws on an article to be published in 2017 in a special issue of Globalizations on the SDGs.

Human Rights to Geneva – Food Security to Rome?

By Carolin Anthes

This entry is part of a special series of blog posts about the UN’s Committee on World Food Security (CFS): The Future of the CFS? Collectively reflecting on the directions of UN’s most inclusive body. Read more about this project here. This is not an exclusive project. If you would like to participate, please let us know: foodsecuresolutions@gmail.com

After a minor diversion last week to look at Local Public Policies for Food Sovereignty, in this post, Carolin Anthes brings us back to the CFS and to the role of human rights therein, but also makes important links to the UN system more broadly.

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FAO Headquarters, Rome (Credit: C. Anthes, 2016)

During the plenary discussion at the 43rd CFS, the Russian delegate stated that human rights “should be dealt with by the specialized bodies of the UN system”. In other words: Human rights should be a matter dealt with in Geneva, not in Rome. A bold statement that is symptomatic for the contested status of human rights and the right to food approach at CFS and the Rome-based UN food agencies. The current Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Hilal Elver, also stressed at a CFS side event that the human rights approach was very much in danger these days and urged everyone “to pay more attention”.

In this post I invite you to pay attention to two interrelated, and in my view highly problematic, developments which contribute to and are at the same time an expression of the contestation of a human rights-based approach to food security and hunger reduction: 1) “forum shopping” by member states, and 2) FAO’s reluctance to mainstream human rights in its operations.

Let’s go “forum shopping”…

Russia is not alone, various member states engage in a strategic practice of “forum shopping” across different UN localities, which runs opposite to the cross-cutting integration of human rights in the UN system and especially in its development work (referred to as human rights mainstreaming). Enabled by the deeply fragmented setup of the UN system, these states are trying to refer an issue to another UN agency or forum as witnessed during the CFS plenary with the Russian statement. It negated per se that human rights have a place in Rome, thus fuelling the contestation of the right to food in Rome-based agencies.

But such practice is not at all limited to the CFS or Rome-based agencies. A multi-sited focus (which I try to embrace in my current academic research) shows clearly that Geneva – the human rights ‘hub’ of the UN system – and its processes have also been victim of member states’ attempts to engage in “forum shopping”, just the other way around.

During the first two sessions of the Human Rights Council’s working group on a new peasant rights declaration, the United States and the European Union, for example, repeated like a mantra that the Geneva human rights fora were not appropriate for discussing the issues of peasants, seeds and land, which were matters of Rome.

We witnessed a clear attempt to obstruct the further evolution of the human rights agenda towards including (collective) human rights to land, seeds etc. for particularly marginalized populations, simply by referring the substantive issue to “non-human rights” UN agencies in Rome. In the light of the established universality, indivisibility, interdependence and interrelatedness of all human rights and the human rights mainstreaming initiative, these tendencies of “forum shopping” are highly problematic and symptomatic for the volatile status of human rights, and in particular economic, social and cultural as well as collective rights.

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Palais des Nations, Geneva (Credit: C. Anthes, 2016)

Beyond rhetoric? FAO’s uncertain buy-in to human rights

States, their practices and attitudes are important when we aim at understanding why human rights and the right to food approach are (still) being challenged at the CFS and in the Rome-based food agencies. But they are not the only (f)actors that matter. It is important to take into account and “zoom in” the connected institutional environment, the actual inner workings of the UN food agencies that are expected to advocate for and implement a right to food approach – in particular the FAO, the institutional home of the CFS.

How do organizational structures and cultures shape FAO’s buy-in to a right to food approach? How strong indeed is the backing within the FAO secretariat, including senior management, and how far has the mainstreaming of human rights in the organization actually advanced by now (beyond rhetoric)? This is up for debate. There are signs that FAO largely sees itself as a “technical” agency, which is still perceived as being irreconcilable with “political” human rights work. In this context, the right to food approach often has a difficult standing and is being side-lined within the FAO bureaucracy.

The momentum spurred by the adoption of the Right to Food Guidelines in 2004 has undeniably slowed down in recent years. In the CFS Plenary, FAO demonstrated impressively its focus and know-how on the “indicators & statistics” side of food security governance work and announced plans for investments in a new Office of Chief Statistician. At the same time, the Right to Food Team, the entity that is actually entrusted with human rights mainstreaming and the strengthening of the right to food portfolio within the organization and beyond, suffers from a serious resource and priority shortage. FAO could indeed do more to promote a right to food approach and it should be noted that its (in-)actions and prioritization also have serious repercussions on the state of human rights at the CFS and beyond. It would be short-sighted to leave “human rights work” to Geneva-based mechanisms. The integration of a strong right to food approach may change how business is done and help to make FAO’s interventions towards a world without hunger more sustainable.

Human rights belong to Rome as much as food security matters to Geneva.

