Suggested issues to be addressed by CFS from 2016 on:
There is a belated urgency for CFS members to, once and for all, address and hopefully seek consensus on issues that have been chronically postponed as front-line issues.
Although the list is by no means complete, I refer to:
· Seeking a greater balance in CFS for both a food AND a nutrition focus; the latter has, more often than not, received shortschrift.
· The role, attention and funding that needs to be given to development centered on an agroecological approach (not forgetting fisheries).
· The replacement of the concept of food security by the concept of food sovereignty.
· A more coherent and aggressive strategy for CFS members to fight what amounts to a corporate take-over of agriculture, food and nutrition.
· A complementary strategy to unmask bad PPPs and their inherent conflicts of interest.
· The role of philanthrocapitalism in shaping policy and financing biased approaches to development.
· The unresolved issues of food and nutrition governance.
The list above hardly needs to add an ‘explanation why I propose them here’. The evidence is scattered now all over and all of these issues have come up in the post-2015 discussions.
This brings me to another key issue for the CFS to address starting in 2016, i.e., the monitoring of food and nutrition commitments made in the post 2015 years.
Last but not least, let me point out two key issues:
(i) I contend that after 10 years of experience with the Voluntary Guidelines it is time to critique ‘voluntarianism’ and refocus our efforts on regulation and accountability. CFS ought to play a central role in this.
(ii) CFS has done next to nothing proactively to advance approaching the food and nutrition problems from the human rights perspective. This cannot wait till 2016!
The challenge now is to peg activities to the ideas/issues here presented so they become part of the major workstream of CFS including recommendations to the HLPE. This is hardly the space to do this. I volunteer to be part of a group to embark in these discussions.
Claudio Schuftan, Ho hi Minh City
THE ROME ACCORD: ICN2 zero draft political outcome document for 19 November 2014. Why do we have to start from the end? Already a draft of the political declaration when so much discussing hast still to go on?
For what it is worth at this early stage, I offer some paragraph by paragraph, comments and edits [in blue, in the attachment, Ed].
Claudio Schuftan, Ho Chi Minh City
1. If you could make an intervention at the side event on rural women at the 8th session of the Open Working Group in New York, what would be its key message?
Rural women are often described as critical agents of change in discussions on sustainable development goals. To what extent would the achievement of food and nutrition security for rural women help accelerate sustainable development?
In my opinion a key message that cannot be missed is that, in the light of sustainable development, the concept of food sovereignty is much more gender proactive than the food security notion. As you say, women can be critical agents, but this is enhanced manyfold using a food sovereignty focus. The appeal should thus be for UN agencies sponsoring this 8th session to give-in to this paradigmatic change . Public interest civil society has been making this point to FAO and other agencies for long, but to no avail. The 8th session is yet another chance to make this unpostponable appeal.
Claudio Schuftan, Ho Chi Minh City
1. When we talk about HH FS, we too often forget HH fuel security and the issues of its physical and economic access and an issue of tremendous environmental consequences (firewood, charcoal).
2. More related to social relations and networks is what all online discussions so far have omitted. I refer to the 'care' element in the causality of malnutrition. It cannot be overemphasized that MN is an outcome of a pyramid of causation (UNICEF 1990). Three are the underlying causes, namely HH FS, care and access to health and sanitation. Addressing FS is necessary but not sufficient to influence the outcome!. Well, care relates to the the mother's wellbeing during pregnancy and lactation, as well as to the mother/child binomium; and breastfeeding (the first food) is at the very center with much more than its nutritional importance including all aspects of bonding: and that is related to social networks [family support (husband and extended family), lactation legislation (maternity leave and creches)]. Networks are also involved, especially existing networks of women promoting breastfeeeding (WABA, La Leche League, etc). Issues of alleviating the mother's chores during pregnancy and lactation should also be kept in mind; the role of the husband being crucial.
Bottom line, these issues are key to HH FS and are clearly some of its important determinants.
