Podcast – civil society participation global governance of food security

The Perfect Storm scholars

As part of the perfect storm seminar series (see poster), Dr Jessica Duncan, Assistant Professor in Rural Sociology at Wageningen University (The Netherlands), gave a seminar about civil society participation in the global governance of food security on the 26th of January at the University of Edinburgh.

She kindly made the time to talk to me (Sara) about her seminar and research when she was in Edinburgh. You can find the result of this conversation in a podcast. Click HERE to listen to it.

Podcast structure

We talk about her seminar and research until around 24:40 min. From that point onwards we discuss the practical dynamics of undertaking empirical research in general, and specifically on global governance. At 30:00 min she shares her views on interdisciplinary research.

Podcast notes:

You can find out more about Jessica’s research in her latest book: Global Food Security Governance: Civil society engagement in the reformed Committee on…

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Call for Papers: Gendered food practices from seed to waste

Rural Sociology Wageningen University

Call for papers for the Yearbook of Women’s History (2016)

Traditional food festival Pastoralist women at traditional food fair in Gujarat, India  (photo credit: MARAG)

Gendered food practices from seed to waste
Guest editors: Bettina Bock and Jessica Duncan

About the Yearbook

The Yearbook of Women’s History is a peer-reviewed academic annual covering all aspects of gender connected with historical research throughout the world. It has a respectable history in itself, reporting on issues concerning women and gender for 35 years. The Yearbook has addressed topics such as women and crime, women and war, and gender, ethnicity and (post)colonialism. Overtime the Yearbook has shifted focus from purely historical analysis to a broader historical and gender analysis, focused on women’s and men’s roles in society. By focusing on specific themes, the Yearbook aspires that each issue crosses cultures and historical time periods, while offering readers the opportunity to compare perspectives within each volume. There…

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Call for abstracts: “Future solutions for a food secure world”

Fish pic

Deadline for abstracts 31 July 2015

More details here

Future solutions for a food secure world

The challenges ahead to feed 9 billion people by 2050 are well articulated (and contested), but innovative solutions remain elusive and time is of the essence. One possible reason that solutions are slow to surface is the generally homogenous pool of ideas from which to draw inspiration: neoliberal and patriarchal ideologies continue to dominate the discourse on global solutions. A platform for diverse perspectives on these problems and for proposals of solutions, can identify potential solution pathways that are key to operationalizing timely strategies for a just and sustainable food future.

In this Special Issue of Solutions, young thinkers (under 40 years of age) from around the globe are invited to propose innovative solutions for a food secure world. The Special Issue will provide a platform for emerging scholars to contribute to solutions from their diverse geo-cultural and disciplinary backgrounds. Papers on any topic relating to food secure futures are welcome, including, but not limited to: agriculture, aquaculture, climate change, consumption, energy and biofuels, fisheries, indigenous food systems, labour and migration, pastoralism, and urban food systems.

The final contributions will take the form of “perspectives”: short essays (1,250-2,000 words) on new points of view from thinkers working on bold solutions. Final selection criteria will be based on a combination of quality, innovation, gender balance, and geo-cultural diversity.

Continue reading Call for abstracts: “Future solutions for a food secure world”

Food Governance is Expanding

Notes from an interdisciplinary dinner

One of the absolute pleasures and benefits of working at Wageningen University is the opportunity to collaborate with some excellent and passionate scholars.

In order to make good use of this situation, a group of us have started to have interdisciplinary dinners: shamelessly nerdy dinners where we discuss problems that keep us up at night. The idea is to share our own disciplinary perspectives on key issues (e.g. food security, climate change, gender).

These encounters have made something very clear to me: solutions to the the big challenges we face demand not only multiple perspectives, but also the ability to understand and process these different perspectives.

This is of course  true for issues related to food governance. And so, to improve the quality and diversity of the content on this blog, and to get to understand issues of food governance from different perspectives, I have invited some inspiring scholars to join me.

Megan Bailey is a fisheries economist and a fellow Canadian who will provide insight into the complex world of fish and fisheries, a key but often neglected sector when we talk about food security.

Stefano Pascucci is an agricultural and new institutional economist who will share stories about agricultural value chains and illuminate the role of organizational dynamics in food governance.

I look forward to the interesting contributions that these two will make and to the quality of discussions that will certainly follow.

Their bios are available here.

3 year Teaching Fellow posts in the UK related to food studies

What: 3 year Teaching Fellow posts  are available with a focus on innovating and liaising across food-related Masters at 5 UK Universities.

Why: The Centre for Food Policy has won a large UK Higher Education Funding Council for England grant to develop an exciting phase of innovation, education and sharing across 5 Universities’ food-related Masters Programmes. The bid was led by Oxford and included City University, Reading and Warwick Universities. They are now hiring post-doctoral students for full time posts (3 year contracts).The 5 posts at the 5 Universities are being co-ordinated by Reading University human relations.One post will be based with the Centre for Food Policy (I can attest that this is a great place to work!).

When: They want to start in the beginning of the academic year. So the appointments process is tight / speedy.

