Results of the full session of the new Committee on world Food Security

The last session of the Committee on world Food Security, where Civil Society Organisations attended fully with the status of effective members, defined some parctical details of its working, in particular about the relations with Civil Society. Moreover, round tables were organised on crucial issues for agricultural world governorship and Food Security.

Daniel Van Der Steen, 27 October 2010

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The first meeting of the Committee on world Food Security after its reform

From the 11th to the 17th October 2010 was held in Rome the full session of the Committee on world Food Security. It was the first meeting in which the representatives of the civil society organisations took part not longer as observers, but as members, with the possibility to intervene in the debates. Only the governments had the right to vote of course, as they are the final responsibles for Food Security. But the possibility to intervene during the debates and of challenging the governments, that was admitted, since the reform of 2009, to the civil society organizations, the Special Rapporteur on the right to the food and the intergovernmental organisations (IGOs), is a fundamental innovation.

The session was chaired by Mr. Noël de Luna (ambassador of Philippines) and under vice-chairmanship of Mr. Hugo Verbiest (Belgian permanent in Rome), the EU being represented by Belgium (with interventions of Chris Paneels, Martine Vandoorne and perhaps of others which I did not heared). The Drafting Committee, chaired by Mr. Ibrahim Abu Atileh (Jordan), was composed by representatives of following countries : Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Ivory Coast, Egypt, Ethiopia, France, Germany, Indonesia, Japan, Paraguay and the USA.
Let us recall that the reform was formally adopted in 2009 during the 35th Session of the CFS under the presidency of the ambassadress of Argentina, Mrs Maria del Carmen Squeff (see: http://www.csa-be.org/spip.php?arti...)

Most important IGOs are: IFAD, WFP, the team of the High Level Task Force (HLTF) on the food security world crisis, the High Commission of the United-Nations on human rights, WHO, UNICEF, UNDP, the Standing Committee for nutrition, the Consultative Group for international agricultural research (GCRAI), World Bank, International Monetary Fund, Regional development banks and World Trade Organization (WTO). This widened participation should improve considerably the political dialogue within the Committee as well as the relevance of visions and decisions produced there.
This first meeting of the reformed CFS was an opportunity to test the political will of governments in order to build effectively and to make work this important space of debate on the questions of food security food, called to become the main space.

The crisis of the food prices of 2007-08 showed indeed well to the governments that all that had been undertaken hitherto to fight against food insecurity failed, and in particular that the action of the old CFS before the reform was ineffective, in a situation that is likely to reach out of control.
If a vision was well shared between all as for the future of food security, it is the fact that prices volatility will increase in the future, even if different visions remain as for the origins of this volatility. Some indeed explain it threw the “narrowness” of the world market; others have other visions, such as lack of regulation of the world market, emergence of the agrofuels, speculation, adoption of the consumption patterns of the populations of industrialized countries by new fringes of population.
From there came the idea that it was necessary to set up something more effective and that a deeply reformed CSF could become this central space for the world agricultural governorship.

At the agenda were important issues concerning the practical details for the working of the renewed Committee, aiming to become the first space where the main issues for the world agricultural governorship are discussed. Moreover, important thematic debates about food security were organized within the framework of 3 roundtables centred on important questions: access to land and natural resources, answers to volatility on agricultural markets and to vulnerability, responses in situations of protracted crisis.

The civil society organisations held a preparatory Forum aiming to adopt the project of mechanism for the organisation of the civil society mechanism and to prepare their interventions during the plenary CFS session. They agreed on common visions and appointed organisations to present these positions of the Forum on the different points at the CFS agenda.

An outline of the discussions on these different issues is presented here after.

Preparatory forum of the civil society

In order to prepare the participation to this CFS meeting, the civil society organisations gathered from 8 to 10 October at IFAD for the Forum organized by the CIP and other members of the Advisory Committee, which represents the civil society within the Bureau of the CFS (Committee on Food Security). One of the objectives of the Forum was to prepare the interventions of the civil society during the CFS debates and in particular in the 3 policy roundtables organised by the CFS on 3 important issues: access to land and natural resources, vulnerability linked to price volatility on agricultural commodity markets and climate changes, answers to the protracted crisis situations.
More information on the reform of the Committee on Food Security and on the participation of the civil society will be developed hereafter, thanks to the participation of CSA in these events.

Institutional issues related to the practical details for the working of the Committee on world Food Security

The international mechanism of the civil society on food security and nutrition for the relationships with the Committee on world Food Security (CFS) and the continuation of the reform of the CFS
In 2009, the CFS (Committee on Food Security) decided on the broad lines of its reform (see http://www.csa-be.org/spip.php?arti... and http://www.csa-be.org/spip.php?arti...), which provided in particular that Civil Society Organizations could take part not longer as observers, but as participants with whole share in the meetings of the CFS. An opening which also relates to the intergovernmental organisations concerned with agriculture (WFP, IFAD, World Bank…). The vote remains however in hands of governments, since they are the ultimate political responsibles for achieving food security.

