On Monday, 11 October, CFS Chair Thanawat Tiensin opened the 49th plenary session of the UN Committee on World Food Security (CFS 49). Discussions on the first day focused on the “State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2021” (SOFI) report, its policy implications and the role of CFS in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.
NOW is the time for the CFS to respond to the food crisis! The CSM stands in solidarity with all those whose lives have been negatively impacted by the COVID-19 crisis. All the CSM constituencies, in all regions testify to the violence of the devastating impacts of the pandemic. The heavy toll on human life continues to be profoundly shocking almost two years since the start of the pandemic.
COVID 19 exacerbates existing, avertable and unacceptable systemic injustices, including hunger and malnutrition, destruction of ecosystems and climate change, social and economic inequality, gender discrimination, patriarchy, racism and political marginalisation. The pandemic illuminates the unacceptable violations of our rights to adequate food, to health, to decent work, in a world of plenty. In Africa, as elsewhere, the pandemic is disproportionally hitting our constituencies, the rural and urban working classes, small-scale producers, landless peoples, Indigenous Peoples, women, migrants, youth, refugees, peoples living in areas of war and conflict.
We see inequalities between countries rising to unacceptable levels. As Africans and all other people from the South we suffer unequal access to vaccine. We face global trade conditions which have transformed many of our countries from net food exporters to net food importers in the space of a decade. We face today a new threat of capital flight and large loans with conditionalities leading to higher debt. Raising inequalities between countries is hampering our states’ abilities to protect and fulfil our human rights.
For our communities already experiencing protracted crises — such as armed conflict, occupation, natural disasters, and financial crisis — the pandemic is deepening the already difficult challenges they face in securing livelihoods and access to food. Young people in Africa and elsewhere face the frightening economic crisis – seeing their opportunities for education, employment and stable futures fading away. They face job losses, the absence of social protection, public goods and services, pushing more young people towards desperate routes of migration.
At the same time OUR evidence shows the growing transformative potential of our practices and proposals in addressing the food, economic and climate crises and their structural causes. They build on fostered values of solidarity, resilience, sustainability and human dignity. Our practices of food sovereignty highlight the essential roles that agroecology, territorial food systems, women, small-scale food producers and family farmers and workers play in feeding the majority of the world’s people in sustainable ways, especially those worst affected.
The current crisis has shown that a radical transformation of food systems is urgently needed. The time is now to ensure that the lessons of the pandemic are translated into supportive policies, from local levels up to the adoption of global policy responses in the CFS.
During the 2008 food price crisis, our movements declared that we could not afford to go back to business as usual. Yet over a decade later it is clear that we have done just that, with damaging consequences. The global food system is even more dominant, but also more fragile today with increased corporate concentration and control, financialization, destruction of ecosystems, and markets that serve the interests of profit rather than food security.
It would be inconceivable for the CFS to fail to assume its responsibility in the face of the worst phenomenon affecting the right to food to strike humanity since the 2007-2008 crisis that sparked its reform. More than any other international governance space, the CFS is the only forum which can ensure that all actors affected by food crises can autonomously and legitimately organize to co-construct a global response, in which governments hold the primary responsibility.
The time is now for the CFS to take concerted, globally coordinated action to provide guidance for the indispensable transformation of our food systems and realization of the Right to Food. As we face the Covid-19 crisis we must aim for a ‘Just Recovery’ – one that puts justice, human rights and the need of the peoples, especially the most marginalized, and of the planet at its heart.
- Learn more about the 2021 State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World (SOFI report)
- What is the CSM Global Food Governance Working Group
- Why CSM and allies demand CFS to urgently develop a global policy response to COVID-19
- Press release “The UN Committee on World Food Security must respond to the people affected by the growing food crisis” (CSM, 2021)
- Report “Voices from the ground: From COVID-19 to radical transformation of our food systems” (CSM, 2020)
First off, we are deeply concerned by this irregular procedure for framing and holding this delicate political conversation with such import implications for the CFS. That being said, for more than two years, civil society, indigenous peoples, and social movements in all regions have been raising our significant concerns about the Summit process, priorities, and governance structure.
With the formal conclusion of the Summit on September 23rd it has been made clear that this initiative has failed to address the most important drivers of growing world hunger and inequities in our food systems; this failure will in-turn exacerbate structural problems that marginalize the most vulnerable and undermine small-scale food provision that we all depend on.
