Reform of the FAO Committee on food security and Forum in parallel with the World Food Summit of 2009

The Bellagio meeting on the participation of civil society and other elements for the global world governance for agriculture

Daniel Van Der Steen, 4 June 2009

All the versions of this article: [English] [français]

The CSA participated at the meeting held in Bellagio (Italy) on the 25 - 28 of May.
This meeting, convened by the FAO, gathered nearly 30 participants to discuss the participation of the civil society in the activities of FAO and in particular in the FAO Committee on Food Security (CFS) which should be reformed. Important components of the reform are to modify its membership and the modalities of participation for the various kinds of members.
In addition, the FAO Director General (DG), Jacques Diouf, was is Milan and had a dinner on the evening of May 24 with the participants that were already present. At the occasion, he evoked the prospects for the agricultural situation and of food security for the future. H e referred also to the World Food Summit he wishes to hold in November 2009. The wish of the DG is also that a Civil society Forum could be held in parallel with the Summit. The organization of this Forum was consequently also part of the discussions to during the Bellagio meeting.

The discussions concerning the reform of the FAO Committee on food security (CFS) that could be transformed into a global world governance forum for agriculture

It is in the perspective of the reform of the FAO Committee on food security (CFS) that the organizations of the civil society discussed the way in which they could be structured to take part in the discussions as well as the modalities of their participation.
The discussion happened in the presence of 2 key actors of the reform, namely the president of the CFS, the delegate representing Argentina at the FAO, Mrs Maria del Carmen Squeff (this person participated in the panel set up for the side event that the CSA co-organized during the FAO Committee on Commodity Problems on the 20th of April), as well as the secretary of the CFS within the FAO, Mr. Kostas Georges Stamoulis. The assistant of the Director General, Mr. Hafez Ghanem, took also part in the meeting.

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The participants of the meeting in Bellagio

The context of the setting up of the « new CFS »
Following the crisis of the food prices which culminated in 2008, the international community is mobilized given the deficiency of the world agricultural governance. Indeed, whereas in 1996, the Heads of States had fixed as objective to reduce of half the hungry people for the year 2015 (reducing the number of hungry people from 800 to 400 million), it appeared clearly to all that one was extremely far from the objective at about 7 years of the expiry. The situation is even worse if we consider that, instead we move towards the objective, we have an evolution in the opposite direction, with the food prices crisis. FAO estimates indeed today the number of hungry at a billion.
Each one admitted that the global agricultural governance was in question and that it had to be reformed.
Today, one of the explored ways is to leave the global agricultural governance to the FAO Committee for the world food security of, after the Committee is reformed.
It is obvious that if a Committee, which worked before like one of the bodies of FAO, can ensure this role, it is necessary first of all to redefine its roles and of course also to widen its membership.

The role of the « new CFS
Thus, the role of “new CFS” would be to influence the policies and the programs at global, regional and national levels which aim are to eliminate hunger and to ensure food security, taking into account that food security also relates, beyond agriculture, to aspects such as economic access to food, adequate nutrition, social safety nets and human rights.
The “New CFS” must in particular keep the priority of agriculture and food security at the international agenda, better bind the technical expertise and the decision making, mobilize the necessary political commitment, understand the factors which affect food security, exchange the experiences and ensure that the International community adopts a consistent and priority approach concerning food security.
The Committee is chaired by Mrs Maria del Carmen Squeff (see above), assisted by a Bureau where the delegates of 4 countries are represented : Belgium, Jordan, Madagascar and Russia.

The work of the « Contact Group»
A Contact Group, whose existence is limited to a few months, was set up in order to redefine the Committee and to set it up. His membership was defined by the governments and the Contact Group is composed by representatives of the governments, by intergovernmental organizations (IGOs) and by the group of NGOs, civil society organizations and the private sector.
In addition to the 15 representatives of governments, we have for the IGOs 2 representatives of IFAD, 4 of WFP, 1 of the World Bank, 2 of the “High level task force”,1 of IFPRI, but also 2 experts on biodiversity and the (new) Special Rapporteur of the United Nations for the right to food.
In the group of NGOs, civil society and private sector, we have 2 big NGOs, the 2 world networks of agricultural producers, the International Planning Committee (IPC), the ad hoc group of NGOs accredited at the United Nations, the international organization of consumers, the industry of fertilizers, the Bill and Belinda Gates Foundation, the Sustainable Agriculture Initiative (SAI), a group representing the women contractors (Women organizing for changes in agriculture and natural resource management - WOCAN) and the International Council for Science (ICSU).
At its first meeting of April 27, the Contact Group defined in particular the TOR for the Contact Group ; the selection criteria for the participation of NGOs, CSOs and the private sector; its working agenda; the content and methods for the preparation of the first draft document (zero draft) for the reform of CSF.
The second meeting, which was held on May 22, was entirely devoted to the draft document for the reform of the CSF. And the meeting of June 23 will be devoted to the adoption of this document.
The last meeting (end of July) should be devoted to the adoption of this final draft of the document.
lt will be noted that some members (people or organization) of the Contact Group took part in the Bellagio meeting and that the main directions which were defined there should be defended by these people or other representatives of their organization.

