The UN Committee on World Food Security (CFS) is the key body where global decision and policy making on issues of food and nutrition security are held. After a reform process in 2009, the CFS has worked to become a space that promotes multi-stakeholder and inclusive dialogue, with a dedicated mechanism for civil society engagement.
The Civil Society Mechanism (CSM) is the largest international mechanism of civil society organizations (CSOs) contributing to agriculture, food security and nutrition policies and solutions at national, regional and global levels. The CFS provides a platform to engage with governments, UN agencies, private sector and civil society. Each policy area has a dedicated working group within civil society that collects inputs from regional and global constituencies of food producers and food insecure communities, creating a unique space that seeks to place civil society on equal footing with other actors. Habitat International Coalition coordinates the urban food insecure constituency within the CSM. HIC representatives work within this mechanism to ensure that the concerns and needs of urban populations are streamlined in CFS decisions and dialogue.
The 42nd session of the CFS, held in October 2015, held many positive outcomes for the efforts of civil society. These outcomes also show the benefits and positive impact of having full and meaningful participation of civil society in international policy processes.
The finalization of the ongoing Framework for Action for Food Security and Nutrition in Protracted Crises (FfA) took place in two rounds of a CFS Open Ended Working Group in Rome during 7–8 and 18–22 May 2015. The negotiations and interim consultations spanned two years and involved multiple stakeholders, including UN member states, UN agencies and private sector representatives, as well as global civil society through the CSM Working Group on protracted crises. HIC-HLRN took part in both rounds, and has formed part of the High Level Expert Forum (HLEF) on food security in protracted crises since the beginning of that as a new work stream in 2012.
The final version of the FfA reflects the consensus reached on 11 principles and related actions in (1) confronting manifestations of food insecurity and malnutrition in protracted crises, (2) the specific challenges in that context and (3) their underlying causes. The FfA negotiations stopped short of reaching consensus on a meaningful Action Plan. However, the FfA of principles and broad delineation of approaches—most notably, the commitment to need harmonized operation of humanitarian, development and human rights approaches—remains a basis for developing further guidance for global food security and nutrition operations before, during and after protracted crises, both in the bureaus and in the field.
It is now up to all actors to put this excellent document into practice. See the CSM statement during the adoption of the FfA during the CFS here.
Water for Food Security and Nutrition
For the first time, the CFS dealt with the issue of water, and looking at the links and implications for food security and nutrition. HIC-HLRN served as one of the facilitators for the CSM working group on water.
The process was based on the High Level Panel of Experts report on Water for Food Security and Nutrition. This report was very progressive, emphasizing the need for regulations on public and private actors across sectors, the negative impacts of agribusiness and TNCs, the importance of participatory approaches in public policies on water, the links with the Tenure Guidelines and the Small-Scale Fisheries Guidelines , and most importantly a strong human rights framework including extraterritorial obligations, the interconnection among human rights, and the need to expand the understanding of the right to water beyond drinking water and sanitation.
The process of developing the decision box and protecting these important points was not easy, and put into question many core issues of the CSM related to state human rights obligations and the multiple dimension of human rights, protecting the commons, protection of agroecological practices, the use of resource access as a form of economic and social pressure, participatory governance at all levels, and accountability and follow-up within the CFS.
However, the final decision box is seen as a success as it reaffirms commitments to the progressive realization of the right to adequate food as a central component to the work and mandate of the CFS, and puts forward the human right to water as a core aspect of the realization of the right to adequate food, recognizing the multiple dimensions and uses of water. It also affirms the role of regulation to safeguard public interests and recognizes the ecosystem functions of water. There is a clear prioritization of vulnerable and marginalized populations, with specific recommendations for protecting women and girls, as well as access to drinking water in the workplace- all of which have been longstanding issues within the work of the CSM.
The statement delivered by CSM acknowledges all of these critical points, while also reminded the CFS of its core function- stating that the CSM is “concerned with what seems to be a lack of institutional memory in CFS policy making. International human rights obligations, and specifically the rights of women and the rights of indigenous peoples have been recognized within the UN system, and reaffirmed in countless CFS policy documents- including most recently the Global Strategic Framework.” It is critical that the central issues remain a constant in the work of CFS, the policy outcomes and the operationalization of CFS products. HIC-HLRN will follow closely the next steps on issues of water, and will work with the CSM to ensure that water has a stronger role in future CFS policy decisions.
Monitoring international policy accountability has always been at the center of HIC-HLRN work, and within the CFS this has been no different. The CSM monitoring working group has been tirelessly pushing the CFS to implement an innovative monitoring mechanism. After several CSM events and meetings held with government representative, they put forward a proposal for a monitoring with three elements: 1) annual session on monitoring in the CFS; 2) the Open-ended Working Group and CFS will adopt basic terms of reference to organize events at national, regional and global levels; and that the first global thematic session will be next year on the Tenure Guidelines.
The final decision box accepted points 2 and 3 above, which is still an important starting point. The monitoring working group will be very busy preparing this process over the next year, and updates can be found here.