Thousands of people gather at counter-mobilization to reiterate “We need food systems that empower people, not companies”
UN Food Systems Pre-Summit falls short on climate, hunger crisis, COVID, and food systems transformation, say counter-mobilization participants, which totalled almost 9,000 people.
ROME—Between 25 and 28 July 2021, some 9,000 people participated in a mostly virtual counter-mobilization to oppose the United Nations Food Systems Pre-Summit. The alternative forum was hailed a success owing to the great and varied attendance as well as its ability to successfully catalyze and amplify a counter-narrative to the Pre-Summit. With critical articles and pieces published in major media outlets such as BBC, Al Jazeera and Italian state TV Rai, and several thousands social media publications including the hashtag #FoodSystems4People, reaching potentially 10 million users, the counter-mobilization succeeded in reaching a broad public with its visions for a real transformation of unsustainable food systems.
Entitled “People’s counter-mobilization to transform corporate food systems,” the activities kicked off with an eight hours-long global virtual rally. The massively attended virtual event consisted in a string of messages from offline communities, declarations, artistic performances and live mobilizations by hundreds of individuals and organizations from all continents, representing smallholder farmers, pastoralists, fisherfolks, indigenous peoples, agricultural and food workers, landless, women, youth, consumers, urban food insecure, NGOs, journalists and academics.
On 26 and 27 July, the counter-mobilization provided a space and time for dialogue about the threats posed by increasingly corporate-controlled and globalized food systems and the already existing viable solutions to overcome them. An opening declaration summarizing the demands of the process organizing the counter-mobilization - the People’s Autonomous Response to the UNFSS - was officially released. “The Food Systems Summit process was designed to serve a corporate agenda. How do governments accept having their authority and sovereignty taken over by the industry?” questioned Paula Gioia, smallholder food producer and member of La Via Campesina.
On 26 July, three different round tables to unmask the UNFSS and its attempts to open the doors for the corporate capture of food governance and science were organized. “Food Systems are more and more designed to empower companies, not people” said Ali Aii Shatu from the Indigenous Peoples of Africa Coordination Committee (IPACC). The Panels, composed by speakers from social movements, Member States, United Nations and academia challenged the corporate takeover of food systems and echoed a statement shared by hundreds of academics in a recent letter: We don`t need a new Science-Policy-Interface for food. Instead, we should strengthen existing models such as the High Level Panel of Experts (HLPE). In the same line, the International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems (IPES) officially announced its withdrawal from the UNFSS process.
On 27 July, the counter-mobilization continued building momentum with a rich programme of 15 self-organized virtual dialogues on topics ranging from reclaiming Africa’s seed sovereignty, to how agroecology, human rights and food sovereignty are building justice-based alternatives, and how democratization of food systems can prevent corporate control. Shalmali Guttal from Focus on the Global South: “We need more control over corporations, we need strong regulations and prioritize the public interest. We must link food systems to food cultures, not separate them from our society.” Corina Muñoz of the World March of Women spoke to the sentiment of the day when she stated that “Today they tell us what to produce, how to produce and what to eat. We are still under colonial logic. The poorest countries continue to be influenced by the richest in this regard.” Four sessions were dedicated to celebrating people’s vision for reclaiming power and transforming the industrial food systems in Abya Yala (Latin America and the Caribbean), Turtle Island (North America), Africa and Asia.
The counter-mobilization ended with statements from indigenous leaders and representatives of social movements, as well as a mystica ceremony in Zapoteca language. Saúl Vicente of the International Indian Treaty Council closed the session with a message of hope. They wanted to bury us so that we would disappear, but they didn`t know we were seeds.
The People’s autonomous response to the UNFSS is now assessing the outcomes of the Pre-summit and will monitor the process as it unfolds. However, it is already unequivocally clear that the pre-Summit has reached an end without any resolution of the fundamental issues which hundreds of organizations demanded addressing.
Marion Girard, Media officer at the Civil Society and Indigenous Peoples’ Mechanism (CSM) for relations with the UN Committee on World Food Security (CFS) firstname.lastname@example.org
Counter-Mobilization microsite: foodsystems4people.org
Recorded session videos: YouTube channel