With the conclusion of the United Nations Food Systems Summit (UNFSS) last 23 September 2021, our warnings were confirmed: the solutions posed in transforming our food are but the systemic expansion of the same techno-fixes and market-based approaches behind the present global hunger phenomenon.
Global hunger and malnutrition have been on the rise in recent years, and the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2021 reported that figures spiked further when the COVID-19 pandemic hit last year. In fact, the estimated increase in 2020 was equal to that of the previous five years combined.
Close to 12% of the global population was severely food insecure in 2020, representing 928 million people – 148 million more than in 2019. More than half (418 million) of the people in the world affected by hunger in 2020 were in Asia and more than one-third (264 million) in Sub-saharan Africa, while both the Latin America and the Caribbean Region and West Asia-North Africa each have 60 million undernourished people.
Nearly one in three people in the world (2.37 billion in total) did not have access to adequate food in 2020 – an increase of almost 320 million people in just one year. Out of every 100 people in the world suffering from moderate to extreme food insecurity, 47 are from Asia, 30 from Sub-saharan Africa, 11 in WANA, and 11.5 in LAC. The situation is worst in South Asia, which covers three-fourth of those from Asia.
Across all regions, moderate to severe food insecurity is more prevalent among women than men (10% higher globally this year), especially in the LAC region where the gap is 30% wider. Their contribution in food production and security is undeniably significant, but rural women are often deprived of access to food, economic opportunities, and rights over land and property. These conditions worsened amid pandemic, on top of the increased pressure to provide unpaid care and domestic work.
Despite these glaring figures, the UNFSS is pushing for the same anti-people and pro-corporate schemes that already proliferate in our current food systems. Corporations are deemed indispensable in transforming our food systems – thus their recognition as stakeholders in fulfillment of the summit’s “inclusivity.” Worse, they are painted as bringers of salvation from the global economic, health, climate, and food crises we face today.
With the UNFSS setting the tone on how food systems should be transformed, we expect the same conversations in upcoming events by various international bodies and intergovernmental platforms: the financing of Green Revolution and other such corporate-owned technologies to further intensify production in the International Monetary Fund-World Bank Group Spring Meetings on October 15 to 17, the push for genetic modification of food and “climate-smart” agriculture in the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) on October 21 to November 12, and liberalization to address the narrative of “pandemic-induced” recession due to “logistics issues” and protectionist policies in the 12th World Trade Organization ministerial conference on November 30 to December 3 (with particular agenda item on ending subsidies to “unsustainable” fisheries) as well as in other regional trade agreements currently in negotiation – to mention a few.
Clearly, these “game-changing solutions” revolved around investments and business opportunities in our food systems to exploit the current crisis and secure corporate profit, sugarcoated by the objectives of pandemic recovery and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030 target.
The corporate hijack of the UNFSS and the promotion of corporate-led transformation of our food systems were anticipated, which is why the people of the Global South organized the Global People’s Summit on Food Systems. The GPS, which culminated on September 21 to 23, is a counter-summit to the UNFSS.
The People’s Coalition on Food Sovereignty (PCFS), Asian Peasant Coalition (APC), and PAN Asia Pacific (PANAP) led the GPS along with 19 global and regional people’s organizations and CSOs representing the Global South. The GPS is part of the #Hungry4Change campaign, which was launched on World Hunger Day last year to further develop and broaden the Nine Demands for Food and Rights. The initiatives of PCFS to counteract the UNFSS began in April 2020, after it launched a sign-on statement calling the UN to sever its partnership with the World Economic Forum. As of 30 June 2021, a total of 155 organizations from 31 countries and seven advocates have supported this petition.
The GPS put the voices of the hungry and marginalized at the helm of agenda-setting in the transformation of our food systems – building on the people’s ongoing struggles and asserting our demands – and exposed the neoliberal agenda and corporate capture in the UNFSS. It tackled the always dismissed yet longstanding systemic issues we face and raise, such as land grabs, resource plunder, rural poverty, political repression, proxy wars and occupations, and monopoly control in our food systems and agriculture. The GPS asserted that people-led solutions are possible in confronting these issues by highlighting the good practices and ongoing initiatives of grassroots formations/rural communities.
All efforts of the GPS since early this year resulted in the People’s Declaration and Action Plans, which present the actionable, pro-people, and pro-planet alternative to radically transform the food systems. These represent our concrete and particular demands and campaigns along the four pillars of food systems transformation – (1) Food sovereignty and democracy at the core of food and agricultural policies; (2) Agroecology and sustainability in production, distribution, and consumption; (3) People’s right to land, production, and resources; and (4) People’s right to adequate, safe, nutritious, and culturally-appropriate food.
Beyond the GPS, we shall continue to expose and oppose the neoliberal schemes of these corporate actors and their agents. We shall also carry out our Action Plans and Declaration for the realization of just, equitable, healthy, and sustainable food systems in place of the current neoliberal food systems.
In this year’s World Hunger Day on October 16, the PCFS, APC, and PANAP highlight the success of the GPS as a testimony of the people’s hunger for change, of our collective resistance against the global corporate food empire. Heighten the Fight for People’s Rights to Just, Equitable, Healthy, and Sustainable Food Systems! We are #Hungry4Change!
The APC initiated the World Hunger Day in 2012 to dispute the UN FAO’s World Food Day celebration and emphasize the real situation and struggles of the rural people especially in the Global South.
- GPS Declaration call for endorsement and physical submission
We are calling for the broadest endorsement to the People’s Declaration of the GPS, titled “End corporate monopoly control! Fight for People’s Rights to Just, Equitable, Healthy, and Sustainable Food Systems!” The Declaration, adopted during the GPS Closing Plenary held September 23, will be physically submitted to the United Nations Headquarters in New York on October 16.
The Declaration lays down the commitments of the GPS to the struggle for just, equitable, healthy, and sustainable food systems – the radical transformation we urgently need, with people’s rights at the center. The Organizing Committee of the GPS will present this Declaration to relevant international bodies and intergovernmental platforms.
GPS Declaration: https://peoplessummit.foodsov.org/gps-declaration/
Endorsement form: https://bit.ly/EndorseGPSDeclaration