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:

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.


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:

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.

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.



Dr Josh Brem-Wilson, Research Fellow
Centre for Agroecology, Water and Resilience
Coventry University, UK

The Future of CFS? Critical directions and emerging issues

By Jessica Duncan and 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.  

Every week, until early 2017, a group of academics and practitioners will be sharing their reflections on the critical directions and emerging issues at stake in this innovative intergovernmental and multi-stakeholder forum. Contributors include Matheus Zanella, Jessica Duncan, Josh Brem-Wilson, Nora McKeon, Nadia Lambek, Carolin Anthes, Pierre-Marie Audrey, Katie Whiddon, Thomas Patriota, Alison Blay-Palmer, Allison Marie Loconto, Martin Herren, and others. This is not an exclusive project. If you would like to participate, please let us know:


Last year we wrote a reflection about the UN’s Committee on World Food Security (CFS) wherein we proclaimed that the CFS was at crossroads. That was right after CFS’s annual plenary in October – its 42nd Plenary. At that time we identified a number of potential challenges that this Committee was facing to keep the spirit of its 2009 Reform alive.

In particular, we pointed out three main issues. First, that the initial ambition brought by the reform of the Committee and the engagement of non-state actors seemed to be fading away. Second, that we observed a lack of coherence amongst member states and participants regarding the future directions of the CFS. And third, that the multi-stakeholder format of the reformed CFS was being put into question, notably by not paying sufficiently attention to power dynamics and a failure to frame negotiations with a rights-based approach.

Last week the CFS met for its 43rd Plenary. By the end of the week we felt that many of our concerns and predictions had been re-enforced or confirmed. We also felt that it would be interesting to re-engage in this debate.

This time we also thought that it would be valuable to include more people in a thinking and sharing exercise. Indeed, after a week of intense interactions with academics, food producers, civil society actors, country delegates and private sector actors, we realised just how many people are working on questions like these! Besides, many issues such as those we raised above continue to need attention, while others were not addressed or even have just recently emerged.

Thus, over the next few weeks, researchers will be sharing their reflections, insights, analysis, concerns and hopes for the CFS.  Our hope is to raise awareness of key issues, strengthen collaboration, and facilitate a different way, hopefully a more accessible way, of communicating our ideas. Continue reading “The Future of CFS? Critical directions and emerging issues”

Making headway towards urban food security

This blogpost was written by Miguel Ruiz Marchini, MSc student in Organic Agriculture at Wageningen University and #CFS43 Social Reporter. The original blog post can be found here.


Urbanization has been a growing and tangible trend in our societies since the industrial revolution. With climate change and increasing migration patterns, the risks and stakes are higher. The attention on food security has been focused, naturally, on rural production. This needs to evolve. Efforts are underway to transform urban landscapes into resilient systems that foster and support food production, and civic inclusion.

The side event “Urban food policies and their role in sustainable food systems” exposed ‘la crème de la crème’ of forward-looking policy making for urban food security. It was presented by IPES-Food, UNESCO Chair on World Food Systems, Ivory Coast, FAO, and IUFN as part of the 2016 Commission on World Food Security (CFS) Plenary.

Continue reading “Making headway towards urban food security”

Advances in Food Security and Sustainability

The first volume of Advances in Food Security and Sustainability has been released. I have contributed a chapter on the post-political condition and global food security governance.


Advances in Food Security and Sustainability takes a scientific look at the challenges, constraints, and solutions necessary to maintain a healthy and accessible food supply in different communities around the world. The series addresses a wide range of issues related to the principles and practices of food sustainability and security, exploring challenges related to protecting environmental resources while meeting human nutritional requirements.

 Key Features

  • Contains expertise from leading contributions on the topics discussed
  • Covers a vast array of subjects relating to food security and sustainability

Table of Contents

Continue reading “Advances in Food Security and Sustainability”