People's Coalition on Food Sovereignty
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  • Date submitted: 1 Nov 2011
  • Stakeholder type: Major Group
  • Name: People's Coalition on Food Sovereignty
  • Submission Document: Download
Keywords: Subsidies (1 hits),

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Greening the Economy in Agriculture: Greening the Economy for Whom?

People?s Coalition on Food Sovereignty Input document to the Rio+20 Summit

1 November 2011

Two decades after the Earth Summit, the world is nowhere near its avowed goal of achieving sustainable development for the people. The unbridled extraction and exploitation of resources mainly of developing countries to suit the profit-driven interests of industrialized countries is pushing marginalized peoples, including small farmer holders, pastoralists, women and indigenous peoples, into deeper poverty and misery. The crisis of capitalism has exacerbated the situation of over a billion hungry people in the world while a few take control of the world?s resources.

The People?s Coalition on Food Sovereignty (PCFS), a growing network of various grassroots groups of small food producers particularly of peasant-farmer organizations and their support non-government organizations, advocates food sovereignty which refers to the inalienable right of peoples, communities and countries to define their own agricultural, labor, fishing, food and land policies which are ecologically, socially, economically and culturally appropriate to their unique circumstances.

PCFS stands for the attainment of a sustainable economy both in the social and environmental sense that allows people to live under an environment that allows, among others, for the determination of their own food and agricultural systems. In this sense, sustainable development as enunciated in the Rio Declarations should mirror food sovereignty.

UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food Olivier De Schutter in a recent UN assembly hit the nail in the head when he stated that ?farmers must not be disempowered labourers in their own land? and that the failure to help small-scale farmers to live decently in farming is a key cause of hunger. De Schutter stressed the need to reverse the thinking that ?agricultural development can only occur through large-scale, top-down investments?, and emphasized that with ?the right support and encouragement, farmers can drive the change themselves.? He called on governments ?not to shirk their responsibilities...to equip smallholders to rise up the value chain.?

The Rio+20 Summit provides an opportunity to do away with production systems that have caused irreversible and irreparable environmental destruction and push for genuinely sustainable systems.

In the agriculture sector, the Greening the Economy in Agriculture (GEA) has been introduced by various development actors, most notably the UNEP in 2008 at the height of the financial crisis. GEA posits two ?unique opportunities? on the part of governments, i.e., a significant slice of the multi-trillion dollar stimulus package to revive the global economy by placing these in environmental investments, and that such investments along with domestic policy reforms and development of international policy and market infrastructure can ?set the stage for a transition to a truly Green Economy.?

The ?Green Economy? buzzword that has since been used has been generally described as ?one which achieves increasing wealth, provides decent employment, successfully tackles inequities and persistent poverty, and reduces ecological scarcities and climate risks.?

While there is as no single definition of GEA yet, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) states that GEA refers to ?increasing food security (in terms of availability, access, stability and utilization) while using less natural resources, through improved efficiencies throughout the food value chain. This can be achieved by applying an ecosystem approach to agriculture, forestry, fisheries management in a manner that addresses the multiplicity of societal needs and desires, without jeopardizing the options for future generations to benefit from a full range of goods and services provided by terrestrial and marine ecosystems.?

FAO adds that GEA ?strives to balance diverse societal objectives, by taking account of the knowledge and uncertainties about biotic, abiotic and human components of ecosystems and their interactions and applying an integrated approach to agriculture, forestry, fisheries and food chains within ecologically meaningful boundaries.?

Dissecting the GEA initiative, however, reveals inherent flaws on how its stated goals can be achieved. Continue control by corporate giants and industrialized nations over those in the south are evident using the cloak of environmental protection. For instance, proposed enabling conditions such as tariff imposition and taxes on processes and products deemed not green enough can easily turn into finance conditionalities by northern countries on southern countries.

PCFS thus forwards the following proposals, primarily on the GEA initiative, based on the zero draft guidelines:

1. Food sovereignty is a fundamental principle that should be reflected not only in Rio+20 documents pertaining to agriculture and fisheries but as an overall framework for the genuine sustainability of the world?s resources especially for the benefit of developing countries. Food sovereignty embodies self-reliance and self-sufficiency; local and collective methods of production; biodiversity-based, ecologically sound, sustainable methods of production; economic democracy (rights to decent livelihood, food, health, shelter and other basic necessities); rejection of patenting of life and genetic resources; and rejection of chemical intensive, large-scale industrial farming.