The crisis made it possible, between others, to propose that among the solutions ho the food price crisis, was the idea that the part of those which were most heavily hit by food insecurity could fully contribute to bring solutions to the crisis. This is what explains the opening towards the civil society.

Another important principle was adopted, namely that the representatives of the civil society come from an autonomous process compared to FAO and to the governments. It is why a proposal of mechanism was worked out by members of the contact group (which had been set up in order to prepare the reform before the 2009 CFS) resulting from the civil society.

For more information on the CFS reform, see the document adopted by the 2009 CFS: http://www.fao.org/fileadmin/templa....

It is in this context that a draft document was prepared by ActionAid International, the International planning committee of the ONG/OSC for food sovereignty (IPC) and Oxfam UK.
Work started at the end of 2009 and a first draft (zero) was produced in March 2010. After a broad consultation (via the Web but also through processes as the regional consultations FAO-Civil society) which was achieved at the end of May 2010, a second draft (draft 1) was achieved in June, by incorporating a great part of the proposed amendments. A third draft was produced (draft 2), by incorporating new amendments, in August 2010.

It is this draft which was formally accepted (without amendments) by the participants to the Civil Society Forum held at IFAD and which was submitted to the plenary CFS session of October 2010. The CSOs are conscious that this work is far from being perfect but it has the merit to exist and it was agreed that an evaluation would intervene one year after its first implementation. This will intervene in January 2011, with the appointment of a first coordination committee. The time constraints does not make it possible to implement a perfect democratic (and heavy) process to nominate the members of the Committee, but the launching of a mechanism for all geographical areas and constituencies will allow a more democratic procedure in order to renew the members of this Committee.

The same pragmatic approach was used by civil society to nominate its representatives within the “contact group” which was set up to direct the methods of the reform of the CFS and within the “advisory group” which was set up in order to represent the CSOs within the CFS bureau. In this same spirit the Chair of CFS proposed to all the international organisations/networks to take part as members in the CFS during this year, considering the nomination of the representatives by a Mechanism of representation which was not installed yet (it was to be adopted with the present session) was not possible. But the mechanism was indeed adopted unanimous by CFS members on Thursday 14 October 2010, during a night session. In fact, the preparatory document of the CFS was approved without amendments by the governments.

For the preparatory document of the mechanism that is now approved, see: http://www.fao.org/docrep/meeting/0...

It will come into force in January 2011, considering that, following the reform, the activities of the Committee will not be limited to the annual full sessions. By then the members of the first Coordination Committee will be nominated and they will have to take care of the working of the Mechanism and in particular to make sure that the different constituencies and sub regions of the mechanism nominate their representatives to work within the CFS.

The other changes related to the reform continued also, confirming the will to go until the end of the reform. So, the Committee also accepted the procedure suggested for revising the Rules of procedure of the CFS, Article XXXIII of the general rules and the constitutional proceedings of the FAO, on the basis of the document of reform of CFS (CFS 2009/2 Rev2). Moreover, during the transitional period until October 2011, the existing procedure rules will only be applied insofar they are in full conformity with the texts and the spirit of the CFS reform.

The production of a comprehensive strategic framework by the CFS
The production of a comprehensive strategic framework is of course of major importance for the reformed CFS considering the wish that this institution is supposed to fix the guidelines for the renewal of the world agricultural governance. It is indeed on the basis of these orientation that it will be possible to ask for accountability of governments and to call into question policies and practices.

Although all FAO Member States are not in demand on the matter, the Committee approved the organisation of consultations directed by the joint secretariat (FAO-FIDA-PAM and perhaps the Standing Committee of nutrition SNA in the future). The consultation will happen in close cooperation with the CFS Bureau, the Advisory Group (representing the CSOs within the Bureau) and the High Level Panel of Experts. These consultations should lead, in October 2012, to a world Strategic Framework for food security and nutrition.

For the preparatory document, see:

The budget of the years 2010-2011 and 2012-2013
The Committee approved the budget for the years 2010-2011 (which will be submitted to the consideration of FAO, IFAD and WFP), but proposes a first re-examination of the proposed budget for the years 2012-2013 by the Bureau.

The budget for 2010-2011 comprises nearly 4 million (for 2 years) for the governmental process of the CFS (either nearly 2 million per annum), but also 2 million for the “Financial support of the Mechanism of the OSC under their participation in CFS”, or a million for 2011. In addition, nearly 2 million (for 2 years) are added for the working of the High Level Panel of Experts (that is to say nearly a million in 2011). This increased budget embodies the will of change within the CFS and in particular the will to ensure a permanent participation of the CSOs within the CFS.