The main directions defined at the Bellagio meeting
Work started with an evaluation of the relations between the FAO and the civil society since 1996. The identification of what functioned well and of what did not function was used as a basis to lay down the directions for the future in the new context which arises to us today.
Here follow some of the more important aspects that were agreed in Bellagio.

1) Concerning the membership and the modalities of the participation of the civil society in the reformed CFS, the participants were in favor of option 2 of the preliminary draft of the zero draft document for the reform of Committee, namely that there would be 2 categories of members:
- a category that includes the governments, having the right to take decisions (voting right) ;
- the other category that includes the members of which the status and the means of influence have to be decided.
For the civil society, it are the governments that are in charge of the food security of the people and they have to assume their responsibilities for this reason. But, in addition, they should be obliged to know the points of view of the representatives of the various components of the civil society, which should have the right to question the governments and to discuss with them. Even if they are full members from this discussion forum, the representatives of the NGOs, CSOs and social movements would not take part in the decisions.

2) Concerning the membership of the civil society, it is obvious that the agricultural organizations of producers must be represented, while including the sub-regional levels (for example the regional networks of the African FOs, such as ROPPA, EAFF, PROPAC and SACAU. But moreover, it is agreed that all the socio-economic groups which produce food goods must be represented, especially when they are not duly represented by the large agricultural organizations. It is the case in particular for the artisanal fisherfolk as well l, the nomad pastoralists, the small farmers, the indigenous people (tribal peoples living in self-subsistence on a given territory), the “foresters”, the agricultural and food industry workers, the young farmers, the landless farmers, the consumers (including the inhabitants of the slums).
With regard to the farmers, a debate took place on the question of the size of the farms, with the concern of having the small (and average) farms as well represented as the largest. And this even if we agreed on the fact that the size is a relative question, able to vary strongly from one area to another.

3) The CFS must be a multilateral space in which the governments (normally elected by the people) decide, but neither the OSC, nor the institutions such as OMC, the World Bank and the IMF should take part at the decisions.

4) The space must allow debates at the regional level and must allow the monitoring of the policies.

5) In this new context, there are implications for the FAO, which must in particular reinforce its internal structure in order to diffuse the options towards the society and develop special programs which take account of the priorities of the NGOs, CSOs and social movements (for example, voluntary guidelines for the right to food, right to land and access to land, water and genetic marine resources…)

6) Concerning the mechanisms of the participation of the civil society, there is ask for transparency, respect the principle of the autonomy of the partners of the civil society and sufficient financial contribution to ensure a good participation. It is important to avoid institutionalization of wrong mechanisms, steering by the funders, marginalization of the roots movements, corruption…

The setting up of a group of experts to support the CFS
Concerning the group of expert, one of the innovations of the CFS in charge to support the Committee by its scientific contributions, the participants estimated that the experts of FAO should also find their place there. Moreover, it was estimated that this group should also include representatives of the civil society who could bring the experiment from what occurs on the grassroots level for the various groups of actors and concerned population.

The organization by the civil society of a Forum in parallel to the Summit of November 2009

It is the FAO Council (from June 15 to June 19) which must decide if the Summit will effectively be held. But the DG is rather trustful as for the results of the Council.
If the Summit is confirmed in June and if, in addition, there is evidence that the FAO will give the Forum a political priority and support the access to the needed funding, the Forum should probably be organized art the place called « Mattatoio » (old slaughterhouse from Rome).
The idea is to gather at least 500 organizations. Among the participants, there would be especially the various actors who contribute to the production of food, but also the representatives of the groups of populations affected by the food insecurity.
A steering committee should be set up for the preparation and the functioning of the Forum. This Committee would have as a function to define the methods for the working of the Forum, the dialogue with the governments, the choice of the participants, the production of the political message to present at the Summit. Let us note that this Forum would be independent of the one held by the private sector (agribusiness industries), which is already programmed separately in the North of Italy.
What is clear also it is the will to hold a Forum independently from the FAO, as well as the importance of the regional processes (if possible even on the level of the preparation).
Everybody is also aware that the remaining time is very short and that the guarantees of the FAO are awaited as soon as possible to achieve a good preparation.

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