29 July 2022. The Civil Society and Indigenous Peoples’ Mechanism (CSIPM)[1] for relations with the UN Committee on World Food Security (CFS) acknowledges the invitation received from the German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), on behalf of the Global Alliance for Food Security (GAFS), to participate in the Steering Group of the GAFS.

In order to respond appropriately, the CSIPM conducted an internal consultation process[2] based on the documents available to it[3]. A conversation was also held with the German Ministry for Development Cooperation to better understand the objective, mandate, priorities, and actions of the GAFS and how it relates to existing initiatives and structures.

The CSIPM deliberation measured the GAFS against three main criteria/concerns:

1) Human Rights should be at the centre of the global policy response to the new layer of crisis;

2) The food system transformation envisaged should be profound and should lead in the direction of equity, sustainability and justice.

3) Global policy coordination needs to be urgently implemented within an inclusive multilateral governance mechanism that affords priority voice for most affected countries and constituencies.

The outcome of the CSIPM assessment is provided in the following paragraphs.

  1. Human rights should be at the centre of global policy response to the new layer of crisis.

Without a comprehensive and fully consistent human rights approach to addressing the new layer of crisis and food system transformation, the multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination against the persons and communities most affected by hunger and malnutrition cannot be effectively addressed and overcome. In the absence of a HR approach the identity and agency of those most affected as rights-holders and the accountability of governments as duty-bearers cannot be maintained. The HR approach underpins the UN system and proposes a guarantee against the rule of the powerful in a globalized world, going far beyond a good-will action of the wealthiest economies of the planet.

Against this criterion we note that reference to human rights is absent or instrumental in the GAFSP documentation. The original proposal footnotes the whole idea of the right to food and suggests that it might be delegated to ‘relevant NGOs/CSOs’, missing the point that it is governments who have adopted the UN human rights framework and are called upon to defend and implement it. Human rights disappear from the report of the 2nd SC meeting of the GASP. It is reference again again in the Chairs Conclusions of the Berlin Ministerial Conference but with the suggestion that attaining adequate food is an opportunity for people, not an inalienable right, and that CSOs are somehow the main actors in assuring it. In the politically most outstanding document for the GAFS, the G7 Statement on Global Food Security from 28 June, Human Rights are totally absent. We will return to the implications of this deficit under point 3 below.

2. The food system transformation envisaged should be profound and should lead in the direction of equity, sustainability and justice.

The immediate responses to the new layer of crisis need to be guided by a vision of profound food systems transformation towards food sovereignty, economic and social justice, gender justice and diversity, agroecology, biodiversity, and climate justice to address the multiple and intertwined crises of the present and the future. 

In this perspective, it is imperative to look at the structural and root causes of today’s unjust and unsustainable global economy and worsening food insecurity. Decades of misled and unfair agricultural, trade and financial policies have destroyed the economies and livelihoods of smallholder food producers and generated a structural and risky dependency of many low- and middle-income countries on food and fertilizer imports. The reduction of these dependencies is central now.

Necessary measures include: Strong market regulation (including public stockholding) to stabilize prices, addressing food speculation (including financial speculation in futures contracts on agricultural commodities), limiting corporate power concentration in markets and value chains, and immediately reducing the use of food for animal feed and biofuels. Conflict, wars, and protracted crises continue to generate violence, evictions, hunger, and misery. Intersecting forms of violence and discrimination affect particularly women, girls, and gender diverse persons. Mounting sovereign debt burdens for countries in the global South, tax evasion and avoidance strongly impact on food insecurity and limit countries’ response capacities to the new layer of crisis.

Public policies and international efforts should be oriented towards systemic transitions to more localized, resilient and diversified food systems, support to small-scale producers, gender equality and diversity, local and internal markets, agroecological principles, social and solidarity economy as a lever of the much-needed systemic economic change, revision of free-trade policies and agreements, and debt cancellation as part of a holistic, effective and sustainable response to the enormous and complex climate, economic and social challenges that underly the growing and systemic global food crisis.

Against this criterion, the stated objective and immediate priorities of GAFS are inadequate:

According to the GAFS Steering Committee, “the objective of GAFS is to catalyse an agile, immediate, and coordinated response to the unfolding global food security crisis, temporarily joining forces, using and leveraging existing institutions and instruments to show solidarity and support to those most affected while at the same time accelerating action and cooperating in an agile fashion. By identifying and mapping the resources each institution currently has at its disposal, a coherent response can be ensured in a timely manner.” The announced five immediate priorities actions of GAFS are to promote the export of agricultural goods from Ukraine; humanitarian responses and expanded social safety nets; boost sustainable agricultural production; provide regular agricultural market information; and develop an interactive mapping to track financial resources and share research. This agenda does not provide an opportunity to assess and ensure coherence between immediate responses and a longer-term transformative vision.

As clearly stated by the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Michael Fakhri, the nature of our immediate responses to today’s crises determines the long-term direction in which we will head. In our view, the objective and the announced immediate priorities of GAFS fail to indicate the needed change of direction in food system transformation and fall short to address the intertwined and systemic challenges through an integrated strategy of immediate and mid-term actions in response to the new layer of global food crisis. 