The budget is included in the document:

The thematic discussions at the 36th Session

Policy roundtable on vulnerability related to the climate changes and price volatility of the agricultural commodity markets

From the beginning, the content of the preparatory document questioned the civil society organisations with regard to the answers towards the volatility of farm prices. Indeed, the document was especially centered on the answers to give vis-a-vis the consequences of the price volatility on agricultural markets. An answer provided especially in terms of mechanisms being able to reinforce the producers confronted with these questions - as the forward sales and the insurances for the producers vis-a-vis markets volatility- and safety nets for the victims of volatility.

Civil society advocated not to care first about the impacts of volatility, but to take care about volatility itself, that needs to be reduced, more especially as the stakeholders, researchers and decision makers in the majority of the debate places on these questions recognize that the future agricultural markets will be characterized by an increased volatility.

Moreover, the CSOs estimate that to limit the volatility as well as possible the price volatility in the future, it is appropriate to understand well its origins, so that the suggested solutions are adapted and that effective instruments are proposed. The conclusion of the preparatory Forum went in this way and it is also in the same spirit that proposals were made during the discussions in the CFS.

The CFS took largely these concerns in consideration. The proposals coming of the discussion for the mandate to the HLPE on these issues refers in particular to causes and consequences of the volatility (including the practices which affect the markets and the links with financial markets); suitable and coherent policies; actions, instruments and institutions useful for managing the risks related to strong price volatility in agriculture.
It was also proposed to rely on a review of existing studies, which examine how the vulnerable nations and populations can ensure the access to the food when volatility makes problem on the markets.

Concerning social protection, it was agreed that it is necessary to take into account the various conditions of the countries and areas, that it is necessary to examine the impacts of the existing policies to improve the livelihoods and the resilience of vulnerable populations, in particular the small rural producers. One will also take into account the benefits of the improvement of local production, of livelihoods and of improved nutrition conditions.

Concerning climate changes, if the CSOs welcome the fact that safety nets and a better social protection were proposed, they consider it is also necessary to look for the means in order to mitigate the impact of the climate changes, but also to fight against the causes of these changes.
An interesting proposal of the CFS was to examine the relations between climate changes and agricultural productivity.

For the position of CSOs that participated in the preparatory Forum on the issue of vulnerability/volatility/climate changes, se the attached document. For the working document prepared by the CFS secretariat on this issue, see : http://www.fao.org/docrep/meeting/0...

Policy roundtable on the access to land and international investments in agriculture

The civil society aimed especially to reinforce the process of consultation, in progress at regional and world level, led by the FAO in order to produce “Voluntary guidelines on the responsible governance of tenure of land and other natural resources” (see: ftp://ftp.fao.org/docrep/fao/011/ak...).

As it was urgent to have these directives, which will contribute to “moralise” the international purchases of lands (land grabbing) and given the process with FAO is quite advanced (the last consultation will talke place in Moscow for the CIS countries at the end of November 2010), it was important above all to support this process and to speed it.

It is more especially urgent if we consider the FAO initiative is in competition with the G8 (Aquila, 2009) and G20 (Pittsburg) initiative. This initiative aims at promoting “Principles for responsible agricultural investments that respects rights, livelihoods and resources” (RAI), an initiative that is seen as ambiguous and disputed insofar it was launched by the richest countries and insofar it is not linked to a large international and regional consultation process, as it is for the FAO initiative.

The results at the CFS in this field are rather mitigated.
The CFS supported indeed the continuation of the consultation process for the production of the Voluntary guidelines, by creating an « Open ended working group” which will have to build, on the basis of the ongoing regional process. The project issued from the working group will be submitted to the 37th Session of the CFS (October 2011). The problem is that this proposal postpones the end of the process since the guidelines cannot, in this case, be ratified by the next June 2013 FAO Conference (biannual).
During the debate, the CSOs and the European Union had tried to achieve the process of the voluntary guidelines in June 2011 (FAO Conference), given the CFS secretariat specified that this agenda was possible. The production of a first project could be achieved in January 2011 and a consultation could make it possible to have a second draft before the June 2011 Conference.

The urgency to have soon Voluntary guidelines is related to the speed and the volume of the transactions that are currently going on. These transactions are currently run in absence of guidelines or instructions from the United-Nations (the most “legitimate” place of the International community) and of course without formal international rules. These transactions exist for the moment in all continents. Particularly in Africa, but we should not forget the Eurasia Region (Europe and post-Soviet Asia), where nearly 4 million ha of land are concerned for the moment (according to the data given by Oane Visser and max Spoor, of the University of Nijmegem, in a forthcoming study) and where the potential is enormous.