2. The Rio+20 outcome document must strive for poverty eradication and not mere poverty alleviation. Doing so must first entail the recognition that the depletion and plunder of the world?s resources have been carried out primarily by industrialized countries and their giant companies at the expense of developing countries faced with massive poverty. Poverty eradication therefore needs to be addressed at the structural level. The trickle-down approach has long been proven to be ineffective.

3. The framework of the Rio+20 Summit should be Agenda 21 and other Rio agreements, as well as the Rio Declaration and Rio Conventions. The summit should be a comprehensive assessment and evaluation of these agreements vis-a-vis various sectors. The particular principles of the Rio Declaration that must be given primary focus are the precautionary principle, the principle of prevention, the polluter pays principle and principle 10 on access to information, and participation of civil society. The role of civil society organizations (CSOs) must be accorded due recognition and their recommendations reflected in the outcome document.

4. The Green Economy Agenda as presently crafted is patently corporatized and should be reworked. The target for the world?s farmers to ?scale up adoption of green agriculture by partnering with leading agribusinesses? and for the world?s top 40 agribusinesses to play this leading role indicate that no fundamental change in development strategy is being carried out. This even gives added justification for agribusiness giants to deepen their stronghold on global agriculture. People-based and biodiversity-based food production systems over corporate industrial agriculture and fisheries must be developed. In the same vein, public enterprises should remain in public control. Privatization must be stopped.

5. Multilateral and bilateral trade policies in agriculture by the World Trade Organization, international financial institutions, and those initiated by industrialized countries that have further opened up developing countries? already weak economies to the world market (which is in tight control by industrialized countries and their corporations) must be reversed. The liberalization of agriculture has made southern countries more food insecure today than in the past and violate their peoples? right to food. The international framework for sustainable development (IFSD) should ensure that multilateral finance institutions and other related bodies respect the right to development.

6. The IFSD should also be translated into the creation of a broad inclusive multi-stakeholder consultative body which shall work for the implementation of Rio+20 resolutions and Agenda 21. It is important for this body to be democratic and participatory, and gives due accord to the important role of civil society organizations.

7. Policies supporting genuine agrarian, aquatic, pastoralist and forestry reforms must be implemented. Biodiverse ecological agriculture that benefits small producers must be promoted.

8. Promotion and commercialization of agrofuels must be rejected.

9. The rights of small farmers holders, pastoralists, women and especially of indigenous peoples must at all times be respected, promoted and upheld.

10. Large-scale, destructive mining must be opposed. As a major industry in manufacturing, major policy reversal is needed to abate the wanton destruction of non-renewable resources that have caused the destruction of indigenous peoples? and small farmers? communities.

11.Serious policy and legislative changes in sectors hardest hit by symptoms of the crisis of global capitalism such as food crisis and climate change must be advanced. Control over natural resources and land tenure by peasants, women and indigenous peoples must be translated into policies for genuine implementation.

12. The GEA initiative should not eclipse and overwrite the intent of the Rio Declaration for sustainable development for the people.The Rio+20 outcome document must reflect the genuine interest of marginalized peoples, especially the small farmers holders, pastoralists, indigenous peoples, and women to have control over the land from which they depend on to live.

Food security and agriculture are integral to sustainable development and must be defined according to the interests and welfare of those who are at the frontline of food production beginning from the grassroots level. Community-based, cooperative farming that use sustainable methods must be promoted. Government Subsidies for the promotion of such must be prioritized.

The problems hounding agriculture today ? food crisis, high food prices, rural poverty, hunger, malnutrition, large-scale foreign land acquisitions and landlessness, among others ? are symptoms of a system that fails to address the needs of a growing global population. The different economic development aspirations of rich and poor countries in the midst of worsening environmental problems can only be addressed by delving into conflicting issues such as trade and debt. The opportunity provided by the Rio+20 summit to address these maladies must not be lost on these basic realities.

Global efforts to green the economy must primarily provide an environment for those hardest hit by the environmental crisis ? the marginalized peoples of the world -- to better their socio-economic conditions. It is this yardstick that should serve as blueprint for all multi-stakeholders involved in global efforts for genuine sustainable development. #
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