“Getting into a bind”: trade and investment regime blocks the development of agroecology and access to land
Small-scale food producers are moving ahead with the exchange of knowledge, practices and movements for agroecology. Evidence from the ground shows that with appropriate public investments they can make even greater strides in achieving food sovereignty through action on agroecology. But current trade and investment agreements being signed by countries are actively blocking progress on agroecology.
These agreements are focused on attracting agribusiness and are geared towards generating profits for them.
This is being done by opening new markets through trade and investment liberalisation, using bilateral investment treaties (BITs), free trade agreements (FTAs), conditional loans, and aid agreements.
Provisions in all these agreements undermine and supersede the sovereignty of states and hinder their ability to develop or protect their economies or social and environmental interests. At the same time they provide comprehensive promotion and protection for agribusinesses’ profits at the cost of states’ and peoples’ welfare.
Key instruments are:
i) Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) which enables corporations to sue states for billions of dollars in secret arbitration courts for implementing economic, social or environmental policies that may impede profitable activities.
ii) Agribusiness investment promotion policies such as tax-free zones, unilateral tariff reductions, subsidies for the consumption of services (such as electricity and water), subsidies for hiring and training workers. Favorable policies for agribusinesses are also often insisted upon by donors providing development assistance or food aid.
iii) Requirements to give foreign agribusinesses equal or better conditions than local businesses.
iv) Banning of performance requirements such as requirements to hire from the national workforce or transfer technology.
But food sovereignty and economic justice movements are fighting back!
Read the full report here.
Food Sovereignty takes root in Eastern Europe
The second Nyéléni Europe forum on food sovereignty took place in Cluj-Napoca, Romania from the 26th to the 30th of October and brought together more than 500 participants from 40 European and Central Asia countries.
After five days of discussions, the groundwork has been laid through the planning of multiple actions and strategies to take back and re-localise Europe’s food systems. A huge diversity of people were present, including farmers, food and agricultural workers, trade unionists, researchers, activists, fisherfolk, pastoralists, indigenous peoples, consumers, NGOs and human rights defenders.
A major accomplishment of the forum was the convergence of Eastern European and Central Asian organisations/movements, which initiated talks on collective regional strategies and stepped up the coordination of the food sovereignty movement there. The convergence also recognised the Mali declaration on agroecology as the basis for the European region to scale up agroecology in order to achieve food sovereignty.
The process towards the forum started in December 2015, when several organisations throughout Europe gathered in Paris to discuss the structure and functioning of a new Nyéléni Europe Coordination Committee, which three months later in March 2016 sent out the call for participation in the 2nd forum. The preparation work has been carried out by one full time coordinator and several working groups dealing with fundraising and financial issues, the establishing of a new website and newsletters, the preparation of the agenda and inputs of participants to the content of the forum, as well as the technical work done by COATI to ensure interpretation can happen in nine key languages with 60 volunteer interpreters.
Major part of the preparation of the forum has been the establishment of contacts and delegations in several countries, where neither of the initiators of the process had contacts. The result is a functional list of focal points per country.
The gathering is an important stepping stone for the building of a strong food sovereignty movement in Europe, especially Eastern Europe and important for the dynamics in several other European countries where no platforms exists. It is also a first step towards structuring the movement and giving it visibility with the planning of common actions.
Building public policies for Agroecology
The International planning committee for Food Sovereignty (IPC) has been involved in the debate instigated by the Food and Agricultural Organization of the UN (FAO) about what public policies can be proposed to help agroecology. In the framework of this process the FAO organized an international symposium on agroecology for food security and nutrition in September of 2014, where it was agreed to decentralise the discussions and conversations through regional symposiums.
In 2015 the FAO, the IPC and a number of governments and academics organized symposiums in Latin America and the Caribbean (June), Sub-Saharan Africa (November) and in Asia and the Pacific (November). Following up on these symposiums in 2016 the regional conference of the FAO analysed the results of the meetings on agroecology and agreed on the following steps at a regional level to promote agroecology. In the last months, two more regional symposiums have been organised, as well as one specifically for and in China. Once again civil society, the FAO, governments and academics will meet in Latin America and the Caribbean (September) and in Europe and Central Asia (November).
In Latin America and the Caribbean a regional agenda of work between different participants and open to others was agreed upon, in order to: make visible the centrality of artisanal fishing and the contribution of agroecological agriculture to it; formulate and implement policies and legal frameworks for the promotion of agroecology from and to the territories, with social participation; to expand the generation and management of evidence-based knowledge on agroecology, integrating scientific knowledge with indigenous ancestral knowledge and practices from diverse sectors; promote institutional mechanisms for agroecological production and marketing; guarantee popular rights to seeds, water, land and territories; promote agroecology by valuing and respecting life and human rights, highlight the international peasant declaration; suggested the celebration of the International Year of Agroecology.
In Europe and Central Asia, at the proposal of civil society organizations, it was agreed to comprehend Agroecology beyond the technical aspects of production and include social, cultural, political, economic and environmental aspects, from an intersectoral perspective. However, a critical issue is the need for governments, in addition to accepting the positive impacts of agroecology, to implement public policies for its support. The IPC gave a very positive evaluation of the symposium as a good opportunity.
The symposiums continue to generate further opportunities to strengthen the links between the different actors involved in Agroecology.