Sunday, November 29, 2009

Time to Block Out the Noise

Faced with a global financial meltdown and a food crisis growing out of control, last year the United Nations’ Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) held a World Summit on Food Security. And now, more than a year into the crises and many unmet pledges later, rates of hunger continue to rise.

It is in the backdrop of such resounding failure that the World Summit on Food Security in Rome was held for a second year from November 16th-18th. And again there was a renewed commitment of spending $44 billion a year to end hunger by 2025, but no concrete actions or policies taken from attending rich countries.

According to the FAO’s own numbers, the number of hungry people rose to 1.02 billion people in 2009. And the vast majority of the hungry are those who produce food.

A reason for the continued failure to respond to the crisis is that the World Summit continues to push liberalization policies in the Global South that have consistently impoverished small farmers – and of course does so by shutting out farmers themselves from the official delegations.

Declaring their presence, farmers and others not represented at the Summit came to Rome and held the Peoples’ Food Sovereignty Forum, a parallel Forum to the UN’s Summit. 642 people came to the Forum from 93 countries, representing 450 organisations of peasant and family farmers, small scale fisher folk, pastoralists, indigenous peoples, youth, women, urban dwellers, agricultural workers, local and international NGOs, and other advocates. They met

* to reassert the Right to Food

* to take a firm stance against international institutions like the World Bank and the IMF that privilege commercial interests

* to promote an ecological model of food provision

* to assert farmers’ rights to land in the midst of a huge land grab by transnational companies and regional agribusinesses

* to commit to a strong alliance of organizations, groups, advocates that promote food sovereignty

(Their declaration can be read here:

Unfortunately their Forum was relegated to a distant cry in the face of dizzying World Cup qualification matches. Here in Egypt the World Cup qualification led to violence upon violence, nationalist cries upon nationalist cries, and now a full-on diplomatic war between Egypt and Algeria. The drama has consumed all national concerns, despite the fact that just a couple weeks ago the Agricultural Research Center issued an official report forecasting major losses in agriculture and rural life in the Delta region due to climate change. And in the same speech President Mubarak gave to the People’s Assembly fueling the fire of a diplomatic war with Algeria, little attention was given to the farmer who confronted the President during this speech with the plea, “Mr. President, farmers are suffering.” Again, platitudes were given but no concrete policies.

And will the voices of farmers and the vulnerable be drown out again at the next United Nations Conference, this time, on climate change? What will consume us and block our vision? More football matches? Another celebrity’s death?

The Copenhagen conference will be held from December 7-18, and the TckTckTck coalition and the Global Climate Campaign are organizing a weekend of actions held during the conference to keep the pressure on. and many other organizations (and individuals) will take part in vigils, protests, actions, educational events, and the like in countries all around the world.

Demonstrations that will be held on December 12th are called forth with the following message:
“We demand that world leaders take the urgent and resolute action that is needed to prevent the catastrophic destabilisation of global climate, so that the entire world can move as rapidly as possible to a stronger emissions reductions treaty which is both equitable and effective in minimising dangerous climate change.

We demand that the long-industrialised countries that have emitted most greenhouse gases currently in the atmosphere take responsibility for climate change mitigation by immediately reducing their own emissions as well as investing in a clean energy revolution in the developing world. Developed countries must take their fair share of the responsibility to pay for the adaptive measures that have to be taken, especially by low-emitting countries with limited economic resources.

Climate change will hit the poorest first and hardest. All who have the economic means to act, must therefore urgently and decisively do so.”

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