A look back at the UNFSS

October 2, 2021

What was billed as the “people’s summit” ended up alienating the very people at the core of the food system: smallholder and peasant farmers.

Miguel Jarro Mamani, farmer in Bolivia

The UN Food Systems Summit took place at the end of September, amid ongoing criticism from UN rights experts, family farmers and civil society groups.

What was billed as the “people’s summit” ended up alienating the very people at the core of the food system: smallholder and peasant farmers.

Three UN rights experts spent much of the lead up to the summit urging the organizers for more accountability and democracy. The Civil Society and Indigenous Peoples’ Mechanism for relations with the UN Committee on World Food Security—a group of 300 million members from more than 500 civil society groups (of which SeedChange is one)—boycotted the summit and laid out the conditions under which it would take part in the event. Those conditions were never met.

Public callouts of the summit for its corporate influence, non-transparent and undemocratic processes, and lack of focus on the people who actually grow, harvest and process our food, came from organizations like Slow Food, La Via Campesina, the International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems (IPES-Food) and Friends of Earth International.

Learn more and dig into the criticism of the summit in this news roundup:

Declaration: Global People’s Summit for Just, Equitable, Healthy, and Sustainable Food Systems

As the UNFSS met in New York, an alternative summit was held to uplift the voices that were not showcased at the UN.

“It is highly concerning that powerful industrial livestock agribusinesses, which are among the worst emitters of GHGs and destroyers of forests, have gained space in the UNFSS while small-holder farmers have been almost erased from the process.”

Read their full declaration.

Fundamental Changes Needed at UN Summit to Tackle Global Food Insecurity

“All future UN processes should be governed by a simple set of rules set by the precedent of past UN organisations and international summits where conflicts of interest have been taken seriously. This will set the standard for national debates across the world, which is where the real work begins.”

Read more.

New science panel would be Summit’s most damaging legacy

All critics of the summit, including SeedChange, have pointed out that there is already a well-established global body set up to have food systems discussions and make decisions through a right to food lens: the UN Committee on World Food Security. Now, IPES-Food is concerned that creating a new science panel in the wake of the UN Food Systems Summit could critically undermine the ability of existing UN bodies to guide food systems reform.

Read their open letter.

UN summit stays silent on root causes of our failing food system

“An international summit on food was long overdue. Our food system doesn’t work for humans, animals, or the planet. Food production pumps out vast quantities of greenhouse gases that warm the planet, responsible for 37% of emissions. We’re experiencing rising levels of obesity and malnutrition while progress on hunger has gone into reverse, with a tenth of the world’s population going hungry last year.”

Why didn’t the summit tackle these issues in a meaningful way?

Read more.

The Corporate Capture of the UN Food Summit

“Transnational agribusiness firms are contributing to a growing global hunger crisis, causing widespread environmental damage, and threatening people’s health. By also capturing the United Nations Food Systems Summit, they have restricted the meeting’s agenda to solutions that will further inflate corporate profits.”

Read more.