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Global Forum on Food Security and Nutrition • FSN Forum

Re: Invitation to an open discussion on the political outcome document of the ICN2

Geoff Tansey and Elizabeth Dowler
Geoff Tansey and Elizabeth DowlerUnited Kingdom

Before making specific comments as requested we would certainly endorse Andrew Macmillan’s comments on producing the political outcome document at this stage, without any clear plan of action and means to ensure it is carried through. It was very clear to me (GT) as a consultant asked to help draft the declaration and plan of action for ICN 1992 that the sponsoring bodies were determined to avoid clear targets and detailed, specific actions that made it easy to hold governments to account for the generalities they signed up to.  We hope this is not repeated again.

1.      Do you have any general comments on the draft political declaration and its vision (paragraphs 1-3 of the zero draft)?  

Having just reread the 1992 declaration, we think this new declaration plays down the failure to live up to the commitments of 20 years ago, does not offer sufficient analysis or acknowledgement of why, and we fear that this new declaration will not fare any better in seeing its rhetorical aims realised, in the absence of some reasonable and clear targets, monitoring and enforcement mechanisms, which were notable by their absence in the 1992 ICN. Note that the 1992 ICN Declaration stated (emphasis added)

“We also pledge to reduce substantially within this decade:

•  starvation and widespread chronic hunger;

•  social and other impediments to optimal breast-feeding;

•  undernutrition, especially among children, women and the aged;

•  other important micronutrient deficiencies, including iron;

•  diet-related communicable and non-communicable diseases;

• inadequate sanitation and poor hygiene, including unsafe drinking-water”

Specifically on point 2, first bullet point, this needs re-writing as it is misleading as it elides together prevalence of undernourishment, which may have gone down as a percentage of the total population, and numbers of undernourished which have gone up from the 780 million people mentioned in the 1992 declaration to at least 842 million in 2011-13.

Point 3 might also be the place to explicitly note, as in point 5 of the 1992 ICN declaration, which said “We recognize that poverty and the lack of education, which are often the effects of underdevelopment, are the primary causes of hunger and undernutrition”, that poverty and growing levels of inequality are key factors in continuing malnutrition. A further comment, either here or later, about the actors in the food system being driven by wider pressures from the current economic and financial regimes to practices inimical to achieving a well fed world are also important to address.

2.      Do you have any comments on the background and analysis provided in the political declaration (paragraphs 4-20 of the zero draft)?   

We welcome the focus on food systems. But food systems operate in a broader political economy which sets the framework for the actors, which in turn may induce practices that while beneficial to the narrow sectoral interest of one or more groups in the food system may not bring about the desired outcomes for the system and nutrition as a whole. Moreover, there is a need to note that sustainable food production and consumption is recognised as the priority use for land and sea, at a time when the financialisation of the food system may lead to other uses being more profitable in the short term, with land being diverted to other uses.  This is a point perhaps to mention the importance of power and control over the resources and in whose interests and to what ends they are directed.

In para 11, we do not think the relatively recent Climate Smart Agriculture jargon, which is not uncontentious, should be singled out and included in this. Talking about agro-ecological approaches, which recognise the need to share knowledge and best practices for farming in the face of climate change, would be better.

Para 12, needs to include economics, finance and banking sectors.

Para 13 might strengthen the text to talk of the need to ensure fair and equitable returns to farmers and farm workers so lifting them out of poverty and enabling them to diversify their diets and improve their living conditions

Para 14. This might better refer to citizens and consumers, so that policy making is open, transparent and balanced, and not open to capture by vested interests, to reflect the wellbeing of citizens as a whole. We would like to see the third sentence rewritten to something along the lines of “Thriving economies need well-functioning markets which require appropriate rules and regulations to ensure they are fair to all, and support nutritional well being and food safety.”

3.      Do you have any comments on the commitments proposed in the political declaration? In this connection, do you have any suggestions to contribute to a more technical elaboration to guide action and implementation on these commitments (paragraphs 21-23 of the zero draft)?

Please provide your comments in the appropriate fields relating to these commitments:         


Commitment I: aligning our food systems (systems for food production, storage and distribution)to people’s health needs;    

There is some overlap between what is needed under each of these different commitments.

To achieve this one requires action beyond food systems to the broader socio-economic and political frameworks that shape them and influence what the actors within food systems do. It means having some clear policy on what land is for, where sustainable, healthy food production fits into that, having controls over building on the best quality farm land, controlling and stopping monopolistic and oligopolistic practices that squeeze suppliers, family farmers, workers or abuse consumers. Ensuring tax and incentive policies line up with food system’s sustainability and nutritional aims also matters.

Commitment II: making our food systems equitable, enabling all to access nutritious foods.     

This should address the demands from the food sovereignty movement. It may also require controls on the advertising and marketing activities of actors throughout the food system – not just the consumer facing ones. It also links into questions of land ownership and control, land reform, ensuring farming for healthy and nutritious food is an attractive prospect for young people to want to do, with fair returns.

Commitment III: making our food systems provide safe and nutritious food in a sustainable and resilient way;              

This is where farming systems, family farms, fair returns, support for agro-ecological approaches, framing R&D, having clear targets and policies for cutting pre and post harvest losses, mechanisms for sharing knowledge and best practices, need to be addressed.

Commitment IV: ensuring that nutritious food is accessible, affordable and acceptable through the coherent implementation of public policies throughout food value chains.            

As the first ICN noted, poverty lies at the heart of undernutrition, so the nature of income distribution is a key issue that goes beyond the food system. Within it, who makes what out of not just food, but their labour, with growing levels of inequality in recent decades in most countries, are key issues.

Commitment V: establishing governments’ leadership for shaping food systems.            

Food and farming are rarely the high profile, top job departments in governments yet the ability of a government to ensure its people are well fed is perhaps one of the key measures of its legitimacy. Thus high-level commitment is required to see that nutrition from fair and sustainable farming systems is a key measure of a government’s success. This also needs to be a bottom up approach with those most affected engaged in developing and monitoring the solutions. It also needs new measures of progress that replace GNP/GDP, some of which must be related to the nutritional well-being of the population and the nature of its food system.

Commitment VI: encouraging contributions from all actors in society;

Being open to critical and constructive engagement and facilitating dialogue and participation by those adversely affected has a major role to play.

Commitment VII: implementing a framework through which our progress with achieving the targets and implementing these commitments can be monitored, and through which we will be held accountable.

Have clear targets, means to monitor and evaluate progress in meeting them, and maintain the capacity to change policies to respond what is found if it shows things are not working. Independent academic and civil society organisation(s) should be involved in monitoring, publicising their findings and holding to public account, governments and businesses in how well they are meeting these policies and/or conducting their business.

22. Commit to launch a Decade of Action on Nutrition guided by a Framework for Action and to report biennially on its implementation to FAO, WHO and ECOSOC.     

Look at how other international agreements may need to be amended or interpreted to ensure this can be carried through. One example might be how to use article 8.1 in the TRIPS agreement of the WTO in relation to such goals.