I do take strong exception to Robynne's statement that: "...the question set out a ‘private-sector’ – ‘civil-society’ dichotomy, but we all know that real life doesn’t work like that. Just look at the wide range of academics, farm organisations, private companies and others involved since the discussion began on-line and it’s easy to see that this division seems somewhat artificial and not necessarily helpful".
Indeed, real life does work like that. The dichotomy is there, and it is marked. The fact that in our consultation we have had inputs from the sectors Robynne mentions is certainly no proof that the division is somewhat artificial and not necessarily helpful. This is a dangerous blanket statement. Does anybody have a doubt about the negative effects Big, Food, Big Beverage and the baby food industry are having on nutrition the world over? ...and this is just one example. What about corporate land grabbing? Multinational, family owned and corporate international oligopolistic grain traders? Speculators in futures markets?
Ho Chi Minh City
You through to us a challenge to comment on the prices of food, i.e., their volatility and how diets are becoming more expensive for poor people with higher %s of income being spent on food. You hinted that the link: food prices to undernutrition is yet to be established. I beg to disagree and here is why. I apologize, because the evidence cannot be presented in just 2-3 paragraphs.
As our contributors know, current conventional economic theory says that there is an ‘invisible hand’ of self-correcting cycles of supply and demand. This notion may have had some utility when it was invented by Adam Smith over 200 years ago. Now it is more like believing in Father Christmas. All indicators point to the fact that food prices are unlikely to fall any time soon and may indeed rise much higher.
Rising food prices are inconvenient and even troublesome for people with plenty of disposable income. They are often a disaster for impoverished populations and communities.
The impact of ‘free market ideology’ is great on food production and distribution, and thus on the cost of food, as well as on food insecurity, on equity and on nutrition. The impact of the latter on poverty and on the misery of children is undeniable.
Public health nutrition professionals can effectively do their jobs only when they understand and act at upon the underlying and basic social, economic and political determinants of nutrition at population and community levels. Otherwise they cannot do much more than apply band-aids to deep wounds.
The crisis we face is not only of rising prices, it is also of fluctuating prices. Price instability, whether of money itself or of food, in itself destabilises societies. This, especially for city dwellers with little disposable income who do not produce food, but buy it, and have been hard hit. Often, they now literally do not have the money for basic foods.
Food prices are rising and fluctuating wildly for a number of reasons. Supply and demand issues cannot explain the speed and severity of the phenomenon observed. Neither current prices nor the commodities futures markets (designed to bet on what food may be worth not now but later) reflect or relate to real supply and demand.
Protectionism: robbing the poor to pay the rich: We are supposed to be living in a world of free trade. The reality is different though. One of the causes of rising food prices is protectionism. Governments remain stubbornly committed to subsidise agribusiness in Europe and the US so they can and do export food at prices that have been ‘cheapened’ --and this distorts markets. National food production in the South cannot compete, and the livelihoods of small and family farmers are undermined or even destroyed.
Speculation: manipulating the markets: Food is treated as just another commodity so that its value is manipulated by speculators, including futures traders. Many investors continue to believe that commodity markets are in the midst of a super-cycle --a long-term trend that will continue to drive prices higher for years to come. In theory, this should be a good thing --not for consumers, but for big producers and speculators who sell before bull markets become bear markets and prices drop. But high levels of speculative investment are always problematic. There is no guarantee that small farmers will benefit from productivity increases and high prices.
High levels of speculation in food are creating price volatility that is driving hundreds of millions of people into poverty and the threat of starvation. What is needed here, is limits on speculation, and stricter regulation of market manipulation.
Taken all together, the current food prices crisis has highlighted the fragility of the world’s food system, and its vulnerability to shock. Consumers are now spending a larger share of their income on food. In some countries a large proportion of the more impoverished population groups simply do not have the necessary additional money. Within countries, impoverished urban communities are the most affected by high food prices, because they rely on food purchases for their food supplies.
There are specific nutritional consequences of the food price crisis; they are:
- Reduced food energy intake. This results in low birth weight and the risk of serious wasting, which has long-term health, child development and welfare consequences.
- Reduced intake of micronutrients. This increases risk of micronutrient deficiency diseases such as xerophthalmia and iron deficiency anaemia.
