A better global governance system for food security

A better global governance system for food security

A better global governance system for food security

November 19, 2010
Ein Teaser dieser Zusammenfassung existiert auch auf Deutsch.

Food is perhaps the most basic human need. Governance of food security - understood as decision-making, rules-setting and authority-wielding related to collective food security - has been with us since the dawn of human society, and failure to perform it effectively has inevitably engendered social unrest.

Why now is the time to reform the governance of world food security

A series of interrelated crises has unequivocally demonstrated that the current world food system is not working. These very crises have opened up a moment of unprecedented visibility and political opportunity for decisive reform of the world governance of food security.

  • Global food output has been expanded over the past fifty years and governments have repeatedly committed themselves to reducing hunger, but the number of hungry and malnourished people has continued to rise.
  • Burgeoning problems of obesity and unsafe food are sensitizing public opinion to the fact that the malfunctioning of the food system impacts the North as well as the South.
  • Price volatility is likely to be with us for the foreseeable future, and its effects on food prices will continue to constitute a source of social unrest throughout the world.
  • The un-sustainability of a food system based on intensive use of petrol products and chemical inputs has been dramatically highlighted by climate change and the energy crisis.
  • The financial crisis (including the role played by financial speculation on food commodities), unveils another area related to food security governance in which current regulatory mechanisms are unsatisfactory. In reacting to the financial crisis governments have shown themselves to be capable of contradicting the dominant neoliberal policy line that has conditioned governance of food over the past decades.

Essential characteristics of a better global governance system for food security

  • Based on the values: The Human Right to adequate Food, equity within and among countries, defense of common goods for this generation and future ones.
  • Democratic political process: With authoritative and coherent participation by all governments
  • Multi-sector: Integrating nutrition, health, environment, trade as well as agriculture within a framework that highlights political economy concerns.
  • Legitimacy: Ensured by transparency of decision-making and by meaningful participation of actors most directly concerned.
  • Power: Endowed with authority to adopt overall strategic guidelines and specific policy orientations on key issues addressed to all major food security actors – including multilateral institutions like the WTO and private sector actors like TNCs - and with the necessary accountability mechanisms to monitor and enforce their application.
  • Implementation: Establishes coherent relations among the different components of the global governance system and ensures that their operations are legible and subject to democratic political oversight.

A proposed architecture and set of practices for a better global governance system

The reformed multi-stakeholder Committee on World Food Security (CFS) at the center of the global governance system as the foremost global policy forum, respecting the characteristics listed above and authorized to:

  • Adopt strategic guidelines based on a joint understanding of obstacles to the realization of the Right to Food, request governments, regional intergovernmental bodies, and international agencies to identify a set of targets to be achieved in the implementation of the guidelines, receive reports and feedback on the achievement of the targets, and revise guidelines in light of difficulties encountered and successful experiences reported.
  • Promote cooperation and coordination among different actors/programmes/policies impacting food security. Programs to attain food security/Right to Food targets to be set at national and regional levels through meaningful and verifiable participatory processes; aid to be linked to such programs, in accordance also with Paris/Accra principles.
  • Promote articulation between different levels of decision-making and establishment of multi-actor policy forums at country and regional levels, respecting civil society right to autonomously self-organize to participate in such forums.
  • Constitute a global policy forum in which to identify, explore and address emerging issues (e.g. agro fuels, financial speculation on food commodities).
  • Provide normative guidance regarding investment in food and agriculture and trade measures which impact on food security.
  • Name an ombudsman to receive complaints of actions contrary to CFS policy orientations and detrimental to food security.
  • The Rome-based food and agriculture agencies (FAO, IFAD, WFP) fully included in the CFS secretariat and institutionally integrated, along with the CGIAR, as the nucleus of a coherent multilateral food system [see the ETC Group “New Roman Forum” proposal].
  • Close and formalized working relations between the CFS and other key components of the UN system impacting on governance of food security, in particular the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food. Integration of nutrition concerns through close collaboration with the SCN.
  • The Food Aid Convention reformed as a Food Assistance Convention and subjected to the normative guidance of the CFS.
  • Current global trade regulations adopted by governments in the context of both the World Trade Organization and bilateral trade agreement to be reviewed, in collaboration with the CFS, in order to ascertain their impact on food security and the Right to Food, as suggested in the Mission to the World Trade Organization released by the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food on 9 March 2009.
  • An international body to monitor global corporate activity and technologies (re)established.
  • A body of enforceable rules and practices built up to effectively regulate the impact of corporations and financial speculators on food security ; generalization of practices already being applied in some part of the system (e.g. precautionary principle, recognition of third party beneficiary interests). Review and reform of Intellectual Property system in relation to food and agriculture.
  • UN Secretary General to take the lead in coordinating and strengthening the UN system in support of effective global food security governance, with the Rome-based food agencies playing the key role. A continued and clearly defined role for the High Level Task Force in promoting coordination and coherence among the approaches and programs of UN system institutions, at country level in particular.
  • Strong and sustained civil society advocacy will continue to be indispensable to build and maintain the political will necessary to carry through this agenda.

Next steps

Establishment of better global governance will be a process over time, but essential not to lose sense of urgency. Over next months (before the end of 2011):

Committee on World Food Security (in follow-up to the recent 36th session)

  • Implement the important policy decisions taken regarding key issues like land governance and investment in agriculture and addressing food insecurity in protracted crises;
  • get the process of developing a global strategic framework for food security and food insecurity mapping underway 


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