HCivil society groups, academics and social movements are boycotting the UN’s first world food summit amid mounting anger that the agenda has been hijacked by an opaque web of corporate interests.
Called the Peoples’ Summit by the UN organizers, groups representing thousands of small farmers and indigenous communities, who produce 70% of the world’s food through sustainable agriculture. are among those who retire from Thursday’s event saying his knowledge and experience have been ignored.
The declaration, signed by some 600 groups and individuals, He says: “[We] reject the ongoing corporate colonization of food systems and food governance under the guise of the United Nations Food Systems Summit … The fight for sustainable, fair and healthy food systems cannot be disengaged from the realities of the peoples whose rights, knowledge and means of life have not been recognized and disrespected “.
Some have criticized the prominence of corporations, such as Nestle, Tyson and Bayer, in the summit’s efforts to identify solutions to the food system.
Some 90 world leaders are expected to attend the summit in New York, with at least 130 countries participating. promises on topics such as free school meals, reducing food waste, healthy eating, biological data and carbon sequestration.
The summit, which has taken two years and millions of dollars to organize, was apparently called to obtain a political commitment to help achieve the Sustainable development goals (SDG) amid growing public criticism of the food industry’s contribution to hunger, malnutrition and obesity, as well as environmental destruction, loss of biodiversity and climate chaos.
It was announced as a landmark initiative in which the UN would act as an intermediary to gather opinions from a wide range of experts: academics, NGOs, philanthropic donors, farmers, community and indigenous groups, corporations and business associations, to generate sustainable and equitable solutions. .
Yet critics say the role and responsibility of transnational corporations, which dominate every part of the food system, from seeds and pesticides to slaughterhouses, breweries and supermarkets, has not been adequately addressed. Neither have human rights or the pandemic, despite the fact that it caused a huge increase in global food insecurity and exposed serious vulnerabilities in the global supply chain.
“The audacity of the UN to keep calling for this people’s summit even as it continues to lose support is arrogant, [as is] signaling my participation without hearing any of the substantive things I have said, ”said Michael Fakhri, UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food and advisor to the summit.
Fakhri and those boycotting the summit say the UN has given the private sector a dominant role in almost every part of the summit, leading to transnational corporations and their allies in the nonprofit and philanthropy sectors having a greater scope to direct food policies. financing and governance.
As a result, they say the solutions will be market-led, fragmented, voluntary, and heavily weighted toward increasing food production through capital investments, big data, and proprietary technologies. Critics say this approach will allow a handful of corporations and individuals to expand control over the global food system to the further detriment of the vast majority of people and the planet.
“The UN has provided a legitimacy cover for corporations to capture the narrative and deflate public pressure; it has not been an honest broker,” said Sofia Monsalve, secretary general of the Food First Information and Action Network (FIAN), a research and advocacy organization based in Germany.
“The refusal to discuss important issues such as concentration on every part of the food system, land grabbing by corporations, taxes and responsibility for human rights means that the summit will fail,” Monsalve added.
According to Special Rapporteur Fakhri, it took months to persuade organizers to include human rights in the discussions, and even then the right to food appears only in the margins. “We see the same corporate players that have caused irreparable damage to our health, climate and environment trying to create a new game, gain more influence and create new economic opportunities.”
Agnes Kalibata, special envoy to the summit, vehemently rejected the criticism. She told The Guardian that farmers, youth groups and academics have been represented in unprecedented numbers, and that those who boycotted the event spoke out for the issues, not the people. “The summit is not about companies [sic], it is about working together to transform the food system and meet the SDGs, which are based on human rights … all countries have committed, people were invited and listened, ”he said. “If Michael Fakhri really disagreed, why did he stay?”
But a new analysis published on the eve of the summit suggests that non-corporate participants have been marginalized in favor of large corporations represented and allied with business associations, nonprofits and philanthropic groups.
For example, the summit is divided into five areas known as action tracks. Those tasked with finding solutions to “boost nature’s positive production” (Action Track 3) include a single indigenous group but 26 private sector corporations such as Nestlé, Tyson, Bayer and the International Fertilizer Association, according to research commissioned by a global grassroots campaign that opposes the corporate approach.
However, around 80% of the remaining biodiversity on the planet is found in the territories of indigenous peoples, who have practiced sustainable agriculture for millennia and who, together with small farmers, are at the forefront in the development of agroecology. : modern sustainable agricultural practices that work with nature and communities rather than exploiting them.
Nettie Wiebe of La Via Campesina, a global peasant movement representing small farmers, rural workers and indigenous farmers, said her organization withdrew and began organizing against the summit because it was “deeply undemocratic, irresponsible, and contemptuous of those who did not. they have neither wealth nor power. “
“The great agricultural solutions that are being promoted undermine what the vast majority of the world’s food producers are trying to do to protect the environment and cool the climate so that there is hope for the future.”
The analysis also found that influential trade associations, think tanks, and philanthropic organizations that represent, fund, and advance corporate interests in sectors such as agriculture, retail, and finance, were given important leadership roles.
the World Economic Forum, A corporate-funded transnational organization of business, political, intellectual and civil society leaders (popularly known as Davos), has played a driving role at the summit as it works to unlock $ 90 trillion in new investment and infrastructure. So has the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, an international coalition led by CEOs that promotes the idea that corporations and wealthy elites can solve climate change and environmental degradation caused by extractivism.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, a strong advocate for biotech solutions for food insecurity, is linked to several summit participants with corporate ties. He co-founded and helps fund the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (Agra), which promotes the expansion of industrialized agriculture on the continent. The president of Agra, who has close ties to the agrochemical industry, is the summit’s special envoy, Kalibata.
“This corporate giant must be stopped, or we risk exacerbating environmental injustice and human rights violations,” said Kirtana Chandrasekaran, co-author of the report and coordinator of the Friends of the Earth International food sovereignty program. “Hidden behind their trade associations and platforms, powerful corporate players are driving policymaking, financing, narratives and science at the top … the giants of agribusiness, fossil fuels and technology are promoting false solutions. driven by the market that are designed to increase profits and strengthen their dominance over food systems. “
Kalibata denied that grassroots groups and poor countries have struggled to be heard and said the private sector was vital to solving crises in the food system. “I want them to fix the problems they are causing; we need your help with the solutions.”
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism