UN food summit leads to agreements, but also to dissent

The United Nations Food Systems Summit, the first of its kind, last week was billed as a “peoples summit” that would help transform the world’s food systems.

But it was rejected by many organizations who felt disenfranchised during the process.

The New York summit, conceived two years ago, aimed to address countless issues within the world’s food systems – climate change, development, health, politics and food security, among others. It was launched by both the UN and the World Economic Forum when it became clear that many of the UN’s sustainable development goals were unlikely to be achieved by 2030.

The summit focused on issues such as healthy food for schoolchildren, healthy soil and resilient food systems to deal with climate change.

The summit was exhausted by organizations representing smallholder farms and indigenous groups for its inclusion of representative business groups. Cory Lum / Civil Beat

One of the outcomes is that the Pacific nations of Fiji and Palau will participate in the implementation of the Blue Food Alliance to raise the profile of aquatic foods – fish, crustaceans, aquatic plants and algae. Food policy often overlooks these products, despite their importance to diets and culture and their prominent place in the wider food system. Fiji was also part of the “Coalition 4 Action on Soil Health”. Robust soils are paramount for sustainable crops – especially true in Pacific countries, many of which consist of atolls and islands with poor soil quality.

For Karen Mapausua, who sits on the board of the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements, the focus on aquatic food systems was somewhat encouraging – although it remains to be seen how the summit’s goals will be met. .

“There was nothing really surprising that was said from a Pacific perspective,” Mapusua said. Nonetheless, she said: “This summit has really brought [blue foods] in the foreground. “

Mapusua also works for the Pacific Community, which has led pre-summit engagements across the Pacific.

Due to the nuanced nature of food systems and how different countries are struggling, it will take some time to assess the effectiveness of the promises made at the summit, she said.

“I think the key to the summit will be what is happening now and how architecture can actually be introduced to support countries and their national pathways,” she said.

The summit is likely to have little effect in Hawaii, said University of Hawaii associate professor Albie Miles. But it may have offered hope to Pacific countries experiencing seasonal disasters associated with climate change.

At the summit, nations and philanthropic groups pledged money to support its goals. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, for example, has committed $ 922 million. The United States has pledged $ 10 billion, half of which would be used to “ensure access to healthy food for all Americans” and to make food systems more equitable and efficient.

“We need to build on our own national / regional food system planning processes to achieve the overall goals set for UNFSS,” Miles from UH wrote in an email.

Not all voices are heard, critics say

The involvement of groups such as the Gates Foundation and the World Economic Forum drew criticism ahead of the summit. More than 600 people and organizations signed a statement boycotting him, arguing that he failed to recognize that the food system needs a more radical transformation of the globalized business model.

“Public food policy and governance must place peasants, indigenous peoples, fishermen, pastoralists, workers, landless peasants, forest dwellers, consumers, the urban and rural poor, and among these women and these young people at the center of governance and policymaking, ”said the boycott organizing group Food Systems 4 People. “We reject any empty dialogue process that ignores human rights and fails to explicitly and meaningfully elevate the agency of these food systems actors. “

Advocates see the inclusion of organizations that represent business interests as an affront to small farmers, who produce 70% of the world’s food. They also questioned the inclusion of philanthropic groups such as the Gates Foundation, as they are seen as a strong supporter of technological solutions instead of supporting local, indigenous and agro-ecological solutions.

Miles participated in some of the pre-summit discussions. He said they had exposed a “structural imbalance of power” by asking small and indigenous farmers to devote unreasonable time to the process, given that they were also working full time.

The process was “entirely overwhelming,” he said.

If the summit had really cared about overhauling the food system, it would have created a more equitable platform, he said.

“When Nestlé and Pepsico get involved, that should be a pretty clear indicator that there is a particular program,” added Miles.

Among the actions announced at the summit was the formation of a group dedicated to fortifying staple crops for better nutrition – a solution that humanitarian organizations have supported through various global initiatives.

“The fortification of staple foods is a technological solution to a systemic problem of historic dispossession, inequity, poverty and lack of support for the principle of the human right to food and food sovereignty,” said Miles .

Pacific leaders speak out

Meanwhile, at the summit, Pacific leaders made an urgent appeal for resilient food systems that could support their people.

Kiribati President Taneti Maamau stressed the need for healthy food for the success of Kiribati’s first long-term plan, 20-Year Vision, implemented in 2016. But recent history has left Kiribati with diets. unsustainable and unhealthy foods, dependent on imports and often highly processed. food, Maamau said.

“This people-centered vision is based on [a] healthy population that must be supplied with good nutritious food, ”said Maamau.

But progress is being made, according to the President of the Republic of the Marshall Islands, David Kabua. Although his atoll faces challenges growing crops, it could increase sustainable production, he said. Palau President Surengel Whipps, Jr. highlighted his country’s dependence on imported food during his address to the 76th United Nations General Assembly. He also cited the acute climate crisis in his country and region, and the need to cooperate internationally, stressing the importance of “people, planet and prosperity”.

“The future is uncertain, without a doubt. Amidst threat and degradation, there is an opportunity; an opportunity for us to come together to shift the balance of power and set the terms on which we will protect and manage our resources for the benefit of our people, ”said Whipps.

The summit was held in conjunction with the 76th United Nations General Assembly and followed the fourth summit of the Alliance of Small Island States, where climate change was at the forefront of discussions.

Source link