As the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food has just highlighted, the Summit has also failed Member States: the needs and interests of countries from the global south have been ignored while key governments from OECD countries, together with some corporate networks and philanthropies, have wielded strong influence on the Summit process and content. The corporate dominated multistakeholder governance model of the Summit deepens existing power imbalances in the UN and its specialized agencies, and further undermines a genuine multilateral system.
As we have heard now from several member states there is clearly no political consensus, nor political mandate, for the Summit going forward in any form. There are significant divergences in positions of different regions and countries over the coalitions, the follow up process, and even what is meant by sustainable food systems” as a result of the summit. We cannot risk bringing these divisions into the CFS and undermine years of work to build consensus.
Large sectors of civil society, social movements and Indigenous Peoples, as well as, scientists boycotted the Summit. And here I would like to highlight the Political Declaration of the Autonomous People’s Response to the UNFSS, which encapsulates the analysis and rationale for this boycott; this political declaration has received over 1100 organizational endorsements and signatures. This broad and diverse collective statement from the constituencies and communities that make-up the back-bone of our food systems globally cannot be ignored.
We reiterate that the proposed coordination hub to follow up on FSS outcomes would significantly alter the existing global governance architecture of food and agriculture with far reaching implications, particularly for the CFS. It would amount to adopting an administrative approach, by-passing political oversight by member states, to implementing FSS outcomes which were not subjected to any process of intergovernmental negotiation and adoption – this is completely illegitimate and unacceptable.
The CSM shares the strong concerns expressed by the CFS and HLPE Chairs and others on the proposals for a new science-policy interface to be established. We call MS and CFS participants to unequivocally commit to support and strengthen the CFS’ HLPE.
Finally, we as the CSM reaffirm our commitment to strengthen and further democratize the United Nations, our public institutions and food systems, and defend them against corporate capture.
- Political declaration “No to corporate food systems! Yes to food sovereignty!” signed by approximately one thousand organizations (September 2021)
- Briefing paper “Exposing corporate capture of the UN Food Systems Summit through multistakeholderism” (Food Systems 4 People, 2021)
- Press release “Division reigns among governments in UN Committee on World Food Security on follow up to the Food Systems Summit” (CSM, October 2021)
- More about CSM’s concerns vis a vis the UN Food Systems Summit
We welcome these guidelines and look forward to progressive, ambitious guidelines that will make a difference in the lives of millions of women and girls, and LGBTQI people, through advancing womens’ and girls rights and gender equality in the context of food and nutrition security. The Right to adequate food cannot be realised without the realisation of the rights of women, children and LGBTQI people. It is necessary to advance gender-inclusive language and approaches in the guidelines.
We see how the current global food system builds on and perpetuates gender-based discrimination and the violation of women’s, girl’s and LGBTQI rights.
In order to achieve a fair and equal society where women in all their diversities can fully enjoy their rights and self-determination, we must put at the centre another model of consumption and production founded on agroecology and the food sovereignty paradigm.
We believe that any policy recommendations on women’s and girls’ rights and gender equality must be grounded on already recognised human rights of women, girls and LGBTQI people, as well as on key feminist principles such as gender justice, equality and equity, non-discrimination and intersectionality, participation and recognition.
Control over natural resources, particularly access to land, water,and seeds must be guaranteed within the document, with a focus on protection of biodiversity – nourishing people and our soils.
Valuing womens’ and indigenous peoples knowledge that have taken care of the earth and fed us for centuries needs to be central.
The Covid-19 crisis has shone light on the unpaid care burden faced in particular by women, girls and LGBTQI communities. Investment in care services to reduce women’s, girl’s and LGBTQI undue care burden is key to ensuring gender equality and food and nutrition security.
The Guidelines on Gender Equality and Women’s and Girl’s Empowerment in the context of Food Security and Nutrition must be ambitious enough in order to become an important document to analyse the structural causes of violence against women, children and LGBTQI people. We must ensure that it makes steps forward, paving the way towards the elimination of violence against women, children and LGBTQI.
As you know, the CSM was very involved in the process of the guidelines. As we have said many times, for us this was not a product, it is the basis of our lives. In the plenary where States decided to support this document, the CSM shared the need for more time to have an inclusive decision-making process within our sectors. After this process, as we shared with you, the CSM decided not to support this document and we shared this in an event organized in April for this purpose. Today we are requesting the secretariat to include our position in the notes of this plenary and to publish it on the CFS website, as we had requested in the February plenary.