More info here: http://www.reading.ac.uk/about/jobs/about-job-details.aspx?vacancy_id=9741528lNY

Good luck!

City Region Food Systems

urban AgA new issue of Urban Agriculture Magazine no. 29, which is a special issue on city region food systems.

This issue addresses the growing attention for policy and practice approaches that focus on food issues in urban areas from a city-regional perspective, taking into account possible contributions from urban and periurban agriculture and a strengthening of urban-rural relations.

To quote from the magazine:

Food is increasingly an urban issue. This is gaining broad recognition among local, regional and nationalgovernments, international and support organisations, civil society, the private sector, consumers and academia. Evidence for this recognition can be found in cities in all regions of the world, where policy and programme initiatives are being undertaken in various fields related to urban and periurban food production and supply – as many of the articles in this Magazine illustrate.

Check it out! http://www.ruaf.org/sites/default/files/UAM29.pdf 

Pecha Kucha: Governing the Doughnut

Today I gave a Pecha Kucha. A Pecha Kucha is a presentation of 6:20 with a series of 20 slides that change every 20 seconds. It is an unforgiving format that is admittedly probably engaging and potentially energizing for the audience but as a speaker it offers no space to engage with, or respond to, the audience and no room for error in your speech as the slides keep rolling even if you are not quite ready for them to! I get the appeal and the value but for an academic presentation, this is a terrifying format. Indeed, I found it so challenging to frame an academic paper/idea this way that I instead opted to give what amounts to more of a political speech.

I struggled to develop my talk for today, more so than any talk I have given in recent (maybe even distant) memory. I was intimidated by the audience (mostly soil scientists) and riddled with doubt: “Will they understand what I mean by governance?”;  “Do I even understand what I mean by governance?”

To further prepare, while on the train to the conference, I tried to write out the key ideas of the talk, without the limitation of having to shape ideas into 20 second with accompanying images.

Point 1: We need a transformation in the food system and this required attention to governance The talk starts from the position that we need a transformation towards sustainable and just food systems. I then argue, taking from transition theory, that governance plays an important role in facilitating or blocking such transformations.

Point 2: The doughnut offers a framework to consider environmental and social factors I then present Haworth’s idea of a doughnut: the space that is made between the planetary or environmental boundaries (outside the doughnut) and the social values or foundation (inside, or the doughnut hole- always the best part: Tim Bits, anyone?). The doughnut is a framework that serves to identify the safe and just space for us to work within to respect people and the planet.

Point 3: We need to embrace the idea of multiple solutions pathways The doughnut is not prescriptive. It offers the possibility for multiple pathways, and this is key for a just sustainability transition. These pathways need to be developed with and by people and address peoples’ practices in the everyday world.

Point 4: We need governance arrangements that can empower/support this solution pathways However, the architecture of governance is not able to support such pathways in its current arrangement. Key reasons for this include: lack of coherence and coordination, policy silos, overlapping mandates, competing understandings and interpretations of the problems, strong economic interests and an unreflexive commitment to productionism. Furthermore, governance has entered the realm of the post-political meaning in part that the debate has become polarised, or conversely framed around creating consensus. Both results arguably lead to a situation where conflict and tensions that necessarily exist around the tough decisions we need to make to support sustainability transformations are masked and this is unhelpful to supporting transformation.

Point 5: As scientists, we contribute to the post-political nature of governance In science and academia, there is a culture of studying complex problems and working towards answers that have narrow ranges of uncertainty: we tend to work towards simplicity. The problem is that the results of the research are never simple and if they extend beyond the labs and our offices they are applied to situations that are highly complex and which produce numerous uncertainties. In suggesting there is a final or correct answer to a problem we ignore this complexity. More problematically, we create a body of science that serves to justify almost any policy decision as science based.

Point 6: We need to acknowledge that our work is political. Scientists want their work to have impact but many refuse to acknowledge the political implications of their work. By trying to address complex socio-ecological problems we are engaging in the realm of the political. We need to be aware of this. We do not need to change our science necessarily but rather think about the potential impacts of the science. It means that we need to get out of our own silos and discuss the implications of our work with other scientists and importantly, non-scientists, notably those likely to be most affected.

Point 7: We need to politicise governance Those of us working on governance need to recognise the post-political nature of governance and work towards creating governance arrangements that are capable of addressing complexity, conflict and uncertainty. Such governance arrangements need to be organised in such a way so as to support the multiple pathways through the doughnut.

Point 8: What characteristics should these governance arrangements have? Well this is the big question! I have just written a paper about this with an Australian colleague, Ro Hill. I will post our answer to this big question when the paper is published!

Off to Copenhagen to address another conference on how to feed the world in 2050. This time Prof. David Barling and I are looking at food supply governance and identifying governance trends and challenges for the future.

