The Asia Pacific Network for Food Sovereignty sent a delegation* from India, Bangladesh and the Philippines to the People’s Food Sovereignty Forum held in Citta dell’Altra Economia (Center for Alternative Economy), Rome, Italy on November 13-17, 2009.
The Forum was held parallel to the World Summit on Food Sovereignty, also held in Rome on November 16-18, 2009. The Forum, which gathered more than 600 farmers, indigenous peoples, rural youth, women, food security advocates and other social organizations, was aimed at pushing for reforms in mainstream agricultural and food policies to effectively address the root causes of hunger and poverty.
Specifically, the Forum aims to:
- facilitate the participation of women, small-scale farmers and peasants, Indigenous Peoples, artisanal fisherfolk, food and rural workers, youth, the urban poor, environmental organizations, human rights defenders, NGOs and other CSOs working for the realization of the right to food and food sovereignty and to ensure that their voices are heard in the World Food Summit;
- seek the commitment of governments and UN agencies to the eradication of hunger and malnutrition, the realization of the right to food and the people’s food sovereignty agenda; and
- strengthen alliances, foster dialogue on the causes of world hunger and food crises, work towards a shared understanding of the changes and solutions required and an agenda of action.
The main program opened on November 14 with guest speakers which include the Mayor of Rome Gianni Alemanno, UN Food and Agriculture Director General Jacques Diouf, previous chair of Committee on Food Security Maria del Carmen Squeff (permanent representative of Argentina to FAO) and current chair Noel de Luna (ambassador of the Philippines).
The subsequent sessions were divided into caucuses of women, indigenous peoples and youth and addressed four issues, namely:
- Who decides about food policies?
- Who controls food-producing resources?
- How is food produced?
- Who has/needs access to food?
During lunch and afternoon breaks, side events were organized.
APNFS co-organized a workshop, Agriculture in Climate Change Negotiations, with Asian Farmers’ Association (AFA), Eastern Africa Farmers’ Federation (EAFF), Reseau des Organisations Paysannes d’Afrique de l’Ouest (ROPPA), Asian Partnership for the Development of Human Resources in Rural Asia (AsiaDHRRA), Greenpeace International and Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) on November 16, 12:00 noon to 2:00 pm.
APNFS Coordinating Committee member and Coastal Development Partnership (Bangladesh) Executive Director Jahangir Hasan Masum gave inputs on the impacts of climate change on agriculture in Bangladesh and measures undertaken by the government to address them. He also posed the challenges to governments and civil society in the upcoming UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in Copenhagen Denmark in December 2009, among them the need to increase resource allocation for smallholder agriculture in poor countries to lessen the impact of climate change on food production and rural livelihood.
APNFS Lead Convenor, Arze Glipo, was invited as a resource person in two side events. On Nov 15, Ms Glipo joined the panel organized by CIDSE together with MIJARC, APRODEV and IATP on Agricultural Investment and Small Producers. The side event aims to discuss lessons learned as well as current challenges and policy recommendations on agricultural investments in different global regions.
Ms Glipo gave an account of the diminishing subsidies in agriculture in Indonesia, Philippines, India and Bangladesh since the IMF-imposed Structural Adjustment Programs that has led to the removal of subsidies on fertilizer and privatization of state food trading enterprise (as in the case of Philippines and Indonesia), and a decrease in irrigation budget. As a result of the withdrawal of agricultural subsidies, the Philippines has now become the world’s biggest rice importer.
Ms Glipo also noted that even while agricultural subsidies were increased in some countries in Asia as a reaction to the global food crisis in 2008, many of these subsidies were eventually captured by private traders and corrupt government officials. In view of these, APNFS recommends that public investment be increased and focused on small producers instead of agri-business. To generate these funds, APNFS suggests a review of foreign debt and re-channeling of debt payments to agriculture instead.
On November 16, Ms Glipo joined the forum, EPAs and FTA impact on Food Sovereignty, organized by Amici de Populi and CESTAs (as members of the Partnership of Change)/ Coordination Sud and ItaliaAfrica. The forum was a venue for exchange of experiences, lessons and challenges on campaigning against free trade agreements and economic partnership agreements in Asia, Africa and Latin America.
