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“A lot of the UN Food Systems Summit is based on a fantasy”, states UN Special Rapporteur on Right to Food

During his participation in the global forum, Michael Fakhri was firm in criticizing the lack of debate on Covid-19 and the power of corporations to influence food systems

31 de August de 2021
Photo: OHCHR

The Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) Michael Fakhri criticized the criticized the absence of topics related to the Covid-19 pandemic on the agenda of the UN Food Systems Summit, to be held on 23 September.

“The big substantive problem with the Food Systems Summit is that it will put forward proposals on how to transforms the world’s food systems, but it has ignored the fact that we are amidst a global pandemic”, said Fakhri as he presented the summary of his report about the Summit.

In addition to being a special rapporteur, he has two other functions: he is a member of the integration team of the Food Systems Summit and of the Committee on Food Security (CFS), both UN initiatives. Authorized therefore by the United Nations Human Rights Council to be its independent representative to question food security and nutrition issues at the Summit, Fakhri used his speaking space during the pre-event, held in July in Rome, to present his analysis.

“For the past year and a half, Covid-19 has not been in the Summit agenda in a substantive way. This means that a lot of the Summit is based on a fantasy, in which Covid-19 and the current food crisis magically disappear”, affirmed Fakhri.

The pre-summit agenda did not devote any sessions to the Covid-19 pandemic, despite its consequences on people’s livelihoods and the entire global food supply chain.

The Special Rapporteur also made harsh criticisms of corporations, the organization of the forum and highlighted the imbalance of power between civil society and companies in discussions on the future of food systems.

He points out that the big problem with food systems today is that corporations have enormous power of influence and they are largely responsible for the problems we face.

“The high concentration of corporate power in our food systems allows a relatively small group of people to shape markets in a way that serve shareholder profit maximization and not the public good”, explained Fakhri. “This is by design. Corporate laws enable individuals to rip all the gains and not be held responsible for any social harms that are generated by their profit-making enterprise.”

And he was crystal clear: “Current food systems marginalize human rights”.

During his speech, the Special Rapporteur also recalled that more than 300 civil society organizations mobilized to promote the People’s Counter Mobilization to transform Corporate Food Systems, a global event with the participation of the Brazilian Institute for Consumer Protection (Idec).  

For Elisabetta Recine, from the Observatory of Food Security and Nutrition Policies (OPSAN) of the Faculty of Health Sciences of the University of Brasília, in Brazil, and member of the High Panel of Experts (HLPE) of the UN Food Security Committee, the speech of the Special Rapporteur, on the occasion of the Food Systems Pre-Summit, is relevant for exposing the dominance of corporate power, the lack of participation and recognition of the set of concrete proposals of public interest organizations and social movements in the construction of future food systems.

“The manifestation of the OHCHR, through Mr. Fakhri, is extremely important for his clarity in pointing out the structural limits of the Summit process and, therefore, of the real risk of deepening the determinants that led us to a situation of global climate and food crisis. There are no expectations that the historical debt will be reduced by the proposals of the Summit for the fulfillment of the Human Right to Adequate Food considering important parts of the populations of the countries”, says Recine.

Recommendations

In his report, Michael Fakhri recommends important actions to return the debate on food systems to civil society and not corporations, strengthening the right to food and human rights in general. Below is a summary made by Idec of the Special Rapporteur main points:

  • Strengthen monitoring and accountability mechanisms for corporations that make part of the hegemonic food systems;
  • Valuing local and traditional knowledge;
  • Urgently rethink the incorporation of human rights into the Summit outcomes and address the outstanding issues of power, participation and achievement of goals;
  • Member States should mobilize and evaluate the Summit through the seven PANTHER principles (participation, accountability, non-discrimination, transparency, human dignity, empowerment and rule of law), highlighting that States have the greatest responsibility for governance in the interest public;
  • It is recommended to strengthen the existing UN multilateral forums in Rome and Geneva for follow-up and review. The Food Security Committee must be the space where the Summit results are finally discussed and evaluated, noting that the Committee has an inclusive and representative Civil Society Mechanism;
  • All coalitions built must be responsive to country and regional demands, focusing on human rights and addressing the cross-cutting priorities of equity, empowerment and accountability in food systems;
  • The Summit outcomes must be assessed through a human rights perspective. This involves questioning whether the Summit proposals will realize people’s rights to food and human rights in general.

Access the full report, available in English.

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