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« An Impressive First Step: Now Time for Action | Main | Update on Civil Society Voices at FAO Summit »

June 05, 2008

Social Movements and Civil Society Condemn UN Food Summit

IATP's Carin Smaller is blogging from Rome this week at the UN Food and Agriculture High Level Conference on Food Security.

Today, some of the affected communities, including smallholder farmers, indigenous peoples and fishers spoke out. The speakers included Benjamin Victor Powless, from the Mohawk Nation, Herman Kumara from the World Forum of Fisher People, and Henry Saragih from the peasant movement La Via Campesina. They had been participating in a parallel event, the Terra Preta Forum, alongside the FAO summit. And they were not impressed with the outcome. They have been largely excluded from the formal conference, their voices not heard by world leaders. And they have not had a role in the newly formed UN Taskforce on the Food Crisis.

They said the conference promoted the interests of agricultural corporations, including seed, fertilizer and chemical companies, as well as plans for a new Green Revolution in Africa, launched by Kofi Annan's AGRA Foundation. They are furious that the World Bank and IMF are even present, given the central role the two institutions played in undermining local and national capacity for food self-sufficiency, and therefore contibuting to the current food crisis.

In a statement to the UN conference, the social movements and civil society organizations accused conference participants of entrenching the control of corporations and elites over agriculture and the ecological commons. They called some of the actions at the conference an assault on small-scale food providers.

They have three principal demands:

1. That governments pursue justice for the victims of the food emergency by bringing to account, through criminal proceedings, corporations and institutions (including governments) whose actions, such as profiteering from agricultural inputs and products, have denied communities their right-to-food.

2. Set up a Commission on Food Sovereignty under the auspices of the UN.

3. Expand our ability to build collective knowledge, analysis and capacity to make change, and organize ourselves to monitor the outcomes of this FAO Summit.

The strong rejection of the FAO Summit by these social movements and civil society organizations should send a warning signal to governments. While there are some interesting recommendations (I would dare say impressive), they will amount to nil unless there is radical change from past practices. The first step is to integrate representatives of farmers and fishers into the UN Taskforce on the Food Crisis, as well as other governmental initiatives dealing with the food crisis. Second, governments must prioritize work with agencies that have the credibility to work with farmers, like the FAO, IFAD and IAASTD, and to weaken the role of the World Bank, WTO and IMF.

Carin Smaller


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