Position Paper: “A Summit Under Siege” | Corporate control of 2021 UN Food Summit endangers food sovereignty!

Corporate lobbies defending Agribusiness interests are influencing the 2021 UN FOOD SYSTEMS SUMMIT preparations, making the process opaque and exclusionary. La Via Campesina explains why this endangers people’s food sovereignty and threatens the planet’s future.

There is little doubt that the world needs to come together to deal with the severe and ongoing impact of COVID-19 on our food systems. When the 2021 United Nations Food Systems Summit (UNFSS21) was announced in December 2019, the world was a different place. Even then, concerns existed about the non-transparent and illegitimate process behind developing, announcing and organizing that Summit. Consequently, in March 2020 La Via Campesina (LVC) joined around 550 other social movements and civil society organizations in opposing the corporate takeover of the Summit.

As the UNFSS21 process has been moving forward, as La Via Campesina, we are getting more and more alarmed. At the same time, we affirm that a global conversation on our food systems is of utmost importance, as the COVID 19 pandemic has only reinforced and exposed the failure of the corporate food system to address hunger, inequality and the ecological crisis.

This paper presents LVC’s concerns and reflections related to the Summit, both in terms of process and contents. It also aims to express La Via Campesina’s engagement and demands towards a necessary food system transformation guided by the principles of food sovereignty and agroecology.

We, at LVC, have not only advocated but also actively participated in democratizing the United Nations. LVC has had a critical role in the reform of UN food policy processes after the 2008 food crisis. The crisis made UN bodies and member states recognize the importance of including the voices of rural social movements and civil society in shaping food policies. In particular, the FAO Strategy for Partnerships with Civil Society Organizations, and the reform of the Committee for World Food Security (CFS) with its Civil Society and Indigenous Peoples’ Mechanism (CSM) brought forth new paradigms, logics and processes that started paving the way to the democratization global food systems policy. This brought about a progressive shift that levelled the “field of play” not only for civil society but also for national governments. LVC, through the unified and committed work and processes of the International Planning Committee for Food Sovereignty (IPC), has played a vital role in empowering the CSM and CFS processes.

Many of the advances were indeed born out of the principles of food sovereignty – a comprehensive model for transforming food systems, restoring the health of our peoples and nature – supported and advocated by LVC since the World Food Summit of 1996. These institutional processes have allowed several significant advances, including the Guidelines on Land Tenure, the Guidelines for Securing Sustainable Small-Scale Fisheries, the ongoing process regarding the Guidelines on Agroecology and Other Innovations, and more broadly, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas. Many of these new instruments have posed direct obstacles to the global corporate agenda, as well as the imperial interests of global economies and elites.

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