CFS50: High Hopes for Ending Hunger Hindered by Geopolitical Polarization
This year’s fiftieth session of the Committee on World Food Security (CFS50) started on a hopeful note. It was the first “in person” meeting since the COVID outbreak, with a new chair, Gabriel Ferrero, in charge and 124 member states registered to attend.
Most of the various stakeholders were represented. The Civil Society and Indigenous Peoples Mechanism for relations with CFS (CSIPM) put a lot of importance on the plenary sessions, and so did many other participants. More than 100 CSIPM members traveled to take part in the event.
The CSIPM had prepared a document to present its standpoint on the food crisis. It stressed the need to understand the crisis in a comprehensive, systemic way to enable CFS to address it correctly and help overcome it. The current crisis is framed as one of “cost of living,” due to high energy and food prices caused by the disruption of global trade due to the war in Ukraine. However, that is only a very partial picture of a much deeper, multilayered and multifaceted failure of food systems. Rather, our societies have become extremely vulnerable to food and nutrition insecurity due to the agro-industrial production model, over-dependence on global value chains and fossil fuel-based production inputs, corporate concentration in almost all aspects of food systems, and a stubborn adherence to an economic logic that lacks market regulation and unjust trade rules.
Thus, the CSIPM urgently demanded the CFS take action to reverse this situation and assume a leadership and convening role in resolving the food crises, as it is the only inclusive, multilateral forum to discuss multiple dimensions of crisis from a Human rights perspective with support of the Committee’s High Level Panel of Experts on Food Security and Nutrition (HLPE-FSN).
To create objective information to compel action, CSIPM carried out popular consultations by means of an online questionnaire and 20 hours of regional webinars in seven languages, resulting in 539 contributions from 63 countries across the globe. The results are consolidated in the report Voices from the ground 2: Transformative solutions to the global systemic food crises. It tells the story of those most affected by this multifaceted crisis, the actions they have taken to provide practical and strategic responses, and conveys their specific demands and proposals to overcome the food crisis.
The evidence from the ground shows worrisome trends over the past two years:
- Sharp increases in already-entrenched inequalities of all kinds, in all regions, especially affecting women, youth, small-scale producers, agricultural workers, Indigenous Peoples.
- Climate chaos continues, with most impact on those who contribute the least to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
- Conflicts, wars and state violence have persisted, where food is being used as a geopolitical weapon.
- Participation of right holders in democratic processes has shrunk, amid a growing disregard for human rights and their defenders.
- Corporations have profited from government bailouts and support programmes, and financial speculation has increased.
The results of these trends also clearly illustrate the fragility of the global food supply system. A good number of low-income countries rely on just a handful of large commodity-producing countries and import most of the grains that feed their people, in a global system monopolized by four mega grain traders: Archer Daniels Midland (ADM), Bunge, Cargill, and Louis Dreyfus. The global food system`s focus on only a few commodities has tragically diverted attention from native staple crops, which underpin the food systems across the Global South.
Also, people on the ground judge government measures to be generally absent, or, at best, inadequate, weak and fragmented. Across all regions, the gap left by governments has been bridged by the solidarity action and innovations of communities, social movements, nonprofit and people`s organizations. For enabling governments to take appropriate action, changes are needed in the global governance of food systems to address obstacles encountered at national level.
The demands that emerged from the consultation are both short and long term: The short-term measures include the provision of humanitarian aid, while strengthening sustainable local food systems; supporting existing community and solidarity initiatives. National governments must regulate corporate distribution of ultra-processed foods to ensure small-scale food producers’ access to sufficient and affordable inputs for production, privileging domestically available inputs over imported ones; halting food speculation; restructuring and canceling private and public debts; introducing a moratorium on the use and processing of agricultural commodities for non-food purposes, and taxing excess profits and extreme wealth. The long-term action areas include the following: Breaking food import dependency and supporting domestic food provisioning, transforming food systems through agroecology and territorial markets, implementing food sovereignty, limiting corporate power, reforming trade rules and ensuring human rights and democratic multilateralism.
