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UN Food Systems Summit: The Battle Over Global Food and Agriculture Governance

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Agroecology in Andhra Pradesh, India

—FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE—

September 21, 2021, 6:00 AM PT

Media Contact:
Anuradha Mittal, amittal@oaklandinstitute.org +1 510-469-5228
Frederic Mousseau, fmousseau@oaklandinstitute.org +1 510-512-5458

Oakland, CA — The Food Systems Summit, hosted by the United Nations, has been reduced to a day-long virtual event on September 23, 2021 — a result of an unprecedented counter mobilization around the world. Hijacked by proponents of corporate industrial agriculture, the summit faced a united front from farmers, civil society groups, and social movements around the world, who rejected and mobilized against the takeover of global food and agriculture governance.

People Vs. Agribusiness Corporations: The Battle Over Global Food and Agriculture Governance, a policy brief released today by the Oakland Institute, offers a detailed look and analysis of how the 2021 Food Systems Summit became the most uneventful UN event. The appointment of the President of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), as UN Special Envoy of the summit, was the lightning rod that catalyzed global opposition. AGRA’s push of monocultural, fossil fuel-based agriculture and promotion of genetically engineered crops has failed to deliver on its much touted promises, while devastating the livelihoods of farmers, holding national budgets hostage to chemical inputs and foreign corporations, and resulting in worsening hunger. In the months leading to the summit, an unprecedented number of petitions, public communications, and other advocacy actions mobilized millions around the world, including the organization of national and global counter summits. From Nigeria and the Philippines, to Zimbabwe and Peru, calls for a radical shift in our food and agriculture system — from destructive and polluting industrial corporate production to farmer-centred agro-ecological systems — made the summit moot.

 
Elizabeth Mpofu headshot

“Farmers and civil society organizations were not consulted when the summit was being organized and it is not inclusive, but only focusing on the big agribusiness players… that is why the boycott has been so intensive.”

— Elizabeth Mpofu, organic small-scale farmer from Zimbabwe, General Coordinator of La Via Campesina

People Vs. Agribusiness Corporations calls out a number of powerful actors — the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Rockefeller Foundation, some Western governments, the World Bank, and others — who actively prevent the much needed transition as they continue to peddle corporate industrial agriculture. By leveraging financial support to countries to expand the use of agrochemicals and pesticides, their efforts undermine the principles of cooperation and multilateralism upheld by the United Nations institutions responsible for global food and agriculture such as the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and Committee on World Food Security (CFS).

On the eve of the summit, a two-part podcast released by the Oakland Institute goes inside the global resistance and maps out the solutions advocated by farmers, researchers, and civil society organizations in the Global South. Featuring Nnimmo Bassey (Health of Mother Earth Foundation, Nigeria), Elizabeth Mpofu (La Via Campesina, Zimbabwe), Alejandro Argumedo (Swift Foundation, Peru), Kristen Lyons (University of Queensland, Australia), Chivy Sok (Tikvah Grassroots Empowerment Fund) and Anuradha Mittal (the Oakland Institute), the podcast elevates the voices of those on the frontlines of challenging the failed industrial agriculture model and working to ensure food sovereignty from the bottom up.

Nnimmo Bassey headshot“We need to liberate the food system, decolonize the food system. We need to promote agriculture that works in line with our ecological systems.”
— Nnimmo Bassey, Health of Mother Earth Foundation 

While there were no expectations of the Food Systems Summit, it did catalyze and coalesce global opposition to Western corporate industrial agriculture. Millions of farmers and citizens rose up to hold international institutions and their own governments accountable.

The United Nations were created by states. In today’s globalized and interconnected world, when governments capitulate to corporate influence, civil society organizations, with cross border and multisectoral alliances, are the central force that defends the universalist values and principles on which this institution was built.

Original source: oaklandinstitute.org

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Call to Sever Ties with Tanzanian Government Over Latest Human Rights Abuses Against the Maasai

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Armed police forces arrive to begin demarcation process in Loliondo.

Open Letter from the Oakland Institute and Survival International to UNESCO WHC & IUCN

To: Lazare Eloundou Assomo, Director UNESCO World Heritage

CC: Audrey Azoulay, UNESCO Director General

Tim Badman, Director, IUCN World Heritage Program
Muhammad Juma, Chief of Africa Unit, UNESCO World Heritage
ICOMOS Secretariat

Subject: Call to Sever Ties with Tanzanian Government Over Latest Human Rights Abuses Against the Maasai

Dear Director Lazare Eloundou Assomo,

We are writing in light of the latest violence unleashed on the Maasai communities living in the Loliondo division of Ngorongoro district by the Tanzanian security forces. On June 8, 2022, the Tanzanian government initiated the demarcation of 1,500 km2 of land that it intends to turn into a game reserve, which would trigger mass evictions of Maasai living in legally registered villages within Loliondo. This action has led to widespread violence against the Maasai by security forces, which has left at least 31 people wounded by live ammunition and other injuries while one police officer was allegedly killed by an arrow. A total of twenty-three citizens (including 9 ward councilors) have been arraigned before the Resident Magistrate’s Court of Arusha and charged with the murder of the policeman.

