– “COVID 19 has multiplied the challenges of hunger and malnutrition. We need transformative action! ‘ The first speaker of the 49th plenary session of the United Nations Committee on World Food Security (CFS), the United Nations Secretary-General, shone the spotlight on the disastrous effects of the pandemic which have afflicted communities around the world for nearly two years.
It was picked up by the presenter of the 2021 edition of the State of Food security and nutrition in the world for whom “COVID is only the tip of the iceberg,” while keynote speaker Jeffry Sachs highlighted the multifaceted nature of the crisis, with chronic poverty and conflict at the center.
Delegation after delegation took the floor virtually to share their concerns: Kenya speaking on behalf of the Africa Group, Colombia, Cuba, Costa Rica, Norway, Morocco, Peru, Spain, Indonesia, Mexico, Malaysia, Mali, Cape Verde, South Africa South, Uganda, Saint Lucia and more. The impacts of Covid 19 on food security and nutrition are heavy and lasting. The most vulnerable are the most affected, within and between countries. The Covid has worsened and exacerbated the structural weaknesses and injustices that exist in our food systems. Its causes are multisectoral and cannot be dealt with in isolation.
“Multilateralism, solidarity and cooperation are essential to move forward,” added the President of ECOSOC, and “the CSA is a unique multilateral forum because it brings together all actors in the name of the right to food “. The text adopted at the end of the first day summarized all these contributions and deepened the concern by drawing attention to the possibility of recurring pandemics.
With that kind of openness, one might have expected a standing ovation when it was proposed the next day that the CFS develop a coordinated global policy response to the impacts of COVID 19 on food security and nutrition and a proposed precautionary approach towards possible future shocks of this type.
This proposal has been around for a long time in the building. For a year and a half, the CFS Civil Society and Indigenous Peoples Mechanism (MCS) has documented the experience and proposals of its constituencies and communities and brought this evidence from the ground into the global debate. Earlier this year, an informal “Committed Government Group” and other CFS participants gathered to push the CFS to take determined action. How could it fail to live up to its mandate in the face of the most serious threat to global food security the world has faced since the 2007-2008 food crisis?
Just a week before CFS49, the Committed Group organized a seminar where evidence and proposals for global political action were presented by national governments, regional and local authorities, small food producers, people in need. urban food insecurity, as well as United Nations agencies, the Rapporteur on the Right to Food and the CFS High Level Panel of Experts.
The seminar demonstrated that action is being taken by different actors and authorities at local, national and regional levels, while UN agencies have developed and adopted relevant policy instruments and programs in their respective sectors. What has been lacking so far is a way to bring together the different perspectives and initiatives in a multisectoral and multilaterally coordinated approach. Filling this gap was the proposal that was put on the table in CSA49.
“We need a coherent and coordinated response at the global level to support the efforts of governments and the CFS is the appropriate place for this to happen”, urged the Ambassador of Mali in his opening speech.
So what about the standing ovation? The proposal was supported by countries in the South led by African countries, most affected by injustice in access to vaccines, dependence on food imports and indebtedness, but also including Mexico, Peru, Morocco, the CSM and the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food. “This is the perfect place to manage COVID! ” he said. “This is the priority food issue today. It was not addressed by the United Nations Food Systems Summit. The CFS has the mandate and the tools, and other UN agencies are strongly committed to cooperation.
But, incredibly and unacceptably, the proposal did not pass. It has been blocked for specious procedural reasons by a coalition of steamrollers of major commodity exporters who push back any possible limitations that might be imposed on global trade in the name of human rights, fairness, environmental concerns. : the United States, Canada, Argentina, Brazil. , Russia. The EU, shamefully, has fallen silent.
The implications for inclusive multilateralism, democracy and the necessary radical transformation of our food systems are serious. “Business interference is one of the main obstacles to transformation,” said the delegate from Mexico. “Governments must assume their role as agents of change, regulators of food systems and protectors of the planet, but we cannot do it alone. Global attention is needed and the CFS is the right place for it.
But the CFS is taken hostage. The arrogance with which some ignore reality, evidence and urgency leads to an unacceptable increase in human rights violations by many. Patience wears out. “If I am in this room, it is to honor the concerns of those most affected in my region,” said a member of the Committed Group the day after the session.
And the inhabitants of his region, like others around the world, are raising their voices louder and louder, as during the counter-mobilization to transform corporate food systems organized last July in parallel with the Pre-Summit of UNFSS. [hyperlink]. Radical transformation of the food system is being built and the CFS, even disabled, is the world’s most resounding echo chamber for people’s demands.