The combined long- and short-term demands reflect no less than the integrated approach that CFS already adopted in its 2015 Framework for Action for Food Security and Nutrition in Protracted Crises (FFA). That policy instrument explicitly called for the integral application of the immediate and short-term actions of humanitarian assistance in support of the longer-term and institution-building development approach within the overarching respect, protection and fulfillment of codified human rights (paras. 15–16).
Based on these findings and analyses, CSIPM prepared to demand during the plenary that CFS take action to effectively perform its role as the foremost inclusive intergovernmental forum promoting global coordination on issues affecting food security and the right to food.
The CFS50 Plenary
The first day opening went well. The chair pinpointed several points of utmost significance: the urgency of focusing on women and children as they are the most affected by food crises. Mr. Ferrero also noted the needed urgent actions, as well as the long-term solutions. To complete the picture with a call for carbon-neutral food production to reduce the effects of climate change.
It seemed that he genuinely believed that the CFS is a beacon of hope and that as he mentioned, the world can count on the CFS, reformed to be inclusive and hailed the need for everyone’s actions and leadership.
During the plenary, the CSIPM was active in all sessions. The working groups presented valuable interventions on the various topics.
As a member of the following workgroups (WGs): Global Food Governance (co facilitator), Women and Gender-diverse WG and Data WG, HIC representative Hala Barakat was able to take part in the plenary, or watched it on Zoom from the adjacent “Room”.
The following is a detailed report on the activities undertaken during CFS50 and CSIPM interventions and some attachments:
1. CSIPM intervened at the Ministerial Segment: Coordinating Policy Responses to the Global Food Crisis - The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2022
In spite of the fact that the discussion of Item 2(c) extended over three days and led to the suspension of the plenary with no agreement on articles related to the effect of the Ukraine war on food security, as well as the mention of sanctions as negatively affecting food accessibility, CSIPM was able to put forward a proposal for coordinated global response to the food crisis, which is the core of the segment.
CSIPM proposal was delivered by HIC representative André Luzzi.
The CSIPM calls for leveraging the convening power of the CFS strengthening coordinated global policy responses to the multiple dimensions of the global food crisis, including through, but not limited to:
- Regular substantive items on the global food security crisis in the agendas of Bureau and Advisory Group meetings,
- Starting an inclusive member state-led process to propose to CFS51 an approach for providing globally coordinated policy guidance, as well as
- The engagement of the CFS Chairperson, HLPE-FSN, Secretariat and autonomous mechanisms of CFS within the UN Secretary General’s Global Crisis Response Group on Food, Energy and Finance.
2. The session discussing the theme “Empowering Women and Girls and Promoting Gender Equality. Update and Discussion on the Preparation of the CFS Voluntary Guidelines on Gender Equality and Women’ and Girls’ Empowerment in the Context of Food Security and Nutrition”
The session provided an opportunity to discuss the status of preparation of the CFS Voluntary Guidelines on Gender Equality and Women’s and Girls’ Empowerment in the Context of Food Security and Nutrition. The guidelines were still under discussion since the negotiations in July failed to come to closure and consensus on the document.
CSIPM’s Women and Gender-diversity WG intervention focused on its commitment to achieving the guidelines, while considering all the significant issues that are essential for the guidelines to be transformative and progressive toward gender equality. (See full WG document.)
3. CSIPM intervened during the CFS Strategic Direction toward 2030session on The Critical, Emerging and Enduring Issues for Food Security and Nutrition
CSIPM’s Global Food Governance Working Group intervention was as follows:
The CSIPM expresses its continued deep appreciation of the work of the HLPE as the CFS’s mechanism for providing an evidence basis for the Committee’s policy discussions, unique because of its multi-sectoral scope, its balanced composition, its interactive approach to developing its reports, and the fact that it recognizes the validity of traditional, Indigenous and practitioner knowledge.
