In the next few minutes the diverse voices of civil society will speak as one. We are representatives of more than 1 200 organizations from some 80 countries, from all regions of the world. We seek to bring the message of the more than one billion hungry and malnourished people of the world, most of them children and women. Through regional and global consultations we have discovered and affirmed our mutual solidarity. Our collective vision derives from our knowledge that food security is possible. We regret that we will have but four minutes to share this vision with you.
We affirm first and foremost the basic human Right to Food. Everyone has the right to secure access at all times to safe and nutritious food and water adequate to sustain an active and healthy life with dignity.
Neither food nor famine can be used as a national or international political weapon. Access to food cannot be denied to any nation, ethnic or social group for political, economic, religious or other reasons. Economic embargoes or international sanctions affecting populations are incompatible with food security. Those currently in place must be terminated.
The shame of global hunger and malnutrition compels action by all. At the same time, we insist that governments have the primary and ultimate responsibility to ensure national and global food security.
The representatives of civil society gathered at the NGO Forum are in full agreement on some of the fundamental causes of food insecurity.
The globalization of the world economy, along with the lack of accountability of transnational corporations and spreading patterns of overconsumption have increased world poverty. Today's global economy is characterized by unemployment, low wages, destruction of rural economies, and bankruptcy of family farmers.
Industrialized agriculture, intensive animal husbandry methods, and overfishing are destroying traditional farming, poisoning the planet and all living beings. Subsidized exports, artificially low prices, constant dumping, and even some food aid programmes are increasing food insecurity and making people dependent on food they are unable to produce. The depletion of global grain stocks has increased market instability, to the detriment of small producers.
Family farmers and vulnerable people are forced under International Monetary Fund and World Bank policies to pay the price of structural adjustment and debt repayment. National policies too often neglect these same groups. Official corruption erodes all efforts to achieve food security.
The proliferation of war, civil conflict, and environmental degradation is a growing source of hunger and food insecurity. Hunger and malnutrition are most severe in cases where these combine with natural disasters.
CIVIL SOCIETY PROPOSALS TO ACHIEVE FOOD SECURITY
We propose a new model for achieving food security that calls into question many of the existing assumptions, policies and practices. This model, based on decentralization, challenges the current model, based on a concentration of wealth and power, which now threatens global food security, cultural diversity, and the very ecosystems that sustain life on the planet.
We highlight six key elements of this alternative model, along with steps toward its development and implementation. An integrated approach is required, thus simultaneous action is needed in each of these areas.
1. The capacity of family farmers, including indigenous peoples, women, and youth, along with local and regional food systems must be strengthened.
All aspects of food and agriculture must be reoriented in favour of family farmers. This should include technical, managerial and financial support, credit, and direct access to markets for farmers' associations. It also should include a greater emphasis on safe and sustainable urban agriculture.
Women play a central role in food security and must be guaranteed the right to productive resources and equal opportunities to use and develop their skills.
Resources must be shifted in favour of local and regional food producers and food systems. Investment resources should be made available through debt exemption and debt relief, through a reallocation of existing international cooperation and allocation of additional resources by rich countries which should fulfil their commitment to appropriate 0.7 percent of Gross National Product to official development assistance.
Family farmers must be assured access to information and communications systems.
2. The concentration of wealth and power must be reversed and action taken to prevent further concentration. In particular:
Agrarian reform in favour of rural poor people who will work the land must be implemented immediately and priority placed on integrated rural development.
Genetic resources are essential to food security and must never be subject to intellectual property rights. Farmers' and community rights and the rights of indigenous peoples must be self-defined and implemented nationally and globally.
3. Agriculture and food production systems that rely on non-renewable resources, which negatively affect the environment, must be changed toward a model based on agro-ecological principles.
National and international research, education and extension services must be reoriented to integrate the agro-ecological paradigm, which incorporates the knowledge and experience of men and women farmers. Agro-ecological mapping should be carried out to detail areas of partial and total environmental degradation.