 

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Credit: C Anthes 2016

 

 

Carolin Anthes is Research Associate and PhD Candidate at the Peace Research Institute Frankfurt (PRIF), Germany. She conducts research on human rights mainstreaming in the UN system with a focus on Rome-based UN agencies and the inter-agency link to Geneva. Prior to joining PRIF she worked as Right to Food Consultant in FAO headquarters in Rome.

Food policy panels @ political studies conferences: 2 calls for abstracts

Just a quick post to share links to two calls for abstracts for very interesting international conferences. I have added links to the sessions that I will be co-chairing.

  • International Conference on Public Policy
    Singapore, June 28-30, 2017

T03P04 – Uncovering Politics in Public Policies for Agriculture and Food

  • European Consortium for Political Research
    Oslo, Norway, 6-9 September 2017

Section 69: The Politics of Food Governance

Continue reading “Food policy panels @ political studies conferences: 2 calls for abstracts”

Agroecology for Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems

This week I am in Budapest attending the Regional Symposium on Agroecology for Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems in Europe and Central Asia. There are over 170 participants registered representing 41 countries. The meeting will be web-streamed with simultaneous interpretation into English, Spanish, French and Russian.

I am presenting on Friday afternoon in Module 6: Transformative policies and processes where I am mean to give an introductory speech on “Reflexive governance for environmentally sustainable food security policies”.

Read more about the symposium here (you can also find the link to the webcast).

Click here to review the Participant Handbook.

Squaring the Universality of Human Rights and Hunger with Delegate Representation at the CFS

By Nadia Lambek

This entry is part of a special series of blog posts about the UN’s Committee on World Food Security (CFS): The Future of the CFS? Collectively reflecting on the directions of UN’s most inclusive body. Read more about this project here.

This week we inaugurate the thematic cluster CFS, a rights-oriented body? Nadia Lambek’s provocative entry discusses universality – a key principle of international human-rights body and other global processes, such as 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The North-South divide found at CFS representation carriers important implications for the effectiveness and legitimacy of the Committee, she argues.

This is not an exclusive project. If you would like to participate, please let us know: foodsecuresolutions@gmail.com

At the opening session of the 43rd CFS, in a room crowded with representatives of ministries of agriculture, food and livestock, the United States representative to the CFS made her introduction.  The head of the US delegate was not from the US Department of Agriculture or from the Food and Drug Administration. She was the Director of the Peace Corps – a volunteer program run by the United States government, which sends volunteers (mostly recent university graduates) to the Global South to live and work in communities.

 

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Hunger is not a new problem in the USA

By Unknown or not provided (U.S. National Archives and Records Administration) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

This made a stark impression on me. Why was the head of the US delegation from the Peace Corps?  In fact, not one of the US’s 23 person official delegation to the CFS had a mandate concerning domestic issues within the US. Certainly the US is no stranger to food insecurity within its own borders. According to the US Department of Agriculture, 12.7 percent of American households were food insecure at some point during 2015. Yet it didn’t bring any delegate knowledgeable about domestic food insecurity or with any mandate to address it.

The US is not alone in this respect.  Looking at the official delegate list of people attending the CFS, one thing is clear: countries in the Global South send representatives from their ministries of agriculture, fisheries, livestock or food, while countries from the Global North tend to send representatives from foreign affairs or international development agencies.

This divide tells us a lot about how countries view food security, the role of the CFS and their human rights obligation – but it also has a lot of implications for the CFS and its effectiveness, particularly as a body with a human rights mandate.  I highlight some of these concerns below: Continue reading “Squaring the Universality of Human Rights and Hunger with Delegate Representation at the CFS”

Boundary contestation in global food governance: Reflections from CFS43

By Dr Josh Brem-Wilson

This entry is part of a special series of blog posts about the UN’s Committee on World Food Security (CFS): The Future of the CFS? Collectively reflecting on the directions of UN’s most inclusive body. Read more about this project here.

This week we launch the first thematic cluster The CFS: What for? with Josh Brem-Wilson’s reflections on how disputes over the boundaries between the spheres of public authority and private autonomy frame debates in the CFS.

This is not an exclusive project. If you would like to participate, please let us know: foodsecuresolutions@gmail.com

Attending this year’s plenary meeting of the United Nations Committee on World Food Security, I became struck by how much of the work and debates of the CFS are contextualised by an ongoing, yet un-acknowledged, dispute over the character of the agrifood system (in its international, regional, national and local dimensions). This dispute, which hinges on the question of whether the agrifood system has a public, or private character, is visible within and impacts upon the CFS in two clear ways.

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Photo by J. Taellious

Firstly, in diverging views on the location in the agrifood system of the boundary between the spheres of public authority, on the one hand, and private autonomy, on the other (within which disagreements on the CFS’s role seem to be located). And secondly, in disagreements over the principles of inclusion that should be used to regulate the roles and participation of different actors in the CFS. There are two clear sides to this dispute.

