UN Food Systems Summit is a “huge time-sink” that will promote corporate interests rather than solving hunger, according to a peer-reviewed academic paper.he upcoming, first ever
It says the Food Systems Summit is being influenced by companies “responsible for promoting food that contributes to unhealthy diets, engaging in practices destructive of livelihoods, violating human rights, and creating gross inequity in food systems.”
And it asks, “Are foxes being invited into the chicken house?”
The human right to food which is healthy and culturally appropriate, and the right to dignity for people producing food, has been dissipated by the influence of corporations, it says.
The report says that when, on World Food Day in October 2019, UN Secretary-General António Guterres announced to the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) that he was organising a Food Systems Summit, it took many in the room by surprise. This has been denied by the Food Systems Summit Secretariat.
The report says, “In the ensuing months, once Guterres appointed a Special Envoy and the structure of the Summit was announced, the drivers behind the Summit became clear. As the world is increasingly cognizant of social and environmental problems caused by the industrial food system, the UN Food Systems Summit has emerged as an elaborate process to undermine more democratic arenas of global food governance, while reinforcing corporate control over food systems.”
An independent evaluation found a 30 per cent increase in hunger where AGRA operates
The report says there is a fear that producers and workers on the frontlines are being excluded. Also, that accountability for violations of human rights and ecohealth degradation are being undermined.
Many well-intentioned people have agreed to participate, “in hopes that they can help to achieve something of value.
“The amount of time and resources that these people will spend is unfathomable, raising an overriding criticism that the [Food Systems Summit] is a huge time- sink for questionable purposes.”
The report speaks of two decades of “blue washing” as the United Nations lends its brand to corporates in exchange for sponsorship funds.
A 2015 promotional UNESCO brochure says multinational corporations will “benefit from a strong image transfer by associating yourself with a reputable international brand and a prestigious UN agency… Gain access to UNESCO’s wide and diverse public and private networks… Strengthen your brand loyalty through good corporate citizenship.”
In other words, UN agencies were inviting companies to draw on the legitimacy of the UN as a democratic, one-country, one vote, intergovernmental body and that it was possible to directly participate in UN decision-making.
The report looks at the appointment of Dr Agnes Kalibata, the President of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) as Special Envoy to the UN Food Systems Summit.
Despite these failures, the Green Revolution continues to be promoted by AGRA’s main donor, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
It questions this choice, given that AGRA promised to “double yields and incomes for 30 million farming households by 2020.” But a recent independent evaluation found instead a 30 per cent increase in hunger in the countries where AGRA operates.
The report says that despite these failures, the Green Revolution continues to be promoted by AGRA’s main donor, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
It says, “It has become clear that the Summit is an effort by multinational corporations, philanthropies, and export-oriented countries to subvert multilateral institutions of food governance and capture the global narrative of food systems transformation.”
The need for food systems to transform is unquestioned, particularly given the number of people who are food-insecure has risen since 2014. According to the most recent State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World report, 746 million people were suffering from severe food insecurity in 2019 and an additional 1.25 billion people experienced moderate food insecurity. The Covid-19 pandemic has further exacerbated hunger and is anticipated to add between 83 and 132 million.
Plaguing 3.4 billion people, poor diet as a result of malnutrition or obesity, is the world’s number one cause of death.
“The World Economic Forum, as are other organizations, is invited to engage as an important interlocutor with key players in the global agri-food space”
The reports quotes former FAO Director-General Addeke Boerma who said, “Food is not like any other commodity. If human beings have a right to life at all, they have a right to food.”
The UN Food Systems Summit secretariat has responded to the research, saying “The UN Secretary-General called for a Food Systems Summit on World Food Day in [October] 2019, following conversations with the joint leadership of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the World Food Programme (WFP) in July 2019 during the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF).
“The Summit Multi-Donor Trust Fund and expenses have been funded initially by FAO, IFAD, and the World Food Programme. FAO is hosting the in-person portion of the Pre-Summit in July.
“The World Economic Forum, as are other organizations, is invited to engage in the Summit process as an important interlocutor with key players in the global agri-food space but is not involved in hosting any aspect of the Pre-summit or Summit.
“Across the groups leading the Summit’s five Action Tracks, around a third are farmer and civil society organisations, the rest comprise academia, researchers, government representatives and youth organisations. Agro-ecology, indigenous knowledge and human rights are central to the work with leadership.
“Agro-ecology, indigenous knowledge and human rights are central to the work”
“Human rights, and the right to food, are central to the Summit’s work on all levels, as the foundation is underpinned by the Sustainable Development Goals, with Special Rapporteur, Michael Fakhri leading the Summit’s human rights lever of change since last summer.
“The Summit has also worked closely with IFAD to ensure millions of smallholder farmers are able to participate in the Summit process.
“The Advisory Committee established by the UN Secretary-General in June 2020 includes stakeholders from producer organizations, indigenous peoples organizations, and youth alongside Member States, UN and private sector leadership, and intergovernmental multi-stakeholder bodies such as the Committee on World Food Security or international multi-stakeholder movements such as the Scaling Up Nutrition Movement.
“The Summit has worked closely with the Committee on World Food Security (CFS), including joint thought leadership from the head of CFS and the Special Envoy on food security [Dr Agnes Kalibata] in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“While private sector engagement is important to create a momentum of change, there is no agribusiness leading any work or singularly responsible for defining Summit outcomes. All doors are open for anyone to contribute through Action Tracks public forums, Food Systems Summit Dialogues, and the Community platform.”