3. Global policy coordination needs to be urgently implemented within an inclusive multilateral governance mechanism that affords priority voice for most affected countries and constituencies.

Already in the face of the 2007-2008 food price crisis the initial reaction of the G8 was to propose a global partnership that would promote increased investment in agriculture and food security and nutrition. In a hotly animated international debate other actors, led by members of the G77, insisted that public policies should lead investment rather than the other way around, and that public policies needed to be determined in an inclusive manner with priority voice to most affected countries and constituencies. The outcome of this debate was the reform of the UN Committee on World Food Security (CFS) transforming it into the foremost inclusive intergovernmental and international platform for food security and nutrition and the progressive realization of the right to food with a mandate of policy coordination and coherence within a human rights framework. Over the past two years the CSIPM has been demanding that the CFS promote global policy coordination on food security and nutrition in response to the food security and nutrition crises exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite strong support from several Global South countries and UN agencies, the CFS has not taken up this role due to the opposition of major agro-exporting countries, among them the Russian Federation and influential G-7 member countries.

The CSIPM supports the new initiative whereby the CFS should assume the Global Policy Coordination role in response to the new layer of food crisis, as proposed by the CFS Chair and supported by several members and participants of the CFS and recommended by its High-Level Panel of Experts (HLPE). In this sense, CSIPM welcomed and appreciated the High-Level Event convened by the CFS and the UN General Assembly President for 18 July about “Coordinating Policy Responses to the Global Food Crisis”, and the fact that this theme will be the focus of the Ministerial Segment of the CFS Plenary Session in October 2022.

Against this criterion we note the deeply worrying inherent legitimacy deficits of the GAFS as a G-7 initiative and the absence of a clear governance mechanism that would allow for effective accountability mechanism for the decisions taken. These deficits pose complex obstacles to a meaningful and autonomous effective participation of civil society and Indigenous Peoples’ organizations. The assurance given to us that no decisions would be taken by the GAFS is not convincing. We have seen too many occasions over the past few years on which public policy decision-making is being side-tracked by action coalitions and investments. The GAFS’s evident lack of democratic governance structures in line with principles of inclusive multilateralism, as for example established in the reformed CFS, is highly problematic.

The announcement documents for the GAFS foresee an inexistent or marginal role for the CFS in relation to the efforts of this G-7 initiative. Although we have been assured that the Global Alliance does not intend to side-line the CFS, it is evident that the role of the CFS as the central multilateral Global Policy Coordination Platform has not been recognized so far in the key documents of the GAFS. The risk that the appropriate and legitimate multilateral UN body may be undermined by this new initiative cannot be denied.[4]

Based on these deliberations, the CSIPM Coordination Committee has concluded that it would not be appropriate for the CSIPM to participate in the GAFS Steering Committee. The CSIPM expresses its appreciation for the invitation extended by the GAFS Steering bodies, particularly the German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development.  The CSIPM encourages all Member States and all relevant actors to continuing the discussion about the development of a Globally Coordinated Policy response to the new layer of global food crisis in the framework of the UN Committee on World Food Security (CFS).

[1] The CSIPM is the largest global mechanism of civil society and Indigenous Peoples’ organizations working on food security and nutrition. The several hundred participating organizations in the CSIPM belong to the following 11 global constituencies: smallholder farmers, pastoralists, fisherfolks, Indigenous Peoples, agricultural and food workers, landless, women, youth, consumers, urban food insecure and NGOs. The participating organizations, particularly those that organize small-scale food producers and consumers, have more than 380 million affiliated members from all continents.

[2] The organs of the CSIPM involved in this consultation were the Coordination Committee, composed of focal points for the 11 constituencies and 17 sub-regions, and the CSIPM Working Group on Global Food Governance with its recently established Task Force on the New Layer of Global Food Crisis.

[3] This document was the GAFS draft proposal dated 17 May 2022, to which were subsequently added the report of the 2nd Steering Group Meeting of GAFS dated 15 June, the Chairs Conclusions of the Berlin Ministerial Conference ‚Uniting for Global Food Security‘ and the G7 Statement on Global Food Security dated 28 June.

[4] It is concerning in this regard, that the Chairs’ Conclusions of the Berlin Ministerial Conference on 24 June 2022, fully commit to support the UN Secretary General’ Global Crisis Response Group and the GAFS, while using a weakening formulation for the CFS, calling for strengthening its role as an inclusive and intergovernmental global platform, as if it was not the foremost inclusive intergovernmental and international platform with the mandate to assume the global political coordination role on food security and nutrition. The German Presidency of the G-7, following its announced objectives to strengthen the United Nations, Multilateralism and the role of CFS in the Global Food Governance architecture, is well advised to more carefully measure their statements regarding the CFS as the normative multilateral governance body vis-à-vis a voluntary G-7 and World Bank initiative like the GAFS.


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