On the one hand, a publicisation approach (affirming the public character of the agrifood system), with the food sovereignty and right to food movements at the fore; and on the other, the neoliberal-modernization nexus.

For example, as reflected this year in side events on ‘mega-mergers’ and ‘conflicts of interest’; in the ongoing efforts by the CSM to promote human rights-based approaches in the work of the CFS; and also their ongoing efforts to establish a meaningful monitoring capacity for the CFS, actors within the publicisation approach seek to expand the sphere of public authority in the agrifood system by affirming the status of member states as the key decision-makers in agrifood system governance; problematizing the role of the private sector (particularly Transnational Agrifood Corporations); and obtaining protection from new rights instruments.

Alternatively, actors within the neoliberal-modernisation nexus seek to privilege a historically contingent understanding of the boundary between the spheres of public authority and private autonomy in the agrifood system. This is evident in the CFS, firstly, in the interpretation (most evident in side events) of the public sector’s role in food security interventions as being limited to ‘catalysing synergies’, particularly with private sector actors.

It is also visible in the organisational form of multi-stakeholderism itself, which seems premised on the idea that each different stakeholder presides over a discrete sphere of responsibility. Both approaches appear from the outset to preclude the possibility of problematizing, and then redefining, the public (authority)-private (autonomy) boundary, despite the occasional historic necessity of this move.

Moving to the principles of inclusion, two different sides are also clear. Again, the publicisation approach, visible in the emphasis given within this perspective to the need to prioritise the participation of citizens and (human) rights holders (‘affected publics’), above other actors in agrifood system governance.

This is visible in the CFS in the reform blueprint’s differentiation of 10 specific constituency of (non-elite) agrifood system actor, and the organisational logic of the Civil Society Mechanism itself, where protagonism is (in principle at least) the preserve of social movements and peoples’ organisations, with NGOs assigned the role of technical support. As I have argued, there is a strong resonance between this approach, and the principles of inclusion outlined within a substantive theory of democracy like public sphere theory.

And on the other side, the multi-stakeholder approach which, at least, leaves the assumptions of the neoliberal-modernisation nexus unchallenged. Indeed, the preferred logic of the multi-stakeholder approach seems precisely to be ‘problem-solving’ within a shared neoliberal-modernisation convergence. This, I suspect, inclines some institutional actors towards privileging the participation of organisations and actors who share their basic assumptions, and who, therefore are precisely ready to work with them on a problem-solving basis. Particularly in a context where the food sovereignty and right to food movements are of course seeking to problematise some of these basic assumptions (and are therefore less receptive to working within the problem-solving frame).

Some states in the CFS have tended to conflate the inclusivity of a multi-stakeholderism with democratic decision-making. It is important to note, however, that these two are very different things, and in fact, inclusion, especially when it diminishes opportunities for the participation of non-elite organisations seeking to represent wider publics and citizens, can in fact be undemocratic.

Looking ahead, if the CFS is to maintain its distinctive character (and unique promise) institutional actors will have to give more/some attention to the challenge of ensuring that the non-elite constituencies formally entitled to participate in its work can convert that formal right into effective participation.

From this perspective, the unreflexive expansion by institutional actors of the actors able to participate in the CFS’s work; the use of an online questionnaire in an earlier evaluation of the CFS; and the seeming lack of sensitivity to this issue shown by the present evaluation team are, perhaps, all causes for concern.

However, and perhaps more fundamentally, given that the commitment to the participation of affected publics is part of the publicisation approach, and this approach is not universally championed, or even, indeed, understood in the CFS, it is perhaps more pressing to find ways in which to shore up support for the publicisation agenda in the CFS. One way of pursuing this could be by increasing the reflexivity of institutional actors (UN officials and member state representatives).

Reflexivity in this context would involve attaining recognition amongst institutional actors that a) there are diverging positions on the character of the agrifood system, b) that these translate into diverging ideas about global food governance, and c) that often decisions taken in the CFS, at all levels of its work, have the effect of either privileging one perspective (publicisation or neoliberal-modernisation) or another.

One small step towards achieving this could be the creation of a deliberative arena or process (without formal status) in which advocates from either side debate and discuss with each other the merits of their respective approaches.

In the face of the enormous challenges that are being faced by those negotiating chronic food insecurity, or who are exposed to the worst excesses of corporate power and state neglect, this response might seem weak and ineffectual. My hope would be though that by making explicit the assumptions that underpin these approaches, they can be brought into a fruitful encounter. The likelihood of that possibility, I have absolutely no doubt, is up for debate.

For a longer version of this reflection please visit Josh’s blog: The Publicisation Project.

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Dr Josh Brem-Wilson, Research Fellow
Centre for Agroecology, Water and Resilience
Coventry University, UK
ab9313@coventry.ac.uk
http://www.coventry.ac.uk/research/research-directories/researchers/dr-josh-brem-wilson/
https://coventryuniversity.academia.edu/JoshBremWilson