NEW BOOK: Food Security Governance: empowering communities, regulating corporations by Nora McKeon

A new and exciting book about food security governance is out and it is a MUST READ.  I have just received my copy and will follow up with a more detailed review but in the mean time, check out the summary and the reviews:

Today’s global food system generates hunger alongside of land grabs, food waste, health problems, massive greenhouse gas emissions. Nora McKeon’s just-released book explains why we find ourselves in this situation and explores what we can do to change it. It opens with a brief review of how the international community (mis)managed food issues from WWII up to the time of the food price crisis of 2007-2008. It moves on to contrast the ways in which actors link up in corporate global food chains as compared to the local food webs that we think of as “alternative” but in fact feed most of the world’s population. It unpacks relevant paradigms – from productivism to food security and food sovereignty – and points out the perils of “scientific evidence-based” decision-making when it intrudes on the terrain that properly belongs to political process and value-based debate. The author highlights the significance of adopting a rights-based approach to solving food problems whereby adequate food is not simply a desirable outcome but an inalienable right that governments are obliged to ensure for their citizens. She describes how people around the world are organizing to protect their access to resources and build better ways of food provision and governance from the bottom up, in what is increasingly referred to as a food sovereignty movement. She discusses how the Committee on World Food Security – a uniquely inclusive global policy forum since its reform in 2009 – could be supportive of these efforts. The book concludes with a call to blow the whistle on speculative capitalism by building effective public policy instruments for accountable governance and extending their authority to the realm of regulating markets and corporations.

To obtain a 20% discount visit the book’s page on the Routledge website  www.routledge.com/9780415529105 and enter the code FDC20 at check-out.

‘Nora McKeon does a superb job at describing how governments have allowed markets and corporations to take control of food systems, and which tools could be used to provide healthier diets, ensure greater resilience, and empower communities.’– Olivier De Schutter, former UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food
‘At such an uncertain time in global food provisioning, Nora McKeon’s book offers an exceptional perspective… a lively account of food system crisis, competing paradigms and new questions of governance in an accessible and forward-looking analysis.’ —Philip McMichael, Cornell University, USA
‘This book is an overdue account of the fight over reform. It is a fine reminder that food democracy is the key to feeding everyone equitably, healthily, affordably and sustainably.’ – Tim Lang, City University, London, UK
‘..a wonderfully readable account of the world food crisis, distinguished by its grounded faith in the capacity of organizations – of people and governments – to prevent future hunger.’— Raj Patel, Research fellow at UCB and author of Stuffed and Starved, and The Value of Nothing
‘Nora McKeon understands the Byzantine world of global food politics better than anyone I know …. Everyone fighting for Food Sovereignty has to read this book.’ —Pat Mooney, ETC Group
‘Brilliant! An eye-opening tour of the march to democratize global food governance… A must-read for all who want to go beyond competing “issues” to governance itself — and real solutions.’ — Frances Moore Lappé, author of Diet for a Small Planet
‘A must-read for food activists seeking to go beyond slogans, techno-administrative fixes or business as usual into the realm of active, popular democracy.’ — Eric Holt-Giménez, Food First/Institute for Food and Development Policy

Global Food Security Governance: Civil society engagement in the reformed Committee on World Food Security

I am most excited that my book Global Food Security Governance: Civil society engagement in the reformed Committee on World Food Security is now available for pre-order!

It is part of the  Routledge Studies in Food, Society and the Environment

It is not exactly priced for accessibility so I encourage you to request your library to order it instead. That way you can access it for free!

You can do that at this using this link and click on “Recommend to Librarian”.

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Some reviews:

“In Global Food Security Governance, Jessica Duncan provides a timely and thoughtful analysis of the recent reform of the Committee on World Food Security and its evolving role in international policy-making on issues of hunger and nutrition. Both empirically rich and theoretically grounded, the book highlights the central role of civil society in reshaping food security governance and assesses the challenges facing the CFS as its work moves forward.”Jennifer Clapp, Canada Research Chair in Global Food Security and Sustainability, University of Waterloo, Canada.

“The Committee on World Food Security inaugurates a new breed of global governance: one in which civil society co-design institutions with governments. This is a superb assessment of this transformative moment.”Olivier De Schutter, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to food (2008-2014).

“The inadequacies of the world’s food system became only too clear when the banking crisis unfolded in 2007. Prices went volatile; hunger rose; politicians floundered. In this book, Jessica Duncan gives a wonderful account of the pressures in, on and around the UN’s Committee on Food Security, reformed as a result. The account she gives us both celebrates democratic attempts to make the food system more accountable, and points to tensions which remain. It’s a great read with sober messages.” – Tim Lang, Professor of Food Policy, Centre for Food Policy, City University London , UK.

“With global food security emerging as one of the issues of the twenty-first century it is essential that obstacles to improved food access be identified and addressed. In her timely and engaging account of the Committee on World Food Security, Jessica Duncan reveals how powerful global actors are undermining the Committee’s attempts to develop and pursue progressive policies aimed at assisting the world’s hungry. Importantly, she also demonstrates how civil society is confronting global neoliberalism and – through the Committee on World Food Security – is helping to create a new framework for improved food security governance. This illuminating and very well-documented book is a ‘must read’ for those who are hoping for, and working toward, a fairer, more food-secure world.”Geoffrey Lawrence, Professor Emeritus of Sociology, The University of Queensland, Australia and President of the International Rural Sociology Association.