The Right to Food and Nutrition Watch 2012: Democracy against hunger
Published on Fri, 2012-10-12 13:17
The fifth annual global report Right to Food and Nutrition Watch 2012 focuses on the role of democracy in the fight against hunger. Representatives of the civil society organizations that produced the study called in the launch ceremony in Geneva for a turnaround in global decision-making on the matter, because they concluded that it is impossible to combat the causes of hunger while keeping existing power relations untouched.
"Food and power are related. It is almost impossible to find one person among the powerful in society and politics worldwide, who does not have enough to eat," said Huguette Akplogan-Dossa, the Regional Coordinator of the African Network on the Right to Food (ANoRF). "The tendency is for exclusion from economic and political decision-making to go hand in hand with incidence of hunger and malnutrition."
The global report Right to Food and Nutrition Watch 2012, with the title "Who Decides About Global Food and Nutrition? – Strategies to Regain Control," gives a multitude of examples of the severe violations of the right to food and nutrition that the current food system is provoking: from forced evictions and land grabbing by companies or corrupted members of governments, as illustrated by the articles on Mexico and on the Arab Spring, to inappropriate food supply programs or speculative investments in agrofuels, described in the articles on Bangladesh, Paraguay and the Philippines.
"Those who protest because they have been deprived of their land and cannot feed their family from their work are often arrested and victims of violence. This is unacceptable," said Gerald Staberock, Secretary General of the World Organization Against Torture (OMCT).
"We can no longer accept chronic hunger or food riots being portrayed as consequences of natural disasters or anonymous market failures," stated Lalji Desai from the World Alliance of Mobile Indigenous Peoples and Nomadic Pastoralists (WAMIP) based in India. "The terrible living conditions for hundreds of millions of people actually are caused by the loss of control over their food and nutrition, and that’s why we struggle for our right to self-determination and food sovereignty."
The Right to Food and Nutrition Watch 2012 focuses on revealing who is in charge. "Far too often, agribusinesses and nutrition companies use their weight and influence to increase their profit margins, and to manipulate the rules to their interests and convenience, without regard for the best interests of small-scale food producers and the survival of their communities - let alone the moral and legal requirements of the human right to food," observed Peter Prove, Executive Director of the Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance (EAA).
In reaction, social movements and other expressions of civil society have engaged in strategies to regain people's control over food and nutrition. "With the reform of the Committee on World Food Security, an innovative way of inclusive governance has been established. It has been a breakthrough for those civil society groups that traditionally have been excluded from decision making processes on all levels," said Flavio Valente, Secretary General of FIAN International. "The time has come to occupy political space and fight for the primacy of human rights."
This report is published annually since 2008 by Brot für die Welt (Bread for the World), the Interchurch Organization for Development Cooperation (ICCO) and FIAN International, in partnership with the African Network on the Right to Food (ANoRF), Centro Internazionale Crocevia, DanChurchAid (DCA), Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance (EAA), Habitat International Coalition (HIC), Inter-American Platform for Human Rights for Democracy and Development (PIDHDD), International Indian Treaty Council (IITC), the Observatory on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ODESC), People’s Health Movement (PHM), US Food Sovereignty Alliance (USFSA), World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT).
Who is really in control?
The Right to Food and Nutrition Watch 2012 focuses on exposing who is really in control of decision and policy-making when it comes to food and nutrition. It analyzes the chain of power to ultimately unravel the structural causes underlying the millions of cases of hunger and malnutrition that are currently affecting a large part of the world’s population.
The first part of the report presents a series of articles that analyze different international instruments that have been recently adopted, mainly due to the perseverance of civil society. These instruments represent an important step towards allowing communities to be part of policy-making and also offer further protection from human rights violations by establishing that States obligations are not only limited to their own territories. In this section, there are also articles that describe the severe gap there is between those who decide on how the markets function, such as speculators and corporations, and the effects their decisions have on the livelihoods of peasants and indigenous peoples.
The second part covers case studies from seven countries from all continents. There are examples of different inefficient legal frameworks and cases where, due to various social circumstances, the population’s rights are being violated. The rights and current state of indigenous peoples are thoroughly evaluated, as well as the worldwide negative impact of devoting land to agrofuels production.
Six main conclusions flow from the study:
1. Before you go hungry, you have already lost control. We can no longer accept future food emergencies, conflicts, riots or even chronic hunger as consequences of natural disasters or anonymous market failures. We understand that these phenomena, which lead to terrible living conditions for hundreds of millions of people, actually are caused by the loss of control of people over their food and nutrition, and are linked to peoples' struggle for their right to self-determination and food sovereignty.
2. Participative governance on food security and nutrition is possible. With the reform of the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) in 2009, an innovative way of inclusive governance has been established, with a particular breakthrough for those civil society groups that traditionally have been excluded from decision making processes on all levels: peasants, smallholder farmers, agricultural and food workers, artisanal fisherfolk, pastoralists, indigenous peoples, landless, urban poor, and, in each of these constituencies, women and youth.
3. There is an ongoing trend of increased and unregulated influence of corporate and financial actors over global food and nutrition chains. This is intimately linked with financial speculation and the grabbing of natural resources. Actual food price volatility is essentially caused by speculation on financial markets, but the effect of volatile prices on real markets depends on how agribusiness influences the global value chains and global production networks. Agribusiness and nutrition companies effectively use the unregulated space for their profit-oriented purposes, or successfully use their influence in adjusting the rules to their interests and convenience.
4. There is a worrying trend that lessons learned about the social determinants of nutrition are increasingly sidelined by well-funded global public private partnerships (PPP) that focus on direct short-term intervention strategies. While social determinants of nutrition correspond to the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work, and age, including the circumstances regarding inequality of wealth and power, there is the clear tendency for company-driven strategies to replace the holistic approach by medicalized direct intervention, especially in the field of maternal, infant and young children’s health and nutrition.
5. New and important human rights-based strategies to regain control have advanced in the last few years with long-lasting repercussions on food and nutrition. The longstanding struggle for indigenous peoples' rights and the substantial progress achieved by the UN Permanent Forum of Indigenous Peoples is a telling example such as the new Guidelines on Responsible Governance on Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests, and the Maastricht Principles on extraterritorial obligations in the area of economic, social and cultural rights.
6. The challenge ahead: Occupy political space and fight for the primacy of human rights. It is difficult to imagine a turnaround in policies on hunger without a fundamental change in the way social groups most affected by hunger and malnutrition are included in decision making. This is essentially a human rights struggle, focused on the promotion and protection of the right to adequate food within the context of the indivisibility of all human rights.