Ms Glipo shared the experiences of the Philippine network Task Force Food Sovereignty (TFFS) on its campaign against the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA) and the Republic of the Philippines-China agreements on agriculture as well as the ongoing efforts of APNFS on the European Union-ASEAN Free Trade Agreement.
Access to accurate and timely information is one element that became important in the Philippine campaigns. Despite the secrecy that shrouded the negotiations on FTAs, campaigners obtained copies of the JPEPA and the RP-China agreements giving them time to conduct public information drive even before the public deliberations started. The combination of various strategies in campaigning, including well grounded researches, lobbying, public information, sustained and broad multi-sectoral actions and dialogue with legislators, also proved powerful in debunking the arguments for FTAs.
Ultimately, however, it still depends on the overall balance of political forces whether an EPA or FTA will be passed or not. As in the case of the Philippines, despite persistent efforts, JPEPA and the RP-China agreements were still enacted. In the case of the RP-China though, campaigners gained partial victory after the government was forced to suspend two of the agreements that allow China to lease 1.2 million hectares of land in the Philippines.
The results of the caucuses as well as the side events were then fed into the final declaration, which was deliberated and agreed upon on the last day. A press conference was held to present the declaration.
The final declaration reiterated food sovereignty as the solution to hunger and requires the transformation of the current food system to ensure that food producers have equitable access to, and control over land, water, seeds, fisheries and agricultural biodiversity. The declaration also called on governments to respect, protect and fulfill the right to food as the right to adequate, accessible, culturally acceptable and nutritious food.
The declaration recognized the important role of the Committee on Food Security where the perspectives of food producers are taken into consideration and acted upon. The declaration, however, noted that the CFS is not receiving enough funds to pursue its work program.
There was a commitment to promote ecological food provision and a call to reframe researches to support this model. The declaration called for a stop to landgrabbing that has intensified in the wake of the global crisis and promotion of large-scale investments and instead pushed for a genuine agrarian reform.
This declaration was read in a press conference at the UN FAO on November 17.
APNFS was supposed to join the delegation to the UN FAO and a meeting with the Norwegian minister on November 18. The plan did not push through, however, when representatives of people’s organizations and NGOs were not allowed entry into the UN FAO premises.
APNFS was able to talk to CFS Chair and Philippine Ambassador Noel de Luna for a possible meeting on November 18 at the UNFAO. But since civil society delegates were not allowed to enter the UNFAO premises, the meeting has been rescheduled for either mid-December or early January 2010 in Manila.
Outcome of the World Summit on Food Security
The World Summit on Food Security renewed its commitment to eradicate hunger in the earliest possible time. To achieve such goal, the Summit adopted the Five Rome Principles for Global Food Security:
- Invest in country-owned plans, aimed at channeling resources to well-designed and results-based programs and partnerships;
- Foster strategic coordination at national, regional and global level to improve governance, promote better allocation of resources, avoid duplication of efforts and identify response-gaps;
- Strive for a comprehensive twin-track approach to food security that consists of: (a) direct action to immediately tackle hunger for the most vulnerable and (b) medium and long-term sustainable agricultural, food security, nutrition and rural development programs that eliminate the root causes of hunger and poverty, including through the progressive realization of the right to adequate food;
- Ensure a strong role for the multilateral system by sustained improvements in efficiency, responsiveness, coordination and effectiveness of multilateral institutions; and
- Ensure sustained and substantial commitment by all partners to investment in agriculture and food security and nutrition, with provision of necessary resources in a timely and reliable fashion, aimed at multi-year plans and programs.
* APNFS delegates to the People’s Food Sovereignty were Arze Glipo (APNFS Lead Convener), Anil Singh (SANSAD, India), Jahangir Hasan Masum (CDP, Bangladesh), Purnama Adil Marata (VECO, Indonesia), Witoro (KRKP, Indonesia) and Alice Raymundo (IRDF, Philippines)