5 October 2013
Annual Forum of the Civil Society Mechanism
I would like to welcome all of you to Rome and to FAO.
I believe that everyone here understands the growing political importance of the Committee on World Food Security (CFS), reformed to include the civil society and the private sector.
Every time I am given the opportunity I have repeated that the globalization process has advanced a lot, especially in the financial sector, but that we are practically stalled in creating governance mechanisms for this globalization.
Today, it is clear that we will not reach food security in one country alone. Around this same time last year, we were very worried with a food price spike caused by a drought in the United States that affected the maize production. One product in one country threatened food security in the whole world. We are seeing this with increasing frequency.
Global governance mechanisms for food security are still practically non-existent. The Committee on World Food Security is perhaps the only mechanism. There is no other forum in which governments, the private sector and civil society meet to discuss food security in the world. This alone already justifies the existence of the CFS.
Nevertheless, I would like to highlight other conquests that you have made, in particular, the approval of the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security. This approval is the greatest feat of the CFS and has opened the way to discuss the principles on responsible agricultural investments.
I would like to call your attention to this because, for me, this is the greatest value you add: the capacity to generate consensus. This is what gives this forum political strength and makes your work unique.
I would also like to share with you something I learned with Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva a long time before he became President of Brazil. Before being elected, Lula was an union leader. That is when I first met him and I was an advisor to the itinerant farm workers (bóias-frias) union in the state of Sao Paulo. Lula called our attention to something very interesting. He said that in his life he had seen every sort of union, but he had never seen an union of hungry people.
This is very important: hungry people are not organized. Somebody needs to do the organizing for them. This is the second role I see in you: you give voice to the hungry. You are the voice of the excluded. And this is very important. You cannot stay quiet. You need to speak loud and clear; make your voice heard. And you only manage to do that when you are together. When you are alone, each one in his or her own organization, as much as you try, you do not speak loud enough to be heard in a globalized world. You need to speak together, and doing that in this forum you succeed in making the voices of the hungry and the excluded heard by all.
I would like to add a third important characteristic that I see in this forum: diversity. This is something that we know how to value when we speak about the environment, but when we are together we often forget this value. Thinking differently is not bad; it´s very good. It forces us to value another point of view. This is important because those that think that only one set of values exist, their own values, follow a very complicated road, the road to authoritarianism, which is the road to exclusion. That is why it worries me to see a political dispute degenerate itself into a personal fight, when I see one person trying to exclude the other.
Something very important that you have and need to learn to value is the possibility to of finding space for everyone. This is the practice of social inclusion of the future we want. You must try to make room so that everyone can sit in this forum that represents the civil society. It will not be easy because there is always a limit to the resources available – in this case, the seats we have available. Nevertheless, making room so that everyone feels represented and can speak in one single voice is the third value that I think you should not lose.
I would like to add one fourth and last point: you are not only a voice, you are also part of a mechanism of decision-making that can establish regulatory frameworks and provide technical background for many decisions that will be taken in other political forums. So it’s very important what the President of the CFS, Ambassador Yaya Olaniran, just asked you: don’t lose the focus.
Remember that you need to get results. We are waiting for your decisions. But we cannot wait forever. Hungry people are always in a hurry. We don’t know how long they will survive. You cannot take years to take a decision. You need to find mechanisms to speed the process of consensus-building. That’s your challenge. That’s what the world wants from you, as it waits for the principles on agricultural investments before all the land is grabbed around the world. It’s your responsibility to present proposals.
I would like to end by thanking each one of you for your time, for your commitment, for your attention, for being here on a Saturday to discuss food security. I would also like to wish you a fruitful and productive work during the next week.
Thank you very much.