• Food security will still be in jeopardy next year, in 3 years or 5 years, if we don’t make food systems more resilient to shocks.
  • We are not currently facing a crisis of food production, and the responses promoted so far almost exclusively address a market and production perspective.

Rome, Italy. 18 July 2022. “The causes of the current global food crisis are structural and go beyond the war in Ukraine.” This was one of the main points heard today at a public event co-organized by the Civil Society and Indigenous Peoples’ Mechanism (CISPM) and IPES-Food. A rich panel of experts, government officials, and civil society representatives urged political leaders across the world to step up their efforts to tackle hunger and malnutrition, claiming that responses promoted so far by governments, international agencies, and financial institutions, like the most recent statement of Rome-based Agencies, International Financial Institutions, and WTO fall short, as they almost exclusively address the crisis from a market and production perspective. 

Entitled “Beyond the Ukraine war: the new layer of the global food crisis from a human rights approach”, the event served to issue a clarion call to participants of a high-level event taking place a few hours after at the UN Headquarters in New York.

The current global food crisis is not one of production, since the world produces enough food to feed everyone, but is a crisis of access, a crisis of debt, and a food price crisis.

As delivered by Molly Anderson from IPES-Food during the public event: “The world has plummeted into its third food price crisis in 15 years, largely because the causes of earlier price and supply crises were never addressed. These include financialization and speculation, diversion of food into biofuels and animal feed, excess dependency on food imports, and lack of social assistance and support for small-scale farmers. To escape this cycle of crises, we need to build resilient and diverse food systems that respect human rights, food sovereignty, and debt reductions for countries that are currently heavily reliant on food imports.”

Even if the Ukraine war were to end tomorrow, the food price crisis would continue, According to the special report by IPES-Food Another perfect storm? This crisis, like previous ones before it, has laid bare the fundamental flaws in global food systems:

  1. Food import dependencies: Global dietary diversity has been declining for decades (concentrated on wheat, rice and maize); cash crops have been promoted over more diverse food provision; some countries are now 100% dependent on imports of staple foods while being highly indebted.
  2. Entrenched production systems: Geographical over-specialisation, trader and governmental preferences for commodity crops and biofuels, and reliance on synthetic fertilizers all hold back farmers’ ability to diversify food production and shift food production practices.
  3. Market failure and excessive speculation: Global wheat stocks are currently high relative to historical trends ; what is exacerbating price spikes and volatility is a lack of transparency on stocks, and what appears to be excessive commodity speculation. 
  4. Vicious cycles of conflict, climate change, poverty, and food insecurity – leaving hundreds of millions of people without the ability to adapt to sudden shocks.

Patti Naylor, from the Coordination Committee at CSIPM and member of the global movement La Via Campesina spoke about the historical power imbalances behind the current food crisis: “The current situation clearly shows the fragility and enormous inequities of this globalized food system that has resulted from decades of neoliberal trade policies. The consequences are tragic for people and for nature. Large-scale commercial farming of export crops takes away land and other resources from traditional, territorial food producers, leaving communities and whole countries dependent on food from elsewhere. Food dependency creates vulnerability and powerlessness. We demand a complete transformation of our food system to one based on food sovereignty and human rights.”

At the event, representatives of civil society and Indigenous Peoples’ from across the world urged governments to develop policy responses to the crisis that address immediate needs and correct the structural flaws in food systems. They specifically demanded: 

– Making food systems shock-proof and resilient 

– Low-income countries need financial assistance and comprehensive debt relief

– Wealthy countries must ease global food price spikes by cracking down on speculation 

The solution is not to intensify large-scale industrial production. Promoting the current production and distribution model (e.g. maintaining dependency of synthetic fertilizers and on global trade) will do nothing to address the structural flaws in food systems.

Médi Moungui, Deputy Permanent Representative of Cameroon to the United Nations in Rome, intervened with data showing the severe impacts of the global food crisis: “Record high food prices have triggered a global crisis that will drive millions more into extreme poverty, magnifying hunger and malnutrition, while threatening to erase hard-won gains in development. The supply chain disruptions, and the continued economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic are reversing years of development gains and pushing food prices to all-time highs. Rising food prices have a greater impact on people around the world.” 

Victor Suárez Carrera, Vice-Minister of Self-Sufficiency, Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development in Mexico, emphasized the importance to “Recognize that the neoliberal model of green revolution and food dependency is a factor in food insecurity. Consequently, the policy of food sovereignty must be instituted based on agroecological transition, human rights and the productive development of small farmers and fishermen.” 

Public event “Beyond the Ukraine war: the new layer of the global food crisis from a human rights approach”,  co – organized by the CSIPM and IPES-Food

Video from the event “Beyond the Ukraine war: the new layer of the global food crisis from a human rights approach” on July 18 2022.

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