To prevent and reduce the impact of drought and desertification, access and sustainable management of water resources, rehabilitation, conservation and sustainable use of natural vegetation must be ensured.
Policies and practices that favour organic agricultural production should be adopted, with the goal of reducing or eliminating the use of pesticides and other agro-chemicals.
Environmental and social costs of industrial agriculture should be included in the prices of products in order to avoid unfair competition with sustainable agriculture.
A diversified, culturally acceptable, well-balanced diet and safe, high quality food for all must be ensured.
4. National and local governments and States have the prime responsibility to ensure food security. Their capacity to fulfil this role must be strengthened and mechanisms for ensuring accountability must be enhanced.
National policies to overcome poverty by guaranteeing means for sustainable livelihoods, employment opportunities for all, and an equitable income distribution must be implemented to improve the access of poor and vulnerable people to food products and to resources for agriculture.
States must guarantee the political and economic rights of those within their borders, including consumers' rights. States also must ensure a climate favourable to development and democratic processes, with efforts to protect the environment and prevent violence, terrorism, and discrimination of all kinds. States should respect international law.
Current structural adjustment programmes imposed by the International Monetary Fund and World Bank should be suspended. Future economic reforms and plans for debt repayment must be formulated with the participation of civil society.
States must make greater efforts to prevent and resolve conflicts peacefully; together with donor agencies, they must guarantee food for vulnerable populations, including displaced persons and refugees.
5. The participation of peoples' organizations and NGOs at all levels must be strengthened and deepened.
The right to free association must be guaranteed, including the right of family farmers, consumers, women, indigenous peoples, youth, and others to organize themselves.
Civil society should monitor the impact on food security of policies, programmes, and actions of international financial and trade organizations and should participate in the formulation and monitoring of national policies and programmes.
Civil society organizations also should participate in the efficient implementation of projects for food and agricultural development.
6. International law must guarantee the right to food, ensuring that food sovereignty takes precedence over macro-economic policies and trade liberalization. Food cannot be considered as a commodity, because of its social and cultural dimension.
Each nation must have the right to food sovereignty to achieve the level of food sufficiency and nutritional quality it considers appropriate without suffering retaliation of any kind. Market forces at national and international levels will not, by themselves, resolve the problem of food insecurity. In many cases, they may undermine or exacerbate food insecurity. The Uruguay Round agreements must be reviewed accordingly.
All countries and peoples have the right to develop their own agriculture. Agriculture fulfils multiple functions, all essential to achieving food security.
Negotiations should be carried out to develop more effective instruments to implement the right to food. These instruments should include:
- A Code of Conduct to govern the activities of those involved in achieving the Right to Food, including national and international institutions as well as private actors, such as transnational corporations.
- A Global Convention on Food Security to support governments in developing and implementing national food security plans and to create an international network of local, national, and regional food reserves. Such a convention must be signed to ensure that the Right to Food will have precedence over any other international agreements such as the World Trade Organization.
Structural food aid must be replaced progressively by support to local agriculture. When aid is the only alternative, priority should be given to local purchase and triangular aid, in which food is purchased in one country for distribution in the country of need in the same region.
Civil society organizations are committed to ensuring follow-up to this World Food Summit, particularly in monitoring the Food Summit commitments and active participation in the Food for All Campaign. In addition to the Global Convention on Food Security and the Code of Conduct, the Food for All initiative should become the basis for broad-based, participatory implementation at the local, national, and international levels of efforts to ensure the legal right to food. We also call for an expansion of the Committee for World Food Security to include all actors of civil society in the follow-up tasks assigned to the Committee.
Finally, hunger and malnutrition are fundamentally a question of justice. Unless we agree that the right of every human being to the sustenance of life comes before the quest for profit, the scourge of hunger and malnutrition will continue. Our message is simple: Queremos una tierra para vivir.
17 November 1996