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



Agroecology in Andhra Pradesh, India


September 21, 2021, 6:00 AM PT

Media Contact:
Anuradha Mittal, +1 510-469-5228
Frederic Mousseau, +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.

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The mothers and daughters of the global south cannot celebrate the World Bank’s 80-year legacy of harm.



Villagers near a coal-fired power plant at Suralaya village in Banten province, Indonesia, fill their buckets with water from a portable tank due to drought in September 2023. Photo by: Garry Lotulung / Reuters Connect.

Opinion: Why we cannot celebrate the World Bank’s 80-year anniversary

This July, the World Bank Group celebrates its 80th anniversary. But for us — women rights defenders from Asia, Africa, and Latin America — there is nothing to celebrate.

While the World Bank is proudly presenting its successes in fighting poverty and building a greener future, the stories of communities in our countries paint a very different picture. From recent controversial projects to old ones where communities never found justice, the World Bank has a 80-year legacy of harm and impoverishment.

The negative impact of development projects can be long lasting. In 1985, the World Bank funded the Kedung Ombo Dam in Indonesia. Over 27,000 people were forcibly and violently evicted, with the military threatening those trying to resist. Forty years later, the harm inflicted remains unaddressed. Resettled women don’t have close access to water sources, health facilities, and a market. Pregnant women have failed to get checkups, while children have often dropped out of school and are being forced into early marriages.

Yet, despite acknowledging the harm it caused, the World Bank keeps replicating old mistakes.

In 2022, a community in Cameroon filed a complaint raising serious concerns about the World Bank-funded Nachtigal hydroelectric project, one of the largest dams in Central Africa. Imposed without people’s participation, the project is destroying livelihoods, taking lands, causingdeforestation, and destroying sacred sites. Our Cameroonian sisters are particularly affected: They have lost access to the forests where they used to pick medicinal herbs and other key natural resources. The complaint process has come to an end, but the hopes for justice are extremely limited. The investigations conducted by the bank’s accountability mechanisms are known to be extremely lengthy — and only rarely lead to some remedy.

Civil society has been calling on the World Bank Group to strengthen its safeguards and accountability mechanisms, which are currently falling short of a human rights-based approach. But for every step forward, there has been a step back. Moreover, safeguards have often been used as a pretext to protect the institution from the international human rights legal system and to avoid applying more stringent standards.

Under its new president, Ajay Banga, the World Bank has been undertaking a series of reforms, to become bigger and bolder in its response to climate change. But the bank’s actions appear to indicate more of the same. Beyond the catchy slogans, the World Bank is still replicating a top-down and neocolonial development model that ends up exacerbating the exact problems the bank claims to solve. For example, in Indonesia the World Bank Group — despite its pledges to address climate change — is funding the expansion of the Java 9 and 10 plants, considered the largest and dirtiest coal plants in Southeast Asia.

In its 80 years of existence, it is our view, as shared with other civil society groups, that the World Bank has fueled the spiraling debt crisisgrowing inequality, and climate change, with a disproportionate impact on women and children. Some stories — like the scandal of the child sex abuse case in Kenyan schools funded by the World Bank — have hit the headlines. Others, unfortunately, have remained largely unreported.

Last year, the International Finance Corporation — the World Bank’s private arm — approved a  $180 million loan to Allkem, for its Sal de Vida lithium mining project in Argentina’s Salar del Hombre Muerto. On paper, this investment falls under the bank’s green portfolio, because lithium is needed for the electric car batteries. In reality, this project has a catastrophic environmental impact, dried up one of the most important rivers in the area,, and violates the rights of the local Indigenous communities.

“If bank President Banga wants the institution to grow bigger, it should learn from the past as it looks forward.”

Before the project was approved, local communities and civil society organizations had sounded the alarm bell. They had prepared briefings on the project’s impacts and engaged with IFC to raise their concerns. But despite being recognized as “beneficiaries,” local communities say they are routinely ignored or silenced. The bank approved the loan without the community’s consent and did not take any action when local activists were threatened and criminalized.

As women defenders and caregivers, for generations we have been protecting our ecosystems sacrificed in the name of development and cared for our communities harmed under the pretext of economic growth. For generations, we have stood in solidarity with our sisters and brothers across the world who have been demanding a different type of development.

