The APNFS was formed in 2002 in Bali, Indonesia during the Civil Society Parallel Consultation to the Regional Preparatory Meeting of the UNSCD. Civil society in Asia was alarmed then by the worsening impacts of trade liberalization on agriculture and food security, which was hindering the realization of sustainable development goals in Asia. Since then APNFS has focused on promoting food sovereignty as a framework for agriculture policy-making, emphasizing the need for countries and communities to exercise their right to define their own food and agriculture policies that meet their specific social, economic, political, and cultural needs and contexts.
Its pioneer members and partners in the region are national farmer federations, women organizations, consumer groups, NGOs, and social movements in seven countries in the Asia-Pacific region: Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines, Thailand, and Sri-Lanka. Now, its membership has spread in other parts of the region: Cambodia, Malaysia, Myanmar, and Vietnam.
From 2002-2007, APNFS led campaigns against the WTO agreement on agriculture highlighted by policy dialogues, actions, and mobilizations at the country level to present farmers’ demands for increased protection of domestic agriculture against the onslaught of unfettered trade liberalization. APNFS organized a delegation of farmers in Hongkong in 2005 for the 5th WTO Ministerial meeting, where farmers’ movements expressed their opposition to the on-going Doha round of negotiations.
From 2006 onwards, APNFS focused its policy critique and advocacy for increased support and public investments in domestic agriculture to protect small-scale men and women farmers from the impacts of emerging bilateral free trade agreements. Since 2006, APNFS has also engaged in the ASEAN people’s dialogues that present various social, economic, environmental, and human rights issues to ASEAN governments during their annual summits. In 2008 when the global crisis erupted, APNFS came up with a critical analysis of the food crisis which linked decades of policy neglect of agriculture and market liberalization to undermining food self-sufficiency of countries and called for domestic policies to increase support and subsidy for small farmers. In the international arena, APNFS worked with CIDSE members to highlight these issues and the impact of the crisis on farmers and women. During the ASEAN People’s Forum in Bangkok in February 2009, APNFS organized a forum together with the Action Aid International to discuss analysis and strategies to address the global food crisis. APNFS also participated in the 2009 People’s Food Sovereignty Forum in Senegal and the Parallel People’s Summit during the World Food Summit in November 2009 in Rome, where the call for more inclusive and democratic governance of food was highlighted. APNFS participated in forums where it shared its strategies in campaigning for FTAs and also presented its proposals for investments in agriculture that will address the food crisis. Throughout the succeeding years, APNFS was active in organizing forums and workshops during World Social Forums to present its concept on food sovereignty and an alternative development paradigm.
APNFS advocacy for food sovereignty was also consistently brought in ASEAN People’s Forum where the network served as co-organizer of the workshops on agriculture and food sovereignty. Such as in the 2010 Hanoi ASEAN People’s Forum, 2011 APF in Jakarta, 2012 APF in Cambodia, and 2014 APF in Myanmar. During these events, APNFS organized delegations and forums to highlight the importance of smallholder agriculture and food sovereignty. APNFS also organized a big delegation during the UNFCC meeting in Bali 2007 to present civil society perspective on climate negotiations. Afterwards, its members notably, the Coastal development Partnership of Bangladesh has constantly monitored and lobbied governments.
Since the global food crisis exploded in 2008-2009, APNFS has been at the forefront of advocacy for reforms of the global food system. It brought the issues of food speculation and biofuel during the G8 Summit in Osaka and G20 summits through public forums and workshops it organized. Overall, APNFS activities and actions have consistently provided a critique of policies and institutions that have been largely accountable for the massive impoverishment and hunger being experienced worldwide. APNFS has also consistently presented proposals and actions calling for a just trade regime and sustainable and democratic food policies that will ensure food security and food sovereignty. Despite limited resources, the sustained initiatives of APNFS members in Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand, Bangladesh, and India, together with the collective actions of organized farmers, women, artisanal fishers and indigenous communities are ensuring that voices and perspective from the marginalized sectors are heard in the policy arena and that community actions against land grabbing, privatization of water and common resources, environmental pollution and destruction are likewise sustained.