Injured Maasai, including high numbers of women and children, have fled to Kenya to seek medical treatment and the government continues to crack down on those who are attempting to share information regarding the violence. Despite this resistance from local communities living on this land, Prime Minister Majaliwa announced the demarcation exercise had been completed.

This latest travesty is a continuation of past efforts to evict Maasai from their ancestral lands in Loliondo for safari tourism and trophy hunting. The United Arab Emirates (UAE)-based Otterlo Business Company (OBC) — which runs hunting excursions for the country’s royal family and their guests — will reportedly control commercial hunting in the area despite the company’s past involvement in several violent evictions of the Maasai, including in 2017, burning of homes, and the killing of thousands of rare animals in the area.

There has been extensive condemnation of this violence and forced evictions of the Maasai by numerous organizations and coalitions. On June 13, 2022, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights strongly condemned(link is external) the violence and urged the government to halt the eviction and open an independent investigation. On June 14, the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues expressed(link is external) “its profound concern” over the ongoing evictions” and called “on the government of Tanzania to comply with the provisions recognized in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and other relevant international human rights instruments, and ensure the right of the Maasai to participate in decision-making, considering that their land in Loliondo for safari tourism, trophy hunting and “conservation” will affect their lives and territory.”

On June 15, nine United Nations Special Rapporteurs called(link is external) on the Tanzanian government to “immediately halt plans for relocation of the people living in Loliondo and the Ngorongoro Conservation Area and begin consultations with the Maasai Indigenous Peoples, including direct contact with the Ngorongoro Pastoral Council, to jointly define current challenges to environmental conservation and best avenues to resolve them, while maintaining a human rights-based approach to conservation.” Finally, on June 19, IUCN issued a statement(link is external) on the human rights violations in Loliondo, sharing that it was “deeply concerned.”

Given these developments are occurring alongside the threat of eviction faced by tens of thousands of Indigenous residents of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, the government’s shocking display of violence against its own citizens and patently false denial of responsibility cannot be ignored. We have previously written to your office warning of plans to evict Maasai from the NCA and the inadequacy of relocation sites. These latest rights violations in Loliondo demonstrate that the government does not hesitate to resort to violence, in violation of its national and international obligations, towards the realization of its plans.

The government’s blatant disregard for Indigenous lives and international human rights law calls for immediate and decisive action from the UNESCO WHC and IUCN. Continued inaction on your part makes you complicit. The UNESCO WHC has failed to ensure respect for the rights of Indigenous residents. Therefore, Ngorongoro should be delisted as a World Heritage Site and all ties between the UNESCO WHC and IUCN with the government should be immediately severed.

Sincerely,

Anuradha Mittal
Executive Director
The Oakland Institute

Fiore Longo
Director, France & Spain
Survival International

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Unrecognised wealth of customary land.

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Photo Credit: Farmlandgrab.org

Papua New Guinea’s Constitution is unique as it gives the people rights to be custodians over their land, 95% of which is still under customary control.  For thousands of years, over 800 cultures have allowed our land to sustain every generation till the idea of registering customary land was introduced from outside our shores and clouded the real value and importance of that land.

Foreign investors and donor governments have influenced government and policy think tanks to orchestrate the mainstream mindset of most Papua New Guineans to falsely believe that registering land will relieve poverty and unlock development constraints.

This mindset has crucified customary land by opening a door to different land-grabbing schemes that poorly benefit our society.

From Special Agriculture Business Leases to Incorporated Land Groups created to facilitate logging and mineral extraction and now special economic zones, all these schemes critically ignore the real values of customary land.

The SABL scheme disposed community rights to 5 million hectares of customary land.  Of the 15 million hectares of customary land designated for agricultural purposes, 8 million have been taken by logging. Now, huge land portions are being designated for SEZ schemes.

The government keeps on coming up with policies and new ideas aimed at ‘unlocking’ customary land under the pretense they will improve the economy but have any of these schemes benefited the custodians of land?

Widespread human rights abuses have been reported by both international and national human rights observers on land and forest across PNG, but little is done because these land grab schemes are legally endorsed.

When will be the time when policies and ideas are centered on helping the population in rural areas to utilize their land for themselves and not hand it over to foreigners to exploit for their own profit?

Why should the people register land in return for false promises of money and improved infrastructure when they can be upskilled to utilize their land to increase their incomes in a sustainable and long-lasting manner? Why can’t the government and policymakers create policies that utilize the rural population to untap the huge potential of their land?

The way forward to improve the lives of people in PNG is NOT to alienate their rights to land and destroy the way of life that is attached to this relationship. At the heart of development and economic policy must be the needs and self-determination of local people. Any development policies that see dispossession of land as a necessary and unavoidable process are fundamentally opposed to the rights of the people and the preservation of our unique culture.

Studies into rural livelihoods over the past decade show that customary land is highly productive, but its output and impact is neither measured properly nor publicly recognized.

Papua New Guinea’s real mainstream economy is small-scale farming as  ACTNOW documented in 2017:

“If a rural family had to buy at regional markets what comes from their gardens, they would have to spend up to 20,000 Kina per year. That gives us an idea of the real value of subsistence output (what we produce to feed ourselves). The value of domestic informal or market trading, including garden produce, is almost the same again, another K20,000 a year.

