The 49th plenary session of the UN Committee on World Food Security (CFS 49), which took place from the 11th–14th October 2021, provided an opportunity for Member States to agree on whether the CFS will support the outcomes or planned way forward from the UN Food Systems Summit (UNFSS) of the 23rd September 2021 or not, but a clear consensus was not reached.
“Some countries expressed that the CFS should take a strong role in the follow up of the Summit, or risk becoming irrelevant. But many emphasised that the UNFSS’ outcomes were not negotiated by Member States and should not give rise to any new structures. Some suggested that the High-level political forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) would be a more appropriate global forum to follow up on the Summit,” the CSM states.
In a new report “Exposing corporate capture of the UN Food Systems Summit through multistakeholderism”, the CSM criticises the “astounding extent” of corporate influence in the leadership of the UNFSS and “how the Summit was governed, structured, and its content”. It dismantles the Summit’s multistakeholder approach – “a governance practice that conjures the illusion that all stakeholders are equal in their rights, capacities, and responsibilities”.
The report refers to high concerns that the Summit’s multistakeholderism will penetrate the UN structures towards replacing its multilateralism. “In truth, the multistakeholder approach covers up long-standing injustices, power imbalances and abuses, deepening inequality and injustice,” it maintains.
In this regard, Jordan Treakle from the National Family Farm Coalition (a member of La Via Campesina) emphasised during its intervention on behalf of the CSM: “The corporate multistakeholder governance model embodied and pushed by the UNFSS deepens existing power imbalances among states and weakens their role in the governance of the United Nations. It is simply unacceptable that the highest offices of the UN and the member governments are promoting this erosion of multilateralism.”
Instead of supporting the illegitimate outcomes of the UNFSS, the CSM underlined that Member States could have followed the recommendation of the “Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Michael Fakhri, who has been closely involved in the Summit’s unfolding”. Fakhri advised the CFS to better “devote its resources and coordination capacity to addressing the devastating impacts of the [Covid-19] pandemic on food security and nutrition”.
According to Fakhri, the UNFSS process marginalised human rights and ignored the Covid-19 pandemic– the most important issue happening during its preparations – while climate-related catastrophes intensified.
Fakhri claimed that industrial agriculture, global supply chains and corporate concentration in food systems, which were among the major causes of the systemic implications of COVID-19 and climate change, were sidelined during the Summit.
“With its narrow focus on finance, expensive techno-fixes and corporate-owned proprietary products and technologies, the Summit outcomes will exacerbate inequality, debt, dispossession and extractivism, especially in the Global South, and further undermine the small-scale food provision on which most of the world’s population depends,” said Treakle.
A political declaration “signed by over 1,000 organizations representing small-scale food producers, Indigenous Peoples, food and climate justice activists, researchers and NGOs denounces how the UNFSS failed to deliver on its promises”.
The CSM stated that it reiterated its objections during the CFS Plenary “to the proposed ‘coordination hub’ which would follow up on UNFSS outcomes, headed up by UN Food and Agriculture Organization, the International Fund for Agricultural Development and the World Food Programme”, adding that the measure “would significantly alter the existing global governance architecture of food and agriculture with far-reaching implications, particularly for the CFS. Instead, it is time for the CFS to prove its strength and fulfil its mandate.”
It further emphasises that “the CFS must address the insidious corporate capture of food systems and food governance, including through food-related programmes, platforms and governance initiatives financed by the private sector and corporate philanthropies, for example the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition, EAT and the SUN Business Network”.
The CSM calls on Member States and the CFS to “take their roles and responsibilities seriously, and to fulfil their obligations to the people of the world in both letter and spirit.”
This article has been provided by the partner “Forum Umwelt & Entwicklung”, whose members are supporting the foodsystems4people initiative.
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