In developing our proposals for the coming MYPOW, 2024-2027, the CSIPM will be drawing on the outcomes of our popular consultation, which we reported on yesterday and which has gathered over 550 responses from 77 countries. Some important themes that we have heard from the different regions are already mentioned in the HLPE proposed themes such as climate change, food workers’ rights, conflicts and the fragility of food systems. Others have not yet touched on, such as the importance of social and solidarity economies and popular agrarian reform. We are the popular CFS and we want to contribute the voices from the ground to framing priorities for the CFS’ coming work.”
4. On the HLPE-FSN Report 2024, the suggested theme is “Strengthening urban and peri-urban food systems to achieve food security and nutrition in the context of urbanization and rural transformation.”
CSIPM’s Global Food Governance Working Group intervention by Hala Barakat:
The proposed theme on topic 2: “Strengthening urban and peri-urban food systems in the context of urbanization and rural transformation“ is certainly of great interest to our constituencies. The collaboration between urban and rural communities has been fundamental in the response to the COVID crisis.
The following points should be considered in the draft request to the HLPE for the teport in 2024:
The previous CFS process on urbanization and rural transformation should be referenced in the request to the HLPE;
We support that the proposed objective clearly indicates that this HLPE report will be followed by a policy convergence process leading to a set of policy recommendations to be approved by the CFS Plenary. A major shortcoming of the last workstream on urbanization and rural transformation was that it ended without a relevant policy result.
A specific reference to the relevance of this HLPE report on youth should be included, particularly in the context of migration.
A specific emphasis should be included on social protection, as a crosscutting element for the urban-, peri-urban and rural domains.
The proposed objective should not only focus on strengthening urban and peri-urban food systems but also strengthening rural- urban linkages.
Two remarks on the use of “climate-smart agriculture” to be replaced by “climate-resilient agriculture,” a term that is more encompassing of ecologically based practices; and the use of the term: “top-down and bottom-up” approaches, but rather suggest the “complementarity of different approaches that lead to the inclusive, transparent, participatory processes for urban and rural transformations.”
5. During the session onData Collection and Analysis Tools, the HLPE-FSN Report on Data Collection and Analysis Tools was presented followed by CFS stakeholders providing feedback and inputs on the content of the report.
CSIPM’s Working Group on Data (WGD) Patty Taylor intervened with an analysis of the document and placing importance on how, why and who collects data, Indigenous People involvement and their knowledge protection, as well as who benefits from the data collected.
6. Finally, the CSIPM participated in the session onEmpowering Youth in Inclusive and Sustainable Food Systems: Endorsement and Uptake of the CFS Policy Recommendations on Promoting Youth Engagement and Employment in Agriculture and Food Systems for Food Security and Nutrition
The final version of the CFS Policy Recommendations on Promoting Youth Engagement was presented for consideration and endorsement by CFS Plenary.
CSIPM’s intervention (by Tyler Short) endorsed the guidelines with reservations. The reservations were presented and CSIPM demanded their inclusion in the document. It is still hoped that they would at least be included as an annex.
CSIPM WGD and Youth WGs also organized two side events:
The CFS50 plenary ended in the evening of 13 October without concluding. Hours and hours of intergovernmental negotiation were invested, trying to find a compromise on a battle of words between two geopolitical blocs. Hours that were lost for finding a solution to the growing systemic food crisis, while people are dying from hunger, climate change is unfolding and inequalities between people and countries rising. The official statement by CFS chair declared that the UN Committee on World Food Security (CFS) adjourned its 50th Plenary Session (CFS 50) on October 13th, to reconvene as soon as possible and conclude deliberations on coordinating policy responses to the global food crisis informed by the2022 State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World report (SoFI).
The CSIPM considers that the CFS50 has been captured by geopolitical side discussions and was not able to deliver what was promised by the chair.