The World Bank cannot get it right by putting blinders on the past. The evicted Indonesian communities will not get their flooded land back. The women in Cameroon will not be able to access their precious medicinal herbs, as their forests have been cleared. And the Indigenous people in the Salar del Hombre Muerto lost their meadow near the river Trapiche, which dried up because of the huge volumes of fresh water used to extract lithium.

But the World Bank is still on time to withdraw from controversial new projects, to provide remedy to the harmed communities, to speed up the investigation processes, and to seek meaningful consent before building something. Eighty years are enough. If bank President Banga wants the institution to grow bigger, it should learn from the past as it looks forward.

Source: Devex

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Statement- Uganda: Seven Environmental activists brutally arrested, charged and released on police bail for protesting against the East African Crude Oil Pipeline Project



On 27 May 2024, seven environmental human rights defenders were brutally arrested by armed police in Kampala, Uganda and charged by the Jinja Road police for unlawful assembly. This was reported by the Stop the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (StopEACOP) campaign on 29 May 2024.

The seven human rights defenders were peacefully protesting against the intended financing of the East African Crude Oil Pipeline Project (EACOP) by the Chinese government. According to the environmental human rights defenders, EACOP has caused severe human rights violations, poses significant environmental risks, and will contribute to the climate crisis. The EACOP is a project led by Total, spanning 1,443km from Kabaale, Hoima district in Uganda to the Chongoleani Peninsula near Tanga Port in Tanzania. It aims to transport oil from Uganda’s Lake Albert oilfields to global markets via the port of Tanga.

On 27 May 2024, seven environmental human rights defenders were brutally arrested by armed police in Kampala and charged by the Jinja Road police for unlawful assembly. The seven environmental activists were sitting outside the Chinese Embassy in Kampala in an attempt to present a letter of protest to the Chinese Ambassador expressing their complaints and demanding that his government refrain from funding an unfavourable project for them. Due to their arrest occuring before they had any chance of interacting with embassy representatives, their letter was not delivered. The peaceful protesters were violently rounded up by the police, who subsequently packed them in a vehicle and brought them to the Jinja Road police. The seven activists were released on police bail and were due to report back to the Jinja Road police station. On 18 May 2024, following several banks and insurance companies’ withdrawal from EACOP, Civil Society Organizations supporting energy just transition, climate and environmental conservatism, and land justice addressed the media and urged the Chinese President to rescind his interest in funding the project.

Local organizations have been denouncing that, in order to stifle complaints, silence protesters, and maintain pressure on those who defend climate, environment, and land rights, Ugandan authorities have turned to attacking and criminalising environmentalists, climate activists, and defenders of land rights. Uganda has recorded the most number of cases of violations against these human rights defenders, with 18 incidents documented in Africa, according to the Business and Human Rights Resource Center’s 2023 in their report titled People power under pressure: Human rights defenders & business in 2023. The majority of these attacks seem to center around the EACOP and the environmental human rights defenders campaigning against the project, which the State regards as a significant infrastructure initiative.

Front Line Defenders expresses its concern for the safety and security of the seven environmental human rights defenders and strongly condemns the recent instances of intimidation, criminalization and police harassment they have been subjected to, as it believes are an act of reprisal for their peaceful and legitimate work in defence of environmental and land rights in Uganda.

Front Line Defenders urges the authorities in Uganda to take the necessary measures to guarantee the security and protection of environmental human rights defenders during peaceful protests. The organisation also demands that the brutal arrest of these seven human rights defenders be condemned. Front Line Defenders calls Ugandan authorities to guarantee that all environmental and land human rights defenders, including human rights organisations working on environmental rights, are able to carry out their legitimate activities and operate freely without fear of police harassment.

Source: Frontline Defenders

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TotalEnergies African legacy: 100 years of environmental destruction.



TotalEnergies, the French petro giant company with a legacy of destruction on the continent, this year celebrates 100 years. To be clear, that is 100 years of profit, environmental destruction and damage to people’s lives.

The company’s damage is widespread, extensive and well-documented.

