Re: The e-Consultation on Hunger, Food and Nutrition Security

Claudio Schuftan PHM, Viet Nam
9-01-2013

V. Qs on shaping global consensus for the goals:

 

23. How can we build and sustain global consensus for a new framework, involving member states, the private sector and civil society?

 

Global consensus has to be built from the bottom up, i.e., starting from the sub-national level up. This is why this consultation period up to 2015 is so crucially in need to go to the level of claim holders and duty bearers at district level. (Keep in mind that duty bearers to claim holders in the community are, in turn, claim holders to duty bearers at the national, often ministerial, level….and those, in turn, claim holders to duty bearers in the international context, i.e., there is a chain of oppressed oppressors). Thinking loud: Can a worldwide 1-2 weeks period of national debate be agreed upon and set sometime in 2014? Can we then imagine a global process of some kind of formal ratification of the new framework by parliaments, social movements, CSOs, private sector without conflicts of interest (?) and governments the world over?

Sustaining the consensus will depend on progress being made. Annual benchmarks can give us year-to-year reports of progress as perceived by representatives of the wider society. This national annual taking of stock has the additional advantage of giving the new framework flexibility to change tactics within the same strategy (…or change strategy if needed).

 

24. How can our work be made coherent with the process to be established by the intergovernmental Open Working Group on the Sustainable Development Goals?

 

All efforts have to be made to secure such a coherence. Moreover, in all issues pertaining the SDGs and pertaining to this post-2015 framework the principle of one country one vote is non-negotiable in all instances when such consultations are deemed necessary. We all are born to live in this planet as equals. [I see no problem in isolating the rich countries often voting in block against the poor countries and thus formally obstructing this or any coherence. They are already doing so! So what is left for the poor countries is to continue blaming and shaming them, remotely hoping for a future break through. In the meantime, as much as possible, the poor countries ought to act on issues as per their majority vote].

 

Having come to the end of this reflection, I know I have opened only a small additional window that adds to the equally important contributions of many many others. I am afraid I have often been normative (and even possibly wrong). There are too many shoulds and woulds in my comments.

The risk we face is coming up with a more radical new framework than the MDGs framework was only to see it watered down by the powers that be --as has always been the case in end negotiations.

I ask you: Why has consensus always to be pulled to the side of those who feel they have something to loose in this pathetically unequal and unfair world?

 

On some more general issues, I seek advice on six further points:

 

Is there a way we can get away from the use of the maligned term ‘stakeholder’? Stakeholders stake claims, right? The simple replacement of the word stakeholders by claim-holders or duty bearers, as appropriate (to use the correct HR parlance that we and the UN are finally trying to instill in post-2015), just might provide us with the hint of the sort of framework we are interested in fostering in the new era. Claim holder/duty bearer are in the original UN language. Stakeholders is originally business language. To have or to hold a stake in something is the same as having an interest or holding shares!!! (A. Katz)

 

The MDGs have shown us that a focus on outcomes does not assure sustainability of the respective goal being kept up. It is not only the quantity and the quality of outcomes that counts; it is the participatory processes to achieve them that will matter in the long run. (Note that here sustainability is used in a different sense than in the environmental connotation of the term).

 

There are still too many among us that consider HR and equity, gender…as crosscutting issues; they are not. They are core issues (!) and we have to build sectoral or other interventions around them.

 

I also feel strongly that instead of talking about safety nets, we ought to be talking about social protection mechanisms. Universal social protection is the new political and cultural horizon where health rights must be placed. It includes social security, social assistance, labor rights, the right to public services and environmental rights (F.Mestrum). Social protection is the fundamental measure to pursue redistribution of wealth. Safety nets take the issue of poverty as a fait accompli. So since ‘they’ are poor, we throw them a few crumbles of bread since it is morally reprehensible to us to let them starve. In reality, safety nets somehow come up with measures that avoid social discontent that could flare up into protests and thus a challenge to the status-quo. Or put another way: Safety nets are nothing but a way to manage poverty and ‘ill-being’ (as opposed to well-being) by attenuating social unrest. Am I very wrong?

 

Moreover, providing accessible and affordable basic needs to the poor closely relates to what I say above. It just, in a way, replaces safety nets by targeting the poor (note the use of ‘the poor’ in High Level Panel papers; should it not be ‘poor people’? We have to be careful with depersonalizing the billions of  the affected people). [I want to caution you that the same is true for when programs and projects speak of ‘targeting the poor’].

 

Finally, is it true that nutrition, health, education, housing, clean water and sanitation will eventually cut the vicious circle of poverty? I thought the inter-generational vicious circle of poverty could only be uprooted for good with structural changes in the political and economic system that rules most of the world and actually perpetuates the problem.  Am I very wrong?