ACORD at the Committee on World Food Security

Fatou Mbaye and Tom Fry at the Civil Society Mechanism of the Committee on World Food Security. Photo: FAO/Alessandra Benedetti

The 39th session of the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) met from the 15th to the 20th of October in Rome, Italy. The CFS is an intergovernmental United Nations body whose remit is to coordinate global approaches to food security and promote policy coherence. It was reformed in 2009, and expanded to facilitate the participation of a wider network of stakeholders, including non-governmental organisations and social movements. ACORD is a fully accredited participant in the CFS, and Fatou Mbaye, Livelihoods Thematic Manager, and Tom Fry, Policy and Advocacy Advisor, both attended the meeting.

The CFS has an official body for participating civil society organisations, called the Civil Society Mechanism (CSM), complete with its own secretariat. The CSM is an innovative body, coordinating and facilitating civil society input, and able to act as a participant in the CFS meetings, addressing member governments on behalf of all civil society. Many global governance mechanisms lack clear channels for participation by civil society, but the CFS is a refreshing alternative to this norm. CSOs are able to take the floor in plenary sessions, directly propose changes to texts, and have a tangible impact on the decisions made.

ACORD actively took part in the CSM, working alongside our colleagues and partners from NGOs, social movements and farmer's organisations. These included Via Campesina, the Pan-African Farmers Organisation and Action Aid International, alongside a host of other groups from across the world. This culminated in ACORD addressing the plenary floor on behalf of the CSM.

A new global framework for agricultural policy

One of the outcomes of the CFS was the adoption of the Global Strategic Framework (GSF) for agriculture, which aims to synthesise policies aimed at overcoming global hunger and malnutrition, and has been on the agenda of the CFS since 2008. This was a significant victory for CSO's, who had been advocating for a GSF that could act as the central point of reference for coherence and coordination on agricultural policy. It will thus serve as an important advocacy tool for CSOs, including ACORD, when holding decision makers to account on issues of food security.

The GSF contains some important and progressive language and policy recommendations, including recognition of the right to food and policies that will see it achieved, and a significant focus on small-scale producers, including farmers and pastoralists. It also references the importance of agroecology in ensuring agricultural sustainability, the fact that food security can only be achieved by recognising women's rights, and promotes the implementation of the Voluntary Guidelines on Land, Fisheries and Forests (VGGT), which are vital to reduce the devastating impact of land grabs.

The CFS also adopted a Terms of Reference for the committee's own principles for agricultural investment (RAI), which it is hoped will be an alternative to the World Bank's Principles for Responsible Agricultural Investment (PRAI), which have been widely criticised for lacking participation and being weak on land grabs. Land grabs are accelerating across Africa at a rapid rate, and it is vital that a globally agreed and strong set of guidelines are in place that will ensure any investment in land promotes sustainable agriculture, and respects the land rights of rural communities.

Tom Fry said that "The work for civil society organisations engaging with the CFS doesn't stop here. The legitimacy of the CFS is not in doubt, it is the most inclusive and participatory international forum for food security policy. But the relevance and impact of the CFS is dependent on governments, international institutions, the private sector and other stakeholders recognising and implementing the policies it promotes. This is where ACORD and other organisations have an important role to play, advocating that decision makers implement the Global Strategic Framework, and endorse the process to formulate the principles for Responsible Agricultural Investment".

Strategising on food reserves

ACORD, alongside Oxfam and Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP), co-hosted a civil society meeting on the importance of food reserves. The meeting brought together organisations, academics and researchers who are working on food reserves from across the world. Participants included the East African Farmers Forum, the Overseas Development Institute, and Tufts University. The meeting sought to share research and experiences on the opportunities for food reserves at the local, national, regional and international level to contribute to food security. Participants discussed how food reserves can be a useful tool in responding to food emergencies, in stabilising prices, increasing investment in small-scale agriculture, and acting as social protection mechanism.

The first day of the meeting allowed civil society to bring together these ideas into a coherent set of objectives outlining where more research needs to be done, and how we can advocate for governments to begin decisive action to help develop food reserves. The second day saw delegates from national governments across the globe visit the group and share ideas and views on food reserves. Food reserves are an increasing priority for ACORD, and this meeting helped lay the foundation for future advocacy and campaigning work by ourselves and other CSOs on this issue.

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Agriculture and Food Security

  • food security
  • food sovereignty
  • land grabbing