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15-16 May 2004

Beijing Declaration

We, the representatives of peasants, indigenous peoples, women, agricultural workers and fisherfolk representing social movements and NGOs/CSOs from 15 Asia-Pacific countries who met in Beijing on 15-16 May 2004 in conjunction with the 27th FAO Regional Conference note with great concern that 2 years have elapsed since the WFS: fyl, but we are nowhere at all in achieving even the goals of halving the numbers of hungry and malnourished.

In fact the shocking reality is that the situation has deteriorated further with increasing numbers of people and communities becoming hungry and malnourished. More and more people are threatened by food insecurity. As the ADG and Regional Representative for Asia and the Pacific Region of FAO underlined in his speech to the NGO/CSO consultation, it is not the lack of food but a question of the poor not having access to food, land and resources. Countries with large numbers of people suffering from hunger and malnutrition are the very countries exporting food in large quantities or storing them in godowns.

This is a direct result of the trade liberalization regime. The emphasis and focus has been food grown for export and not for communities. Furthermore, increased militarization, armed conflicts and wars have devastated the lives of people and aggravated their food insecurity.

Peasants, pastoralists, indigenous peoples, agricultural workers and fisherfolk communities are being displaced and losing land and control over other resources. Needless to add women and children are the most affected.

As stated in the political document of the NGO/CSO Forum for Food Sovereignty in Rome in 2002, the goal of eliminating hunger cannot be achieved without a reversal of these policies and trends, but the current strategies adopted by governments and imposed by international financial institutions and WTO offer no hope of such a reversal. These strategies are focused on economic globalisation and trade liberalization, probably the greatest force undermining livelihoods around the world today, and dilute even the concept of the human right to food and right to produce food, reducing it to only Voluntary Guidelines.

The political changes brought about through democratic processes have not created positive impact on food security for the people nor reversed these trends because of debt bondage and structural adjustment programmes imposed by international financial and multi-lateral institutions.

These strategies place more emphasis on biotechnology and genetic engineering, instead of strengthening support for home-based agroecological models of production. They deny the poor the right to produce food for their own consumption and for local markets. They further deny the obvious need for redistribution of access to productive resources that is fundamental to achieve a real change for the better. With strategies such as these, no amount of political will or resources will lead to any reduction in hunger or poverty.

The collapse of the Agreement on Agriculture (AoA) negotiations as well as the whole WTO Ministerial meeting in Cancun highlights the bankruptcy of the WTO regime and shows it is obscenely imbalanced in favour of the developed countries. Its neoliberal agenda is also inherently flawed and patently anti-people, for a subsistence farmer can never be in a level playing field with a corporate giant who preaches corporate agriculture/industrial agriculture. The self-immolation of the Korean farmer leader Lee Kyung Hae in Cancun dramatizes the widespread protests around the world against the WTO, protests that governments can no longer ignore in defining their positions especially in the current AoA review negotiations.

The restiveness of the social movements reflects current global public opinion and the reality of crisis and massive poverty that demands food security and food sovereignty and will not accept further dislocations in our weakened food and agriculture systems. After Cancun, there exists a crisis in the WTO and neoliberal economic paradigm, which are now popularly blamed for economic dislocations and increasing poverty and the resulting social unrest.

In this context, FAO provides a unique international space in which the right to food and food sovereignty can be considered beyond the constricting limits of the rules of the market. It represents the possibility of working deeply and decisively for a change and a strengthening of the United Nations system, through a direct, transparent and democratic relationship with NGOs/CSOs and social movements. For example, FAO’s initiative in developing the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture serves to strengthen the UN system by facilitating a multi-lateral system of exchange.

It is of urgent necessity for FAO to emphasize and act under the original mandate assigned to it within the United Nations system - to combat hunger and poverty globally, and to ensure people’s right to food and to exercise food sovereignty.

Food Sovereignty is the inalienable RIGHT of peoples, communities, and countries to define, decide and implement their own agricultural, labour, fishing, food and land policies which are ecologically, socially, economically and culturally appropriate to their unique circumstances. It includes the true right to food and to produce food, which means that all people have the right to safe, nutritious and culturally appropriate food and to food-producing technologies and resources and the ability to sustain themselves, their resources and their societies.

In response to widespread poverty and hunger, we call for food sovereignty. We call for a Convention on Food Sovereignty in order to enshrine the principles of food sovereignty in international law and institute food sovereignty as the principal policy framework for addressing food and agriculture.

We also urge FAO to establish mechanisms to provide leadership in moving towards international conventions and trade agreements related to food and agriculture that guarantee North-South respect and cooperation, ensure equality in dealing with natural resources, and reject all forms of privatisation of life and the development of genetically modified organisms. Governments should use international human rights framework for the development of economic agreements.

We value the importance of FAO in this regard and urge governments to support FAO’s mandate and role in ending world hunger in the production of food for the people and ensuring development that is equitable and life-sustaining. FAO should recommend and promote multilateral decisions that facilitate an international order based on justice and respect for life.

We commend the governments, which took a strong position against the imbalances of the Agreement on Agriculture at the WTO negotiations in Cancun, as well as those which seriously sought for solutions against the widespread dumping of food and agriculture products under this agreement. FAO now needs to work with these governments to ensure that dumping is stopped, that there be no further market access in developing and least developed countries and that food sovereignty is defended in the current agriculture negotiations, if at all such negotiations should continue. We further urge FAO to facilitate the review of bilateral and regional free trade agreements in order to ensure that principles of food sovereignty are upheld.

FAO’s programme on community integrated pest management (alternative IPM) that has evolved into a farmer field methodology has benefited farmers in some countries in Asia and should be resumed in those countries. However, we urge FAO to incorporate a more ecological holistic system of agriculture based on farmers’ needs and knowledge in community IPM as a step towards achieving ecological agriculture. FAO should also recognise and support farmer’s knowledge and innovations as science and technology and mainstream agro-ecological models of food production. FAO should initiate a process with other UN agencies towards a formulation of a charter on the health rights of agricultural workers.

Furthermore, we appreciate FAO’s decision to recognise the crucial role and contribution of social movements and NGOs/CSOs in the IPC process in the fight against hunger. But what is crucial is that this recognition must be implemented and reflected through continuous consultative processes with their meaningful participation at the central, regional, and national level.

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