The reasons for not supporting it are related to both the process and the content of these guidelines. The process was a process that, in our view, did not respond to the mandate of the CFS but to the timing of the Food Systems Summit. In the end, this document has hardly been taken into account in the Summit. In their content, the guidelines do not provide guidance for the necessary transformation that our food systems need, nor do they recognize the negative role that industrial agriculture has played in the crisis in which we find ourselves, nor the role of agroecology in the development of sustainable models. The very language agreed upon in other CFS policy processes was called into question in the negotiation and key issues such as the right to water were not included. The process was far from inclusive and in the negotiations it was clear that the main objective was to preserve the interests of exporting countries over human rights, and not even in the 21st century, in the midst of a climate and social crisis, was it accepted to link health and sustainability.
In this sense, as we said in our interventions in April, we believe it is necessary to say No to draw your attention to the responsibility of the CFS. An inclusive space of convergence of policies, where the focus of the debates should be the rights of people, not the interests of some. The participation of Civil Society is key in this space, because our sectors are the most affected by hunger and malnutrition. And we believe that defending the essence and principles of the CFS is essential to respond to the challenges we face.
There are examples from some countries, such as Mexico, which we thank for bringing agroecology to this space, that we consider very positive and show us paths to follow, from intersectional approaches, counting on those most affected and prioritizing rights over interests. But at the same time we are witnessing examples such as what happened in Colombia with the junk food law. A law with a content unknown by the government itself, which has developed an arbitrary regulation based on the positions of the private sector and large industries. This demonstrates that there is a lack of international support for the proposals of civil society and that there are no clear guidelines that can be adapted to generate inclusive and transformative policies.
For all these reasons, we continue in this process. We have the responsibility to follow up and monitor the actions derived from these guidelines.
We believe that the monitoring process should expose valid actions but also be a space for analysis that shows the gaps that can be filled in future policy processes in the CFS. We do not support this document and we have our own vision document from which we work on advocacy in the territories, but despite this we trust in the process in the future because we believe that the CFS is the space that has the responsibility and that can face the transformation we need of the food systems.
On Wednesday, 13 October, the CFS plenary session participants considered: the report by the High Level Panel of Experts (HLPE) on Promoting youth engagement and employment in agriculture and food systems; and the use and application of the CFS policy recommendations on food security and climate change, and on water for food security and nutrition. Members also finalized the draft conclusions on the session on the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World (SOFI) 2021 Report.
The Civil Society and Indigenous Peoples’ Mechanism (CSM) would like to express our appreciation and gratitude to the UN Committee on World Food Security (CFS) Chair Thanawat Tiensin for his leadership in the past two years, his genuine interest for the concerns of marginalized people and communities, his early initiatives to respond to the hunger and malnutrition crisis exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, his advocacy for enhanced use and application of CFS policy instruments, his openness for continued dialogue with the CSM, and his personal engagement to facilitate conversations between the UN Deputy Secretary General and the CSM on the UN Food Systems Summit (FSS) despite our huge differences.
Dear Thanawat, esteemed Chair: You are a person who seeks to generate harmony even in contexts of great divergence, and this is certainly an extraordinary talent and attitude. Thank you so much for this!
The spirit of fair collaboration, however, only works if the principles of the CFS are respected by all and not played against one another. It is absurd when the consensus principle of the CFS is used to remove human rights language, against the human rights principles of this platform and the UN. If the consensus principle is used to delete sensitive terms such as “coercive unilateral measures” or “gender diversity” from decision boxes, it is abused for the political purpose of blocking legitimate concerns voiced by countries and other participants. When paired with the arrogant attitude of a few powerful countries accustomed to imposing their interests on others, such misinterpretation and misuse of consensus-building has the potential to severely weaken, or even threaten the CFS in fulfilling its mandate to respond to the huge challenges of a growing food crisis, and to work ambitiously and effectively towards the progressive realization of the right to adequate food.
At the end of this 49th Plenary, the CSM remains extremely concerned about the direction the CFS is taking.
The decision by the CFS to not respond effectively to one of the greatest crises of our times, to not play its coordination role in response to COVID-19, is scandalous. Governments, UN agencies, HLPE and CFS participants that supported the initiative for a globally coordinated policy response to the food security and nutrition impacts of COVID-19 voiced a global emergency in the CFS, and the CFS failed to respond due to the objection of a few, and the silence of many. The CSM has no words to adequately express our shock at this shameful inaction. Let us be very clear: those who blocked the initiative seem to be profoundly alienated from the disturbing realities and struggles of the disenfranchised people of this planet.