One million rural families could therefore be producing K40 billion in real value per year. That dwarves the annual combined output of gold (1.7bn), gas (1.69bn), petroleum (1.63bn), copper (0.75bn), logging (0.8bn), and palm oil (0.47bn) which totals just K7 billion.”

Another example of this untapped value can be seen in the recent comments by the Fresh Produce Development Agency on the value of the horticulture sector. It is already a K3 billion a year industry but is trapped by a lack of skills, training, government support, and clear guidelines to untap this green mine.

Customary land is the most valuable asset available to most Papua New Guineans but its role and importance is often misunderstood or misrepresented, particularly by outsiders.

All of the government’s so-called ‘land reforms’ and development policies will continue to amount to nothing while they fail to recognize and support the potential of the custodians of the land to protect it and use it for maximum gain.

Having a government that fails to recognize this is a failure to the people.

Original Source: farmlandgrab.org

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La Via Campesina calls on States to exit the WTO and to create a new framework based on food sovereignty

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La Via Campesina, the global peasant movement representing the voices of more than 200 million small-scale peasants from Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas, has been mobilizing all week against the WTO. The food crisis that is currently hitting the world is further proof that free trade – far from bringing about food security – is making people starve.

The World Trade Organization (WTO) has once again failed to offer a permanent solution on public stockholding for food security purposes. For more than eight years, rich countries have been blocking concrete proposals from African and Asian members of the G33 in this regard.

Jeongyeol Kim, from the Korean Women Peasant’s Association and an International Coordination Committee (ICC) member of La Via Campesina, points out that:

“Free Trade Fuels Hunger. After 27 years under the rule of the WTO, this conclusion is clear. It is time to keep agriculture out of all Free Trade Agreements. The pandemic, and the shock and disruptions induced by war have made it clear that we need a local and national food governance system based on people, not agribusinesses. A system that is built on principles of solidarity and cooperation rather than competition, coercion, and geopolitical agendas.”

Burry Tunkara, from the Gambian Organization of Small-scale Farmers, Fishermen and Foresters and one of the main youth leaders of La Via Campesina, echoes the same sentiment in this testimony:

“The WTO only defends the rich and their commercial interests. It is a tool of neo-colonialism. It only serves the interests of multinationals to find new markets and cheaper labour. It’s time to stop that!”

The socio-economic agenda of the poorest and low-income countries is not a priority for the WTO. The proof: its inability to provide a safeguard mechanism against the “dumping” of rich countries and its approach to fisheries subsidies to the detriment of small-scale fisherfolk. There is no point in trying to reform an institution built to favour the business interests of a handful of multinational corporations.

Perla Álvarez from Paraguay, and member of the Latin American Coordination of La Via Campesina (CLOC) stated that a systemic change is urgent and necessary:

“The global food crisis is our moment of reckoning. There is no place for a ‘business as usual’ approach here. We are presenting short-term and long-term proposals that can radically shift the way in which trade affects farming communities around the world.”

Today, June 15, from Geneva, while the WTO Ministerial Conference has once again betrayed the expectations of the populations that have been most affected by the food crisis, we, La Via Campesina, share our proposals;

La Via Campesina calls on all national governments to rebuild public stocks and to support the creation of food reserves at the community level with local products from agroecological practices. LVC also called on all governments to put in place the anti-dumping legislation necessary to prevent exporters from destroying local markets.

Yudhvir Singh of the Bhartiya Kisan Union, one of the unions that spearheaded the historic mobilization of Indian peasants in 2021, shared his country’s experience with public food stocks:

“Peasants need strong public policies, such as minimum prices and public stock, to continue to make a decent living by producing food. The WTO’s attacks against our model of market regulation are extremely dangerous. The G33 must continue to resist and build based on the aspirations and hopes of small-scale producers.”

La Via Campesina has called for an immediate suspension of all existing WTO rules that prevent countries from developing public food stocks and regulating market and prices. Governments should have the right to use self-selected internal criteria to protect and promote their food sovereignty. Each country should be able to develop its own agricultural and food policy and protect the interests of its peasants, without harming other countries. The use of agricultural products for agro-fuels should be prohibited. La Via Campesina has also called for a halt in speculation.

“Agrarian Reform is necessary to build food sovereignty,” added Zainal Arifin Fuat of Serikat Petani Indonesia and member of LVC’s International Coordination Committee. “Governments must put an end to grabbing water, seeds and land by transnational corporations and ensure small-scale producers fair rights over common resources.”

We, La Via Campesina, insist that within the framework of the pandemic and the global supply crisis, governments should prioritize local markets.

Morgan Ody, peasant in Brittany, France, and general coordinator of La Via Campesina, stated on behalf of the global peasant movement:

“The World Trade Organization is a failed project. Our global peasant movement calls on all States, especially those in the South, to leave the WTO immediately. We must create a new international framework for agriculture and trade based on food sovereignty. Only then can we defend the interests of small-scale food producers.”

Source: viacampesina.org

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