October 16th Statement
Our fragile world faces an impending global food crisis. The impact of COVID-19 pushed more people into poverty. Lockdowns devastated family livelihoods, the economy, and disrupted supply chains. Globally, according to the Global Report on Food Crises (GRFC 2022), levels of hunger remain as alarmingly high as in 2021, around 193 million people are acutely food insecure and in need of urgent assistance across 53 countries. This acute hunger is driven by conflicts, climatic shocks, the dramatic economic and social fallout from the COVID pandemic and lately by war in Ukraine. Food commodity prices at the start of 2022 were at a 10-year high, and fuel prices at a seven-year high. The current food crisis is about affordability; even in places where food is available its cost is beyond the reach for millions of people while rising prices deepen the challenges for those barely able to pay for food in normal times.
The food crisis at the moment is unique because it is unfolding amid a more difficult global context than with the food and fuel crises of 2008. The intensity and frequency of climatic shocks have more than doubled compared with the first decade of this century. About 1.7 billion people were affected by climate-related disasters, almost 90 per cent of them became climate refugees in last 10 years. Hunger, malnutrition and poverty are harder to overcome because of on-going wars, conflicts and natural disasters. These disrupts all aspects of a food system, from the harvesting, processing and transport of food to its sale, availability and consumption.
But ending hunger isn’t only about supply. Enough food is produced today to feed everyone on the planet. The problem is access and availability of nutritious food, which is increasingly impeded by multiple challenges including the COVID-19 pandemic, conflict, climate change, inequality, rising prices and international tensions.
As the shift from multilateralism to multi-stakeholderism proliferates across UN platforms, corporations have continued to gain control of the narratives for change. Corporate power in food and agriculture systems has continued to grow too, and financialization is converting food and land into objects of speculation. The recent UNFSS process is a clear example of this tendency. The failure of the neoliberal policies and industrial agriculture (including GMOs) in increasing yields and profits led to the concentration of corporate power in few transnational corporations (TNCs) which are controlling Big Data, agricultural land, ocean resources, seeds and agrochemicals, and aim to increasingly dominate our food systems and appropriate the 80% of the food produced by Family Farmers. Financialization led to an unprecedented market concentration to enhance new investments in Research and Development (R&D and (bio)technologies, with the aim to extend the frontiers of capitalism to capture all the world biodiversity.
World-wide, there is a trend towards shrinking space for civil society and reduced ambition for defending human rights. The activists at the local level are more and more vulnerable to human rights violation, oppression, and criminalization. The physical violence of state-sponsored repression using security and military forces have targeted individuals and embattled masses of peaceful protesters around the world. On the other hand, the primacy and legitimacy of the public sector is increasingly threatened by corporate capture of policy processes and a development narrative that assigns a lead role to private sector investment, while multilateralism is under attack from virulently populist nationalism and corporate-promoted multi-stakeholderism.
In the past three decades there has been a growth of an increasingly robust, diversified and articulated network of small-scale food producers, workers and other social actors ill-served by the corporate-led globalized food system who advocate for a radical transformation of food and agricultural systems based on food sovereignty. These movements have been resolutely engaged in defending and building ecologically and socially sustainable, and territorially embedded food provisioning arrangements that tend to be termed ‘alternative,’ although they are responsible for up to 70% of the food consumed in the world. Rethinking agriculture policies as a matter of economic and national security must be a priority.
The food sovereignty movement has been a dynamic part of the articulation of transformation and solutions since 1990s, through the landmark Nyéléni Food Sovereignty forum in 2007 and agroecology forum in 2015. 25 years after the creation of the concept of Food Sovereignty, our movements join their voices to call for systemic change to open the path for a future of hope.
We demand immediate action to:
- End of speculation on food and the suspension of trading food products on stock markets. The price of food traded internationally should be linked with the costs of production and follow the principles of fair trade, both for producers and for consumers;
- End of the WTO’s control of food trade and keep food production out of free trade agreements. Countries should have public food stockpiles, and regulate the market and prices, so that they can support small-scale food producers in this challenging context;
- Create a new international body to conduct transparent negotiations on commodity agreements between exporting and importing countries so that countries which have become dependent on food imports can have access to food at an accessible price;
- Forbid the use of agricultural products to produce agrofuel or energy. Food should be an absolute priority over fuel.
- Bring a global moratorium on the payment of the public debt by the most vulnerable countries. Pressuring such countries to pay the debt is highly irresponsible and leads to socio, economic, and food crises.
We demand radical changes in international, regional and national policies to re-build food sovereignty through:
- A radical change in international trade order. WTO should be dismantled. A new global framework for trade and agriculture, based on food sovereignty, should open the way for strengthening local and national peasant agriculture, to ensure a stable basis for a re-localized food production, the support for local and national peasant-led markets, as well as to provide a fair international trading system based on cooperation and solidarity;
- The implementation of popular and integral Agrarian Reform, to stop the grabbing by TNCs of water, seeds and land, and ensure small-scale producers fair rights over productive resources. We protest against the privatization and grabbing of territories and commons by corporate interests under the pretext of nature protection, through carbon markets or other biodiversity off-sets programs, without consideration to the people who are living on these territories and who have been taking care of the commons for generations;
- A radical shift towards agroecology to produce healthy food for the world. We must face the challenge of producing enough quality food while reviving biodiversity and drastically reducing GHG emissions.
- Effective input market regulation (such as credits, fertilizers, pesticides, seeds, fuel) to support peasants’ capacity to produce food, but also to ensure a fair and well-planned transition toward more agroecological farming practices;
- A food governance based on the people, not on TNCs. The capture of food governance by TNCs should be stopped, and people’s interests should be put at the center. Small producers should be given a vital role in all bodies dealing with food governance;
- The transformation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Peasants into a legally binding instrument for the defense of rural peoples.
- The development in every country of public stockpiling capacities. The strategy of food stockpiling should be held both at the national level but also through the creation and public support to food reserves at the community level, with locally produced food coming from agroecological farming practices;
- A global moratorium on dangerous technologies that threatens humanity, such as geoengineering, GMOs or cellular meat. The promotion of low-cost techniques that increase peasant autonomy and of peasant’s seeds;
- The development of public policies to ensure new relationships between those who produce food and those who consume, those who live in rural areas and those who live in urban areas, guaranteeing fair prices defined based on the cost of production, allowing a decent income for all those who produce in the countryside and a fair access to healthy food for the consumers;
- The promotion of new gender relations based on equality and respect, both for people living in the countryside and among the urban working class. The violence against women must stop now.