Received from Magdalena and Charlotte on behalf of the liaison group:
Where are we with the autonomous people`s response to the Food Systems Summit?
Notes to evaluate our counter-mobilization to the pre-summit on food systems. We demonstrated our ability to mobilize around the world and across multiple sectors against corporate capture of food and for food sovereignty.
Some 9,000 people participated in counter-mobilization activities to oppose the Pre-Summit on Food Systems. About 22,500 people participated in the official Pre-Summit. This means that with a tiny fraction of the material and symbolic resources that the Pre-Summit had at its disposal, we managed to mobilize almost half of the official audience against it. Opposition to the summit is not the whim of a couple of organizations. It is a popular sentiment of dimensions that cannot be ignored.
We reached a wide audience.
Critical publications in major media outlets such as the BBC, Al Jazeera or the Italian state television Rai, plus several thousand messages with the hashtag #FoodSystems4People that were seen by almost 10 million users on social networks. We strengthened our organizations, networks and platforms for action, especially at the regional level, through broad convergent mobilization.
In Africa, Latin America and Asia, we organized counter-mobilization processes that proved revitalizing in the midst of the pandemic. We have strengthened the path of building a broad convergence of organizations that fight comprehensively for food, health and environmental/climate justice.
We succeeded in challenging the legitimacy of the Summit.
We dented the credibility and legitimacy of the Summit. Our criticism was taken inside the Summit by well-known personalities such as Jeffrey Sachs and some representatives of social organizations. Some government representatives from the South have begun to articulate more clearly their discomfort with the Summit. Even representatives of Indigenous Peoples who participated in the official Pre-Summit feel disappointed that the human rights of Indigenous Peoples were not taken into account in the conclusions, nor did FSS approve a Coalition of IPs, as they had requested. Today these IP representatives say they will be out of the Summit until their demands are met.
We prevented the Summit from formally agreeing to the creation of new institutions, such as a panel of experts on food systems, although a parallel science policy interface to the HLPE seems still to be on the table.
While we have succeeded for the moment in preventing new institutions from being engendered in the lab of corporate capture, the challenge for the immediate future will be to resist the capture of the CFS – including HLPE – and the Rome agencies, FAO, IFAD and WFP. This is because the follow-up to the Summit is mainly raised in these UN institutions following the working methods of multi-stakeholder governance, i.e. ignoring existing rules of procedure and autonomy of the institutions; privileging ad hoc coalitions of action without known rules, which will surely lack transparency, multilateral inclusion, clear decision making and accountability mechanisms, diverting resources from the public programs of the UN agencies to these ad hoc,
The critique towards the summit is growing
Conclusions from the Special Rapporteur’s last report to UNGA: The human rights concerns and aspirations of the very people that the Summit is meant to target have been sidelined and excluded. Moreover, the online format of the Summit preparatory work worsens the scenario limiting the ability of many key actors to participate meaningfully, in favor of the most equipped members of the corporate sector.
What do we know, understand and expect now that we did not before regarding new structures, partnerships or changes to existing structures that are being proposed by the UNFSS? It becomes more and more clear that the Summit is just one benchmark in a longer process to open the UN system to corporate actors and multistakeholderism.
The draft agenda for the UNFSS on 23 September is quite empty, similar to those of other Secretary General Summit spotlight events. But what is particularly problematic is the follow-up agenda. The Summit ‘infrastructure’ with its nebulous coalitions is seeking to survive, including through some form of a biannual review reporting to the Secretary General and bypassing legitimate structures. It has been stated that no new bureaucracies will be established, but von Braun is still pushing for a new Science Policy Interface. Maybe the Summit will not create new structures, but serve as a coordinating mechanism – for example there is a proposal to have a coordinating mechanism among RBAs to implement UNFSS proposals. There is a danger that outcomes will be visited on the CFS (and other UN agencies and programmes), deviating the Committee from its legitimate programme and ways of working. That´s why we need to monitor carefully how the Summit´s outcomes are implemented.
The accent now is on ‘coalitions of action’ and ‘national pathways’ which the FSS organizers seem to be manipulating like a sorcerer’s apprentice in the hopes that the two will meet up in a Hollywood film-like happy ending. But the ‘national pathways’ are the half-baked product of rushed and not inclusive processes, which are very focused on promoting public private partnerships (PPP) and multistakeholderism at the regional and national levels while coalitions are emerging in a top-down and often opportunistic way. There is a clear intent to avoid accountability and continue to fragment the legitimate spaces.
We need to pay special attention to the coalition ‘Means of Implementation: finance, innovation and technology, data, governance’ which was surprisingly announced at the Pre Summit. The Chair of the Governance Action Area, Dr. Kristy Buckley, stepped down from her role, because of various reasons.
One of them that she was not informed about this coalition before it was announced, despite her role and the previous requests of the Governance Action Area to form a coalition on governance.
Also, she criticises that the coalition includes two out of four Levers of Change while explicitly adding technology and data to the exclusion of human rights and gender and that there is no available documentation about the Means of Implementation coalition to date.
We need to watch carefully what will be proposed in terms of trade and investment. Countries in the south are hurting bad with Covid and could be tempted to cede to the buffet-style opportunism that the coalitions are offering. Multistakeholder coalitions can shape national discourses. We need also to keep an eye on the link with COP26 (note the ‘net zero’ action coalition) and the WTO Ministerial this year. The WEF strategy is to link UNFSS, COP26, CBD, WTO etc. and to protect corporate innovation and digital technologies in WTO IPR regimes. National platforms will be promised capacity building and investment, and workers employment.
We need to be careful about how we raise the issue of the position of the CFS. The illegitimate agenda of the FSS is being landed on legitimate spaces. We want governance to be centered on the Rome Pole, but not by importing FSS outcomes. But a separate UN mechanism also isn’t a good option. We need to argue that FSS should end on 23 September. The Secretary General statement says there will be no new structures, so it’s not clear where the authority to establish such initiatives comes from. The ‘no new bureaucracies’ might end up being a blank check to establish out-of-UN- management structures that will simply move forward, with no supervision and accountability, with an overall UN logo on top and funding by donors and philanthropies. We can and should question their legitimacy.
Some of the coalitions are on topics that are interesting for us – like agroecology – but they are framed outside of human rights. There are a lot of multistakeholder initiatives and we can’t prevent them, but we can fight against their invading our space.
What do we know/understand and expect now that we did not before regarding what the UNFSS is pushing in terms of ‘solutions’?
Digitalization is being proposed as the way to reframe assessment of food systems. It’s a new mechanism for corporate capture. Perhaps the most important discursive/narrative shift that is emerging from the FSS is to reframe assessment of food systems in terms of science, technology and innovation. Also important to pay attention to the net-zero emphasis and reframing food systems around carbon neutral solutions as in the French ‘4 x 1,000’ initiative for carbon storage in agricultural soils. The agroecology coalition risks being framed in these terms. This promotes sustainable intensification approaches linked to offsetting (already happening in the US with the new soil carbon bill). Need to strengthen attention to the socio-economic repercussions of sustainable intensification. The best case scenario is that it’s agroecology which is linked to carbon markets, the worst scenario is that it’s sustainable intensification linked to carbon markets.
In the Science Group papers innovation, technology and investment are always tacked on to science even though this wasn’t part of the Scientific group terms of reference. A consistent narrative is that those who don’t follow gene-editing and technology are being ‘left behind’. Corporations are never cast as the source of problems, just solutions. Women, children and Indigenous Peoples are mentioned but always in the context of access to technology. We have to call out that narrative.
This post will expire on Monday October 11th, 2021 10:42am