In 1956, TotalEnergies entered Africa, exploiting natural resources as it went along. In chasing down oil and gas, it has wreaked havoc on communities, land, and the environment.

A 2022 study by the Climate Accountability Institute found the total emissions attributed to the East Africa Crude Oil Pipeline totals 379 million tonnes of carbon dioxide, making TotalEnergies a key contributor to Africa’s carbon footprint.

As Charity Migwi, a senior campaigner at Oil Change International, a research, communication, and advocacy organisation, notes, the company has its hands on various projects on the continent.

The project noted above will have about 460km of pipeline in the freshwater basin of Lake Victoria, Africa’s largest lake, which directly supports the livelihoods of more than 40 million people in the region. On top of this, there are plans to extract oil from the fields in Uganda as well as the company’s prominent role in the Mozambique LNG Project, which is a major cause of carbon emissions

Closer to home, TotalEnergies has been given the go-ahead to explore for oil and gas off the south-west coast of South Africa, which sparked protests. As the company held its annual general meeting in Paris, France, protests by affected communities, civil society and activists in both countries took place.

Environmental justice group The Green Connection’s community mobilisation officer, Warren Blouw, said in a press release: “TotalEnergies and other oil and gas companies must consider the livelihoods of small-scale fishers, whose economic wellbeing is jeopardised by offshore oil and gas exploration. We must unite to protect Africa and its resources from those who only seek profit, at the cost of regular South Africans.”

Zinhle Mthiyane, of the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance, said: “We are protesting to protect the environment and prevent ocean pollution. Drilling for oil and gas in South African waters could degrade the environment, threatening livelihoods and cultural practices.”

One of those affected by TotalEnergies and its hunt for fossil fuels is Sifiso Ntsunguzi, a small-scale fisher from Port St Johns, on the Eastern Cape coast. Ntsunguzi made the trip to France to protest.

“We are in Paris to support the court case against TotalEnergies’ oil and gas projects. As a small-scale fisher and member of a coastal community, I do not support the exploration of oil and gas in the ocean. We use the ocean for cultural practices and as a means to sustain our livelihood. We are against exploration of gas and oil, as it may risk degradation of the environment and marine ecosystems, our livelihood and our health. I come from a fishing community and have become a fisher myself,” he said.

In another press release, environmental justice group Bloom wrote that TotalEnergies has been well aware of its climate harms as far back as the 1970s, yet the company still goes ahead with its oil and gas initiatives.

Initially, its strategy was to deny climate change, wrote Bloom. Now that it can no longer do so, it has changed tact and resorts to greenwashing, described by the United Nations as follows: “By misleading the public to believe that a company or other entity is doing more to protect the environment than it is, greenwashing promotes false solutions to the climate crisis that distract from and delay concrete and credible action.”

Total Energies portrays itself as a serious player in the renewable energy space and constantly punts its renewable efforts while going full steam ahead with its fossil fuel projects.

For example, it said of its project in the Northern Cape: “TotalEnergies and its partners are launching construction of a major hybrid renewables project in South Africa, comprising a 216 megawatt solar plant and a 500 MWh battery storage system to manage the intermittency of solar production.”

Bloom explained that chasing renewables is profitable but nowhere near as profitable as oil and gas, and it in no way negates the harmful search for and use of fossil fuels. For this reason Bloom and two other climate justice groups took TotalEnergies to court.

This case also hopes to halt the expansion of fossil fuel extraction. As The Guardian reports: “A criminal case has been filed against the CEO and directors of the French oil company TotalEnergies, alleging its fossil fuel exploitation has contributed to the deaths of victims of climate-fuelled extreme weather disasters. The case was filed in Paris by eight people harmed by extreme weather, and three NGOs.”

Joyce Kimutai, a climate scientist at the University Of Cape Town, said: “The fossil fuel industry will continue to undermine science, they will continue to expand their businesses,

they will continue to cause suffering to the people as long as they know that the law can’t hold them accountable.”

Whether the case will yield anything remains to be seen, but the important thing is people are standing up and fighting the harmful practices of these fossil fuel companies. International bodies like the UN climate change conferences yield very little results. It is up to us, the people on the ground, to unite for the good of our planet.


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