The CFS debate on the UN Food Systems Summit (UNFSS) made it evident that the Summit generated a deep divide among Member States and other participants which will take concerted efforts and time to bridge and to rebuild trust. The non-negotiated outcomes from the UNFSS’s corporate-led multistakholderism approach that blurs the differentiated responsibilities between Member States, intergovernmental organizations, rights holders, scientists and the corporate sector, failed the people most at risk of hunger and destitution, as well as many Member States, especially from the Global South. This is why CFS Member States appeared significantly divided on how to tackle the UNFSS, with many voicing concerns on its modalities and implications. In any future discussion, the CFS needs to take into account the concerns raised by thousands of small-scale food producers, Indigenous Peoples and civil society organizations.
The CSM welcomes the new Chair Ambassador Gabriel Ferrero and congratulates you on your election. We also acknowledge and appreciate the candidacy of Ambassador Médi Moungui , and invite both to continue to work passionately for strengthening the CFS in line with its vision and mandate.
However, given the deeply worrying situation of the CFS, we believe that the new Chair faces huge challenges. We would appreciate it if we can engage soon in a regular dialogue with you on these challenges and possible responses to them.
CSM also welcomes the new CFS Bureau and expresses its openness to collaborate with all of you in the spirit of the reformed CFS.
CSM would like to also express its appreciation of the High-Level Panel of Experts, recognized as the most pertinent, legitimate, inclusive and transparent Science-Policy Interface on food systems, and thank HLPE Chair Martin Cole and the outgoing Steering Committee for their outstanding work.
Finally: The virtual modality and the European time zone made participation in this Plenary particularly difficult for many and we think much more can be done to improve accessibility of CFS meetings in general. We salute the tremendous commitment of so many delegates from governments as well as from participants, including from CSM, who participated in this CFS 49 in the dead of night and early morning. CSM would like to thank you for these great efforts. We would also like to thank all technicians, interpreters, and the team of the CFS Secretariat for their precious work without which this global gathering would have not been possible.
- Press release “The UN Committee on World Food Security must respond to the people affected by the growing food crisis” (CSM, October 2021)
- Press release “Division reigns among governments in UN Committee on World Food Security on follow up to the Food Systems Summit” (CSM, October 2021)
- Join the CSM Global Food Governance Working Group
On Thursday 14 October, the CFS gathered for the final day of discussions. Gabriel Ferrero, Ambassador at Large for Global Food Security, of Spain, was elected as the new CFS Chair, taking over from Thanawat Tiensin. Mr Ferrero received 73 of 121 total votes.
In addition to electing the new Chair and Bureau, Thursday also featured a debate on the three Rio Conventions, as well as CFS Secretariat’s Special Event to celebrate the 13th International Day of Rural Women on 15 October 2021. Participants discussed the key, yet insufficiently recognized contributions of rural women to food security and nutrition, and the challenges they face in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and its recovery.
The interconnections between biodiversity loss, climate change, and desertification with the harmful effects of industrial agriculture and globalized food systems are well documented. And let us be clear, all food systems are not equal. It is the industrial food system that contributes to between 30 and 50% of climate emissions. It is large scale monocultures that are a leading driver of biodiversity loss and the excessive use of chemicals in monocultures that are causing desertification. Meanwhile peasants and small producers are the largest breeders of seeds and agrobiodiversity, who together with Indigenous Peoples conserve and protect 40% of the worlds’ biodiversity in their territorial food systems. And agroecology shows us the pathway to mitigate climate chaos, biodiversity collapse and feeds the world with healthy food. So the structural diagnoses of the links to 3 conventions and the solutions pathway is clear.
Now the 3 Rio Conventions: Resulting from long multilateral negotiations processes, and asserted in setting goals to solve conflicts, to recover sovereignty over natural resources and to address power imbalances between North and South.
Yet, the UN Food Systems Summit underwent a completely different and illegitimate process, as the CSM has already highlighted.
Having said that, we have some warnings to raise of dangers for our peoples, especially those in the Global South in the way that food and agriculture are brought into the 3 conventions:
- Nature Based Solutions are often used as a vague umbrella term covering a range of schemes for climate and biodiversity protection including agriculture and is one of the Action areas coming out of the UNFSS to link agriculture to the Rio conventions. Such concept will enable harmful practices such as monoculture tree plantations and industrial agriculture to proliferate, supporting carbon and nature neo-colonialism and corporate greenwashing. And bringing a new wave of land grabbing mostly in the Global South.
- Offsets – all 3 conventions are promoting offsets as a solution. Yet the very definition of offsets means one party continues polluting or destroying nature. Therefore, we clearly oppose offsets and especially the use of agriculture as an offset, since it is not reducing emission, nor halting biodiversity losses, nor stopping soil degradation.
