Blog post by AGRA Watch Intern Connor Nakamura
La Via Campesina (LVC) recently published a position paper criticizing the current trajectory of the United Nations Food Systems Summit (UNFSS21) set to convene in fall 2021 while emphasizing the importance of creating a holistic, fair conversation around global food systems. LVC has played a significant role in reforms of UN food policy processes after the 2008 food crisis where they advocated on behalf of civil society organizations and helped pass major reforms including Guidelines on Land Tenure and Small Scale Fisheries, thus bringing agroecology into the mainstream conversation.
UNFSS21 was conceived in response to a request by the World Economic Forum, a private-sector organization with deep support of powerful member states and philanthro-capitalist organizations (including the Gates Foundation). Social movements have been for the most part unable to meaningfully participate in the conversations emerging from the Summit. The Civil Society Mechanism (CSM) of the UN Committee on World Food Security (CFS) denounced the non-inclusiveness of the conference while pushing for an open call for engagement. The CSM — along with the Chair of the CFS — was eventually invited to participate in consultations around the objectives of the Summit, but both had serious concerns about its direction. LVC states:
The idea that a restricted panel of so-called ‘experts’ should be at the helm of global food system policy is utterly undemocratic. Such an idea has already been rejected by consensus and replaced by the reformed CFS. The current trajectory of the Summit’s build-up process allows the global power elites, and especially the private sector, to once again legitimize themselves as architects of the future of our food system, using its transnational corporate arms to continue to accumulate capital and destroy the planet.
Another area of concern is the appointed Special Envoy of the Summit, Dr. Agnes Kalibata. As highlighted in our recent AGRA Watch report, Kalibata serves as the current President of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) which has deep ties to the Gates Foundation. Dr. Kalibata’s position in the UN conference is indicative of the attempt by corporations to gain preferential treatment in what should be a multilateral and impartial organization, undermining the unique space that civil society has carved out in recent years within the United Nations. Compounded by the failures of AGRA, the whole conference’s legitimacy is called into question.
The UN institutions continue to draw definitions from policy-makers that are situated far away from real food systems, which leads to food systems being understood only in terms of their eventual outcome: putting food on a plate.
La Via Campesina emphasizes that the conference should have a more holistic approach to food systems, and reckon with the drastic negative effects of industrialization and intensification of food production. To achieve true food system transformation, LVC advocates for local agroecological projects, a systemic reduction in agriculture-related CO2 emissions, trade and public policies that promote local food production, and a guarantee of the implementation of the United Nation Declaration on the Right of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas (UNDROP).
La Via Campesina, the voice of over 200 million peasant producers, is convinced that only food systems that are in harmony with nature and respect human rights can protect the life, peace and the wellbeing of people and our generations to come.