Transformative solutions to the global systemic food crises
In 2022 a worldwide grassroots consultation on impacts of the food crisis, and proposals from below showed the reality lived by small scale producers and communities around the world who are facing up to and leading responses to the food crisis. The findings were stark:
Poverty, price gouging by corporates and market led food provision meant that even if food was available, it remained unaffordable for millions. Conflicts, wars and state violence have persisted, and food is being used as a geopolitical weapon. Those countries and populations least responsible for greenhouse gas emissions experienced the impacts of climate change most acutely, with extreme weather events and failed harvests leading to the loss of livelihoods of Indigenous Peoples and small-scale food producers. Gender inequalities persist, and so women and LGBTQI people are particularly at risk in times of crises and scarcity. Multiple inequalities often combine discrimination based on class, social privilege, race/ethnicity, caste, gender, occupation, religion and age. The neoliberal food system driven by corporate profit contributes to many of these problems and is also unsuited to solving them.
Instead, largely ignored by the State in crisis responses, grassroots communities of small scale producers and citizens of various marginalised groups came together to provide their own solutions. Based on their praxis, several demands were articulated. Overall, policy responses need to be anchored in a comprehensive human rights approach, recognising the agency of those most affected as rights-holders, and the accountability of governments as duty-bearers.
In the short term movements demand that emergency food aid provision must support local food systems, cultures and initiatives. They must not become another route for corporations to distribute ultra processed products. Small scale producers must be provided domestically available inputs such as indigenous seeds and bio fertilizers in order to feed their communities. Taxes on huge profits of corporations and on extreme wealth are urgently needed to fund social policies.
In the medium term movements demand regulations to stop food speculation and strengthen the powers of market and financial regulatory authorities. They call for an end to illegitimate debt – highlighting the need to restructure and cancel private and public debts in developing countries. A moratorium on the use and processing of agricultural commodities for non-food purposes, such as agrofuels is crucial.
In the long term we must break food import dependency and support domestic food provisioning, transform food systems through agroecology and implement food sovereignty. This requires governance systems that ensure human rights and democratic multilateralism.
Practically, this demands measures to limit corporate power. Trade and investment must be reoriented to serve people and societies, not corporations. Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) should be halted, and existing WTO agreements must be dismantled.
There are also myriad positive measures that can put us on a path to these long term goals for example: using public procurement and food reserves effectively; building territorial markets; reviving indigenous crops and breeds; integral and popular agrarian reform and commitment to implement the UN declaration on the right of peasants and people in rural areas and the UN declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples. Overall, we need more democratic control over food systems at all levels.
Our future is public!
From 29th November to 2nd December over a thousand representatives from over one hundred countries, from grassroots movements, advocacy, human rights, and development organisations, feminist movements, trade unions, and other civil society organisations, met in December 2022 in Santiago, Chile, and virtually, to discuss the critical role of public services for our future. Hundreds of organisations across socio-economic justice and public services sectors, from education and health services, to care, energy, food, housing, water, transportation and social protection, came together to address the harmful effects of commercialising public services, to reclaim democratic public control, and to reimagine a truly equal and human rights oriented economy that works for people and the planet.
For the first time since this process started some 5 years ago, food was part of this conversation. Since food is not a public service, we explored in this sectoral dialogue the connections between public services and the public policies needed to realize the right to food. Likewise, our dialogue touched upon understanding what we mean when reclaiming the public and how to democratize the economy through the strengthening of the agroecological transition.
In our conclusions, we highlighted that food is so essential for our survival and well-being, that it must be at the centre of public policies and services. Food is inextricably intertwined with health, care, education, work, transport, water, climate, political agency and participatory democracy. Food must be prioritized as a human right, within the framework of a comprehensive, complex and interdependent understanding of human rights, where it is essential to include the rights of all small-scale food producers, workers, and women, including collective rights and the right to food sovereignty. Food systems are the vehicle for the continued reproduction of living cycles, making human health indivisible from the sound ecological foundations of Mother Earth.
There was a strong call to unite across sectors, regions and movements to formulate common strategies and new alliances to realise food sovereignty, transition to agroecology across the world, and ensure that the rights of all actors involved in food systems are respected. In particular, we talked about the role of agrarian reform in agroecological transitions, the importance of the care dimension in food systems, the role of public food procurement for public institutions (schools, hospitals, prisons, etc) and the need to strengthen and better coordinate our existing campaigns against agrotoxics.
 More info and full report here.
 Read the declaration here.