Now, it is obvious that agriculture and our food systems play essential roles in all these crises and must be urgently addressed.
How can the CFS contribute to achieving the goals set by the 3 Conventions?
The experience of the CFS of inclusive participation of right holders and relevant constituencies within policy making processes, while preserving the democratic and multilateral UN structures, is a key aspect to be shared with the 3 Conventions.
Furthermore, in accordance with the CFS mandate and the principles that must guide its work, the CFS must contribute to the advancement of the implementation of the three conventions by providing agricultural and food policy governance instruments in line with what States have committed themselves to by ratifying the three Rio instruments. The Voluntary guidelines on the responsible governance of tenure of land, fisheries and forests in the context of national food security is a brilliant example.
The CFS also should play a role in bringing the complexity and depth of debate on food security and nutrition into the 3 conventions approach to food and agriculture. For example the brilliant work of the HLPE and especially its recent report “Building a global narrative to 2030”.
What we truly need to prevent the collapse of our natural world are “radical transformational changes”. Agroecology in the framework of food sovereignty offers an alternative to industrial agrocommodities and to industrial production of increasingly artificial food. It also encompasses a political approach for small scale food producers to produce food ecologically, drastically reducing emissions, protecting biodiversity and ensuring our collective rights and access to and control over our commons as defined in UNDROP/UNDRIP.  
Here the HLPE’s 13 principles of agroecology provide a useful tool to assess its integrated contribution to the 3 conventions.
 “Declaration of the International Forum for Agroecology Nyéléni, Mali February 2015 http://www.foodsovereignty.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/Download-declaration-Agroecology-Nyeleni-2015.pdf
- Voluntary guidelines on the responsible governance of tenure of land, fisheries and forests in the context of national food security (CFS, 2012)
- “Building a global narrative to 2030” (HLPE, 2020)
- “Agroecological and other innovative approaches for sustainable agriculture and food systems that enhance food security and nutrition” (HLPE, 2019)
- United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas (2018)
- United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (2007)
Thank you CFS Chair, Moderator and Distinguish CFS delegates and participants, I am Chathurika Sewwandi from Sri Lanka and here I am representing the Civil Society and Indigenous Peoples’ Mechanism.
The world is still not on the right track to achieve the zero-hunger target by 2030 and around 811 million people are living with hunger. Women are disproportionately impacted by hunger and food insecurity, climate change and COVID-19 pandemic situation has intensified the impact.
Women play a key role in all stages of food production including seed conservation to food processing and trading despite lacking equal access to the productive resources. women are responsible for household and reproductive labour and spending long hours a day caring for the nutritional health and well- being of the family.
Even though, we believe that current global food system builds on and perpetuates gender-based discrimination and violation of women’s rights. Patriarchal, feudal and capitalist relations of power lead to “gender blind “agricultural policies and gendered division of labor in agriculture where women are discriminated against and excluded. Moreover, women are largely invisible in agriculture and their role is merely seen as a supportive role for male or as a “female obligation”.
We have recognized that women have limited access to land and control over productive and financial resources. In most countries, gender discriminatory legal structures and social norms have prevented women from owning lands which exclude them from access to the financial facilities, extension services, agricultural knowledge, collective decision-making process and even recognition as a “women farmers”. On the other hand, corporate capture of lands and natural resources has resulted in immense land grabbing around the world especially the indigenous people and rural communities are being hunted and forced to leave their ancestral lands, often leaving behind women. Women are often subject to criminalization in their attempt to defend their lands, communities, natural resources and bodies.
Two years back I met a woman called “Pan Amma” in a remote village in Sri Lanka who revisited her abandoned village for fishing and collecting uncultivated food. Her lap was filled with fishers, fruits and green leaves that she collected. She reminds us that women are playing a key role in addressing their own food security and agroecology is a sustainable and just approach for advancing food systems.
We therefore expect that the upcoming CFS Guidelines on Gender Equality and Women and Girls’ Empowerment could be an opportunity to put in place a boundless ambition to respond the devastating events.
We expect CFS to integrate a feminist perspective within all its policy making processes by ensuring a central and leading role to rural women’s grassroots organizations in the decision-making processes from initial stages onward;
Finally, we expect CFS to move beyond words, and we would like to see during next year’s Plenary Session, a rural woman making the keynote address outside of the boundaries of the International Day of Rural Women. For example, in the next opening day of CFS 50 Plenary Session.
Nothing about us, without us!