Reducing inequalities for food security and nutrition - HLPE consultation on the report’s scope
During its 46th plenary session (14–18 October 2019), the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) adopted its four-year Programme of Work (MYPoW 2020-2023), which includes a request to its High Level Panel of Experts on Food Security and Nutrition (HLPE) to produce a report on “Reducing inequalities for food security and nutrition”, to be presented at the 51st plenary session of the CFS in October 2023.
The report, which will provide recommendations to the CFS workstream on inequalities, will:
- Analyse quantitative and qualitative evidence relating to how inequalities in access to assets (particularly land, other natural resources and finance), and incomes within the agri-food systems impede opportunities for many actors to overcome food insecurity and malnutrition. Relevant data on asset endowments in rural communities will be useful in this respect, along with the findings of latest SOFI reports. Given the focus on agri-food systems and the key role of family farmers within these systems, linkages and complementarities with the UN Decade of Family Farming will be examined, including as reference to decent employment issues in the agri-food sector;
- Analyse the drivers of inequalities and provide recommendations on entry points to address these;
- Identify areas requiring further research and data collection, also in view of the opportunities provided by the ongoing joint effort of the World Bank, FAO and IFAD within the 50 x 2030 Initiative.
The proposed thematic workstream on inequalities will contribute to the CFS vision and the overall objective of addressing the root causes of food insecurity with a focus on the people most affected by hunger and malnutrition. The focus will be on inequalities within agri-food systems. The workstream will provide an analysis, based on this HLPE report, on drivers of socio-economic inequalities between actors within agri-food systems that influence food security and nutrition outcomes. Gender inequalities and the need to create opportunities for youth would inform the analysis.
Please note that in parallel to this scoping consultation, the HLPE is calling for interested experts to candidate to the Project Team for this report. The call for candidature is open until April 19. Read more here.
According to the HLPE 2nd Note on Critical and Emerging Issues (2017), increasing risks to food security and nutrition can be linked to high levels of income concentration, corporate concentration in food trade, transformation and distribution, as well as to uneven distribution of agricultural assets and access to natural resources (CFS MYPoW 2020-2023). In addition, unequal endowments in agricultural assets and access to natural resources (such as land) together with income inequality deeply affect food security and nutrition. Unequal access to food and adequate nutrition further deepen inequalities through lost opportunities in health, education and jobs. Sustained disparities between vulnerable and other social groups – reflecting inequalities between and within countries - can slow growth and lead to political instability and conflict, migration flows, with related adverse consequences on food security and nutrition (HLPE, 2017). Stark inequalities in access to basic services and assets, but also in terms of food security and nutrition, affect households' prospects for overcoming poverty, and ultimately perpetuate food insecurity and malnutrition (Ibidem). One of the starkest trends of recent years has been the growing concentration in food-related production, industries and services, which has affected power relations between different actors in food systems and fuelled inequalities (HLPE, 2020).
The HLPE (2017, 2020) has stressed the importance of addressing food security and nutrition through a food systems approach, highlighting the linkages between supply chains, food environments, consumers’ behaviour and the resource, economic, social and institutional systems that connect to food. Inequalities affecting food systems’ drivers can be transmitted to all components of food systems and ultimately affect food security and nutrition outcomes. Furthermore, HLPE (2021) stressed the importance of using an intersectionality lens in analyzing and addressing inequalities: different dimensions of inequalities, based on individual, household, community and country characteristics, intersect and are mutually reinforcing. Reducing inequalities requires addressing the different dimensions of inequality holistically and simultaneously, being aware of the complex power dynamics that generate and sustain inequalities.
COVID-19 has further exacerbated existing inequalities, as the brunt of the economic, social and health impact are being borne by the most vulnerable individuals, communities and countries. The estimated impact of the pandemic is an increase in the average Gini index for emerging and developing countries by 6 percent (https://sdgs.un.org/goals/goal10). Human rights are at the core of the 2030 Agenda, which with the motto “No one left behind”, recognizes the severe consequences of inequalities on the attainment of sustainable development. Agenda 2030 has two goals specifically concerning inequalities (SDG 5 and SDG 10), in addition to including inequality reduction in a number of targets and indicators (https://sdgs.un.org/). To reduce inequalities, it is fundamental to ensure comprehensive legal frameworks and governance systems able to uphold human rights, including the right to food.
The report will focus both on (a) inequalities originating within food systems and concerning nutrition and (b) inequalities in the political, social, cultural and economic environment around food systems, which have a bearing on unequal outcomes regarding FSN.
The report will document the scale, the multidimensional, dynamic, intergenerational and intersectional aspects of inequality regarding food security and nutrition, how individuals are affected depending on their characteristics (age, gender, location, social group - class, ethnicity, race, migrant vs. native status), within households, communities, local and national levels, and between countries. Inequalities often depend on the priorities and choices of private and public investments, or legal status, and more generally, on the political balance between urban and rural areas or different regions, particularly if there are religious and/or ethnic differences within a country. Particular attention needs to be given to conflict areas and fragile States. The report will also deal with market power at different levels in food systems, driving inequality throughout supply chains from production to food processing, transport, distribution and trade.
The response to such multi-dimensional and multi-actor inequality calls for a holistic and integrated approach for fair and equitable development (HLPE, 2021). Broadening the definition of food security, as proposed by HLPE (2020) provides a framework to comprehend the nexus between inequalities and social, economic, and environmental sustainability in food systems. The report will explore how inequalities originating within food systems can be alleviated, learning from good practices in existing policies, legal frameworks, approaches and interventions. Support for agroecological practices, small scale agriculture, territorial/local market initiatives, as well as alternative educational methods including the use of digital tools and platforms accessible to all, are among the options that have been identified as promising development pathways for transforming food systems and promoting food security and nutrition for all (HLPE, 2020 and 2021).
These developments need to be put in context, taking into account the concentration of market power in global food systems. The report will develop the concept of “agency” as a lens to address the issue of structural barriers to obtaining economic resources and of inequalities in food security and nutrition, and define the right to food as a legal entitlement towards equality through upholding all relevant human rights, raising living standards, and eliminating intergenerational inequality for all.
Questions to guide the e-Consultation on the scope of the report
With this e-consultation, the HLPE Steering Committee is seeking your feedback. In particular, you are invited to:
1. Share your comments and suggestions on the objectives and content of this report:
- Defining inequality within the context of food systems and for food security and nutrition
- What does ‘inequality’ mean through a food security and nutrition perspective;
- Trends within and between countries (data collection, measurement tools);
- Links between health and nutrition inequalities and labour productivity, educational attainment, economic growth and human wellbeing;
- Commitments to reduce inequality (SDGs), efforts to improve measurement;
- Relationship between inequality and inequity.
- Identifying drivers of power asymmetry that cause and perpetuate inequality
- Concentration of economic, social, and political capital within the food systems;
- Structural barriers to equality for historically disadvantaged and poor populations (women, people of colour, rural and urban poor, indigenous communities, peasants, migrants, refugees, etc.).
- Paths toward equality
- Human Rights Based approach - “equality” as a human right principle, relevance to the right to food;
- Good governance to rebalance power and influence;
- Legal and policy interventions to regulate the influence of corporate actors (and those with concentrated power), and remove structural barriers and increase capital (for those with diminished resources).
2. Share good practices and successful experiences on policy, legislation, interventions and initiatives that have proven successful at:
- reducing inequality gap and its potential impact on food security and nutrition outcomes;
- ensuring the effective legal framework to guarantee equal rights to access land and other productive resources, basic services, and the right to food to reduce inequalities;
- enhancing food systems’ role in the reduction of inequalities (through income and livelihoods generation, while contributing to healthy diets and environment, among others);
- empowering the role of small farmers’, producers’ and workers’ organizations in making food systems more equitable and accessible;
- addressing capacity gaps in generating and using data and other new technologies in policy-making processes, monitoring and reporting on inequalities for FSN.
3. Share the most recent references that should be considered in this report.
4. Provide feedback on the following questions, to guide the development of the report:
- How do food systems drivers affect inequalities? And specifically what are the different impacts of trends in:
- assets, land, other natural resources and finance
- infrastructure and technology, including ICT
- market structure in input provision, logistics, processing, transport, distribution of food
- access to information and data
- demographic trends including migration and urbanisation
- socio-cultural factors around gender, ethnicity, religion, caste, race, language and their intersection
- political and economic factors (presence/absence of a legal framework to ensure equal rights to key resources and services and the expression of agency)?
- How can social inequalities impact FSN outcomes?
- How can the reduction of inequalities in food systems’ drivers foster sustainable economic and social transformation and improve FSN? Which different pathways should be considered? Which policies and practices have proven to work in reducing inequalities in FSN outcomes? Are there livelihood systems that are more successful at reducing inequalities and enhancing empowerment?
- How can the reduction of inequalities through sustainable food systems and better FSN contribute to conflict prevention and peace building?
- How can gender and youth mainstreaming approaches, as well as adopting an intersectional lens on inequalities, taking multiple identities together in the analysis (including gender and youth) in food systems contribute to social justice and better FSN?
- What are the main knowledge and data gaps hindering the understanding of how inequalities determine FSN outcomes? What could be improved in data collection and analysis tools for FSN inequalities?
- How can strengthened food systems’ governance contribute to the reduction of inequalities in FSN outcomes?
- Which legal frameworks can guarantee equal rights to land, basic services, but also the right to food, and do they contribute to reducing inequalities?
- What is the role of political economy in reducing inequalities in food systems and in reducing other inequalities that have an impact on FSN outcomes?
We look forward to a rich and fruitful consultation!
Évariste Nicolétis, HLPE Coordinator
Paola Termine, HLPE Project Officer Intersectionality often refers to a person's multiple intersecting identities, including gender, class, caste, race, occupation, ethnicity, etc.
This activity is now closed. Please contact [email protected] for any further information.