The UN’s most inclusive body at a crossroads

By Matheus Alves Zanella and Jessica Duncan

Posted also at http://globalsoilweek.org/areas-of-work/sustainable-development-goals/the-uns-most-inclusive-body-at-a-crossroads 

The world food price crisis of 2007/08 shook global food governance. Pressured to find solutions for unexpected prices increase of several food products, many initiatives were launched at the global level.  One of those was the reform of the United Nation’s Committee on World Food Security (CFS), who transformed itself from “the most boring UN body of all” – in the words of an experienced diplomat based in Rome – to the foremost inclusive international and intergovernmental platform for food security, with substantive participation of different actors including member states, civil society and private sector.

That was 2009 and there was a general sense of urgency in addressing claims that over 1 billion people were going hungry worldwide. The reformed CFS was well positioned in this debate, by giving voice to all actors, notably those most affected by food insecurity, and transitioning from an inactive talk-shop to a leading intergovernmental body. Through the Committee, member States were able to endorse key policy documents on two major food security issues: land tenure (the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Tenure of Land Fisheries and Forest in the Context of National Food Security – VGGT) and investments (Principles for Responsible Investments in Agriculture and Food Systems – CFS-RAI).

Now, five years after the reform, the CFS just had its 42nd Plenary last week and we, as well as many other participants, sensed a change in the air. First, the initial ambition of the CFS seems to be fading away, and it appears as though the CFS is now entering a phase characterized by a lack of clarity on the future relevance of its decisions. Second, members continue to disagree about which direction the CFS should take – illustrated by relatively weak decision on Monitoring and Evaluation and the mild debates on the positioning of the CFS vis-à-vis the new development agenda launched by the approval of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The decision will not see the CFS featuring prominently in the SDG agenda for another two years, as some have expected. Third, the multi-stakeholder format of the reformed CFS is being put into question, as demonstrated by one very important intervention of the Civil Society Mechanism (CSM) in the closing session of the CFS plenary.

It is up to debate whether the CFS is losing influence or importance, or whether it had much to begin with. Considering that undermining one of the most inclusive UN bodies would consequently further open the door to less-inclusive governance mechanism to occupy its space, we prefer to see a strong and active CFS for years to come. In order to remain relevant, the CFS could avoid two major risks:

  1. Shifting back to the Committee’s pre-reform role of only monitoring international commitments, and
  2. Failing to address controversial topics, such as agroecology or bioenergy, as its strength is based on forging consensus such as those achieved on land tenure and on investment.

In what follows we provide some initial reflections on how the CFS currently finds itself at a crossroads.

Continue reading “The UN’s most inclusive body at a crossroads”

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
 

How to feed 9 billion people without wrecking the planet?

I am moving WAY out of my comfort zone by presenting a Pecha Kucha (20 slides  shown for 20 seconds each) at the Eco Intensive Agriculture Conference. I will be reflecting on the “why” and “how” of integrated food security governance for sustainability transformation and talking about why we need to include socio-cultural and socio-ecological considerations in such arrangements.

Here is the Flyer.

Registration for the conference is free (click here)!

Towards eco-intensive agriculture

L’Aquila Food Security Initiative has its first meeting of 2012

In July 2008, G8[1] Leaders meeting in Hokkaido Toyako, Japan issued a Leaders Statement on Global Food Security.[2] In the statement, G8 leaders stated their ongoing commitment to pursue all possible measures to ensure global food security, noting that since January 2008, they had committed over $10 USD billion to support food measures to increase agricultural outputs in affected countries.  The Statement emphasized the urgency of short-term needs (e.g., access of small-holder farmers to fertilizers), a commitment to increase food aid and investment and recognised the coordinating role of the UN through their support for the High Level Task Force on the Global Food Crisis (HLTF).  They also encouraged countries with surplus to released food stocks and called for the removal of export restrictions (G8 2008).

At the L’Aquila Summit, the following year, the G8 issues a stronger declaration highlighting the need to increase agricultural production. Twenty-six nations and fourteen international organizations launched the “L’Aquila” Food Security Initiative.  The Declaration was reinforced through the “L’Aquila” Joint Statement on Global Food Security[3] and a commitment to raise $22 billion over three years for agricultural investment and agreement on a comprehensive and coordinated approach, partnering with countries facing dramatic food insecurity to jointly implement national food security strategies.

The approach is articulated around five principles:

  1. Investment in country-led plans and processes;
  2. A comprehensive approach to food security that includes support for humanitarian assistance, sustainable agriculture development and nutrition;
  3. Strategic coordination of assistance;
  4. A strong role for multilateral institutions; and,
  5. Sustained commitment of financial resources.

The L’Aquila Food Security Initaitive, chaired by the USA,  has been meeting quite regularly and just had their first meeting of 2012. A video of US Secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton’s statement and the transcripts can be viewed here

“As the United States looks forward to our tenure as Chair of AFSI in 2012, our primary goal is to ensure not only that donor countries are living up to our own financial pledges, but also that these contributions are being allocated strategically and making a real difference in the fight against global hunger. To do this, we will expand reporting on our investments at the country level, deepen our engagement with developing country partners, track our spending on research for agricultural development, and measure the impact of our investments.”

Want to know more about the AFSI? Keep on reading!

Continue reading “L’Aquila Food Security Initiative has its first meeting of 2012”