- Reduction in breastfeeding. This is a consequence of mothers needing to work, and also of inadequate nutrition of the mother during pregnancy and after the birth of her children.
The cost of doing nothing to alleviate the impact of food price rises, and of working towards new systems of governance that will equitably stabilise food prices, would be very heavy indeed. To summarise, it will include increased low birth weight rates, decreased breastfeeding rates, increased malnutrition rates, increased under 5 mortality, and a heavy toll on child development. Populations on the margins of poverty will suffer more, and those already in poverty will be pushed towards destitution. What remains unknowable is just how great the damage will be. Children wl suffer the most.
Rises and fluctuations in the price of food are here to stay. This is a corollary of an ideology that treats food as a commodity whose value is determined by money markets that continue to drive the world’s economy with minimal regulation. The negative impact of the unpredictable high prices of food on society, most of all in the South, are now quite evident. The most vulnerable populations and communities are, as usual, the most affected. These are mothers and their children who live in impoverished regions and countries.
Long-term the answers must be structural. The prevailing systems of political and economic governance that determine, among many other things, the price of food, are not working in the public interest. Will ICN2 deal with these issues?
Claudio Schuftan, Ho Chi Minh City
This consultation on the role of civil society and the private sector was originally conceived to give room for our inputs to the ICN2 preparatory process with the aim of influencing it, not only positively, but also effectively.
Last week, I submitted a posting related to the worrisome role PPPs are exerting on public decision-making. I made a call to action.
But this issue, and many others that worry me, do not seem to be on the agenda of ICN2. Can we expect this consultation will forcefully enough demand that these issues become part of the official discussions in November 2014?
Let me give consultation participants just a sample of the (additional) types of issues I see we are missing and, in my view, cannot simply be excluded in ICN2 in depth discussions:
Issue 1: Post 2015 food and nutrition human rights compliant policies, i.e., policy coherence with the human rights principles and framework as unequivocally recently demanded by the Secretary general . (I cannot understand why the UNHCHR is not a cosponsor of ICN2!).
Issue 2: Governance issues in the nutrition community. As many colleagues will know, after decades, civil society participation in the UN SCN has been excluded and the SCN has primarily become a vehicle for the SUN initiative coordination. (Mind you, SUN has an important corporate and TNC involvement). Actually, the whole issue of private sector participation in global nutrition governance has to be re-discussed critically.
Issue 3: We cannot continue working in nutrition without dealing with what unfair free trade agreements (FTAs) are doing to nutrition, or without dealing with the financial crisis in rich and poor countries.
A much more proactive critique and action is needed in these areas.
These are just three of the issues dear to civil society that come to my mind now. But, of course, there are other. I am sure other colleagues participating in this consultation can add other (Issue 4:…, Issue 5:…, Issue 6:…..). Will ICN2 have these in the agenda of the official ministerial meeting? The question I ask is: Can our consultation make a fervent call to this effect? The first challenge is to put these issues in the agenda. I think the preparatory meeting next November in Rome is crucial and civil society has a pivotal role to play there.
Claudio Schuftan, Ho Chi Minh City
I have to say that, so far, I have been surprised that big industry has been silent in this consultation. I'd say most contributions have dealt with 'small private sector' potential or proven inputs.
But, not trying to be repetitive, I want all of us to be conscious of the big picture of how the private sector can and often is bad news and works at counter-purpose to what all of us aspire.
Let's take the example of PP()Ps:
PPPs are seen by the Establishment as a way to bring new financial resources to address global challenges --nutrition included. However, in reality, they have further reinforced selective vertical programs by focusing on non-sustainable, technocratic solutions to single issues (e.g. fortification with micronutrients or supplementation). They are simply not addressing the social determination of malnutrition or many of the burning needs of national health and nutrition systems to deliver such services, especially preventive.
To me, it is clear: PPPs need to be seriously questioned since they have proven to be unable to promote horizontally-integrated, social interventions with an explicit commitment to strengthen local systems and, most of all, to respond to locally felt needs seldom allowed to be expressed. They have been unable (unwilling?) to build new alliances with people's civil society organizations and social movements that are struggling for more participatory decision-making in all health and nutrition matters.
