ICYMI | What is wrong with the UN Food Systems Summit?

Graphics by Dawn Cecilia Peña / Bulatlat


MANILA — The United Nations Food Systems Summit (UN FSS) took place last week virtually and in New York. Advocates of food sovereignty, peasant rights and the enviroment held their own Global People’s Summit (GPS) on Food Systems as a way to counter the “global corporate food empire.”

But what exactly were they protesting about? Bulatlat listed some of the highlights:

Demolition of fishing communities in the Philippines

In the Philippines, fishing communities led by Pamalakaya held a die-in protest at the Department of Environment and Natural Resources against the looming demolition of mussel farms along the stretch of coastal communities in Cavite province.

Read: 15k fisherfolk, mussel growers gain initial victory over halting of demolition

15k fisherfolk, mussel growers gain initial victory over halting of demolition

“If we are to transform food systems for the benefit of food producers, the UN FSS must address the issue of land and resource grabbing by big corporations. Governments like that of Duterte’s, which are hell-bent on destroying sources of food and livelihood in the name of profit, must be stopped,” said Ronnel Arambulo, Pamalakaya spokesperson.

Read: Landlords, corporations, still control vast tracts of agricultural lands – farmers 

Read: #UndoingDuterte | Food remains out of reach for the poor 

International groups behind the GPS that are based in the Philippines also stood in solidarity with Filipino fisherfolk in their goal to tackle the core problem of neo-liberal attacks on people’s right to food and to produce food.

“We in the GPS believe that only farmers, not corporations, have the power to genuinely change our food systems. The hungry and marginalized are hungry for change!” said global coordinator of the International Indigenous People’s Movement for Self- Determination and Liberation (IPMSDL) Beverly Longid.

Worsening hunger amid the pandemic

Led by the Front Perjuangan Rakyat (FPR), Aliansi Gerakan Reforma Agraria and International League of Peoples’ Struggle Indonesia, workers, peasants, youth, and urban poor slammed policies that worsen hunger amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a report published by the World Food Programme, rising unemployment among formal and informal workers in Indonesia due to the pandemic is leading to a declining purchasing power, subsequently increasing the risk of food insecurity and malnutrition in the medium- to long-term.

Aside from unemployment, import dependency for certain commodities proved to be a difficulty for the country’s national food balance.

“According to the Government, as of end April 2020, several provinces were estimated to have a deficit of food commodities, including rice, maize, sugar, chili, garlic, red onion (shallots), and eggs, as they are not (major) producers of these commodities,” the report said.

Collective cultivation

During the Indonesian National Food Systems Dialogues held in April 2021, stakeholders focused on a comprehensive exploration of food systems and the requisites for its transformation to an affordable and nutritionally balanced diet for all. It was agreed then, that advancing equitable livelihoods was key to attain the goal of food system transformation.

“In advancing equitable livelihood, there is a need to ensure community access to agrarian resources such as land, capital, and information. The group agreed that strengthening institutional capacity, such as farmers and fisheries corporations, is important. The discussion identifies the importance of inclusive business and access to finance for small-scale producers as well as an equitable value chain of food production,” the report read.

Further, the importance of boosting nature-positive production was recognized to ensure diversification and regionalization of food systems.

“The participants in the group agreed that forms of sustainable agriculture practices such as agroecology and climate-smart agriculture are driving forces to boost nature-positive production. Support on promoting agroforestry as an approach to sustainable utilization of marginal land is needed, with the objective to integrate agriculture and conservation,” the report added.

However, five months after the dialogue, organizations expressed their concern over the still lacking people-led agroecology and localization of food systems partnered with the brute force of authorities in extinguishing their pleas for people’s food sovereignty.

According to FPR coordinator Rudi HB Daman, the arrest of eight activists in Jakarta is a prime example of how power relations are at play when it comes to food systems. “How are we assured that the UN FSS will hear our demands when political repression, like this very experience, is not even discussed as an issue in our current food systems?” he said.


The International Indigenous Peoples Movement for Self Determination and Liberation echoed the sentiments of Daman. Global coordinator Beverly Longid said, “The arrest of Indonesian activists only exposes how governments and big corporations serve the hungry and marginalized sector who are demanding for a just, equitable, healthy, and sustainable food system.”

She explained that these repressive actions only push them – the rural communities, Indigenous Peoples, poor peasants, farmers, and fisherfolks – to unite and amplify their calls for food sovereignty.

Read: UN Food Systems Summit told to present ‘actionable, pro-people and pro-planet alternative’ to food systems

“We are protesting precisely this kind of suppression of the people’s will. The world is watching. We hope that the Indonesian authorities realize that arresting people for joining a global action to assert the people’s right to food and development amid worsening hunger will only bring them condemnation and shame,” said Razan Zuayter, global co-chairperson of PCFS, on behalf of the GPS Organizing Committee.

The Indonesian activists were released from detention, Sept. 23, following the global outrage.(JJE)  (https://www.bulatlat.com)

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