At the other hand, if the process of the Voluntary guidelines is not fast enough, a real risk is to see the “Principles for responsible agricultural investments that respects rights, livelihoods and resources” (RAI) being imposed as international standards. However, they result from a process led at the beginning by only a limited group of States (G8 and G20) and were not issued from a thorough consultation process, neither with the other stakeholders nor with the civil society. At the contrary, such consultations took place for the Voluntary guidelines at the level of the different sub regions of the world.

In addition to the creation of the open ended work group, the CFS limited itself to “take note” of the process in progress for the “Principles for responsible agricultural investments that respects rights, livelihoods and resources” and proposed to start a process to take in consideration these principles within the CFS.

The CFS asked also the governments and other stakeholders involved in the drafting processes of the « Voluntary guidelines” and of the « Principles for responsible agricultural investments” to ensure the coherence and the complementarity between the 2 processes.

Lastly, the CFS asked the High level panel of experts (HLPE) to undertake studies from here to the 37th CFS Session on a series of important issues that will support the decision making in this field. The studies will relate in particular to the respective roles of large plantations and small-scale farmers, while integrating economic, social, gender and environmental impacts, the mapping of available lands and the analysis of the instruments making it possible to align the broad scale investments on the food strategies of the countries.

For the working document prepared by the CFS secretariat on this issue, see : http://www.fao.org/docrep/meeting/0...

La table ronde sur les réponses face aux crises prolongées
(to be completed)

The situation of the world food insecurity

The year 2010 will probably know a light reduction of food insecurity in the world, according to forecasts of the SOFI (Situation of Food Insecurity, published annually by the FAO) document, while passing from more than one billion to a figure between 900 and 950 million. This evolution is explained by the inversion of the high food prices and the economic crises.
However it is estimated that structural hunger is increasing. It is estimated moreover that the extreme climatic phenomena characterizing year 2010 in various regions of the world could call into question future progress. The high level of hungry relates especially to low-income in food deficit (net importers) countries.

For the document on the situation of food insecurity in world (SOFI),
see : http://www.fao.org/publications/sofi/en/

The high level panel of expert (HLPE)

In the framework of the current reform of the international governance of food security and nutrition, a new consultative body was set up : the High Level Panel of Experts for food security and nutrition (HLPE). This is why the Committee of world food security (CFS) nominated 15 international experts to form the Steering Committee which in charge of the control of this new body. This Steering Committee will nominate in its turn the teams of ad hoc experts in charge of expressing independent opinions on the issues related to food security and nutrition.

It will have the role of assessing and analysing the actual situations of food security and malnutrition and its fundamental causes and to provide scientific analyses, based on knowledge and opinions on issues linked with policies.
For more information, see: http://www.fao.org/cfs/ru/

Among the members of the Steering Committee, let us note the presence of a representative of the civil society, in the person of Mrs. Maryam Rahmanian of CENESTA (Iran). This person is, since years, the geographical focal point for the Region of « West and Central Asia and North Africa" (WESCANA) within the International Planning Committee for food sovereignty (IPC).

The members of the Steering Committee are the following:
- Catherine Bertini (United States of America), former Executive Director of WFP
- Derek Byerlee (Australia), chair of Perman. Committee for the impact assessment, CGRAI
- Tewolde Berhan Gebre Egziabher, Gen. Direct. Environment Protection Authority, Ethiopia
- Lawrence Haddad (United Kingdom), Director Institute of Development Studies
- Sheryl Lee Hendriks, Researcher at Pretoria University, South Africa
- Alain de Janvry (France), Professor at Berkeley University, California
- Renato Maluf, Associated Professor at Rural Federal University of Rio de Janeiro and Chair of National Council of food and nutrition security, Brazil
- Mona Mehrez Aly, Director Egyptian Institute of research on animal health
- Carlos Perez del Castillo (Uruguay), Chair Consortium of CGRAI centers
- Roelof Rabbinge (Netherlands), Professor at Wagenigen University, Chair of Science Council, CGRAI
- Maryam Rahmanian, Researcher at the Center for sustainable development, Iran
- Monkombu Sambasivan (M.S.) Swaminathan (India), Agronomist
- Huajun Tang (China), Professor and Vice-chair of Chinese Academy of Agricultural Science
- Igor Tikhonovich (Russian Federation), Director of All-Russia Research Institute for Agricultural Microbiology
- Niracha Wongchinda (Thailand), Specialist of Fisheries.

Other websites providing information on the CFS reform process and the work of civil society with FAO

Additional information is available on the CSA website and on other websites :

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