Existing global PPPs must thus be audited, in order to expose the basic flaws and rules that such PPPs ongoingly apply plus their flagrant conflicts of interest on the many occasions where they are influencing public decision making. They are not to be allowed to build upon existing public systems and not to embed the actions they fund in national structures --always with the ulterior motives of profit or gains in market share and also of 'white-washing' their bad conscience and reputation.
There is more to criticize, but I stop here for now.
PS: How do colleagues think this is different (if at all) from how global philanthropies work? Why do some call this philanthrocapitalism?
Cludio Schuftan, People's Health Movement, Ho Chi Minh City
Let me be one of the first to contribute to this forum. Allow me to do so by, as a devil’s advocate, zeroing in on what I do have strong different views than what is expressed in the background invitational write-up.
You say: We subscribe to the view outlined in the topic note that all sectors must work together for this common goal and look forward to your feedback on the issues raised. I would like to let readers know that as PHM, FIAN, IBFAN-GIFA and ICCO we wrote a letter to the moderators a week ago requesting that the consultation be split into two since we are of the opinion that the private sector has different motivations than civil society and should contribute to the consultation questions separately. (Readers may ask moderators to publish that letter). Yes, work on this topic all sectors must, but only sometimes together and sometimes in sharp opposition (e.g., big food).
You say: The role of social safety nets in protecting nutrition is also recognized as are direct measures targeted at reducing stunting and addressing acute malnutrition. On June 13, in this same forum I posted: “Let us now, once and for all, stop talking about safety nets! This is what leads to mere tinkering within the system. The ongoing casino capitalism with its global restructuring, creates the problems, and food and nutrition professionals are supposed to pick up the pieces? Just so that poor and marginalized people do not revolt? Who is cheating whom here? We need to stop victimizing poor people and then throwing them bread-crumbs. What about changing the system that makes safety nets for poor people necessary to begin with? So, is the role of social networks universally recognized?
You say: …our work needs to be founded on inclusive broad based development and sustainable economic growth. Do you mean sustainable redistributive economic growth?
You say: the World Bank reminds us that investing in nutrition makes sense from an economic point of view as every dollar invested generates a return of up to $US30. How often do we need to repeat, especially in this forum, that investing in nutrition makes sense, because it is a human right, NOT because it makes sense from an economic point of view!
You say: Smallholder farmers as private sector entrepreneurs…No problem here. But when you call the private sector to contribute to this debate with civil society it will be big private sector that will take the opportunity. Small farmers can incorporate as social movements and be on the civil society side of the debate.
You say: promote policies which will enable the private sector to continue to innovate and invest in the food and agriculture sector. What do we think with be the ratio bigbusiness:small entrepreneurs investing in food and agriculture? Look at land-grabbing, at junk food, at vertical integration of the agroindustry (Monsanto, Syngenta et al). The end balance will tilt towards malnutrition producing investments, don’t you think?
You say: All sectors must work together for this common goal. Nobody is as smart as all of us. Do I have to remind readers that big business consistently tries to outsmart us? Think about it: we mostly react, not proact…
You say: public-private partnerships (PPP) that combine the individual strengths of respective sectors can collectively help build food and nutrition security through socially responsible, market-led investments and growth. This, I probably found the most biased in the background write-up. Just look and the work IBFAN, PHM, FIAN and others (not forgetting Judith Richter) have done to decisively debunk this myth. Many of us have been vocally critical of the SUN initiative precisely because of this.
You say: Private companies, civil society, knowledge institutions and government (the golden quadrant). Can I respectfully ask where this quite deceiving appellation comes from?
You say: to reach the underserved consumer. Going back to what I say above, who reaches them most? Are we not losing a battle here? And finally,
You say: ensure the post-2015 MDG agenda includes nutrition security as an explicit part of food security. Readers should also know that many of us are now switching to much more accurate term ‘nutrition sovereignty’ which we are trying hard to introduce in post 2015 deliberations.
Claudio Schuftan, Ho Chi Ming City