The UN Food Systems Summit (UN FSS) will be held in September 2021 and aims to launch bold actions to deliver progress on all 17 Sustainable Development Goals, each of which relies to some degree on healthier, more sustainable and equitable food systems. However, Slow Food, together with the Civil Society Mechanism (CSM) and many other organizations of civil society, has decided to decline any formal involvement in the Summit process because of a series of concerns around undue corporate influence, a missing human rights grounding and a lack of transparency in the process.
In this Terra Madre Food Talk released earlier today, Alberta Guerra, member of the CSM, explains which are these concerns and what the Civil Society Mechanism for relations with the United Nations Committee on World Food Security together with many other civil society organizations (including Slow Food) is currently doing to challenge the Summit, to denounce the corporate capture and to propose solutions to ensure the right of food for all, including agroecology and the respect of the rights of peasants. The voices of those most affected are not effectively included in the UNFSS process: as a result, the legitimacy of the process and any outcomes of the Summit are strongly compromised.
Slow Food has been invited to be actively involved in the process leading up to the United Nations Food Systems Summit (UN FSS) in 2021. However, after exchanges with the UN Food Systems Summit secretariat, Slow Food has decided to decline any formal involvement in the UN FSS process. This is due to the fact that the way in which the preparations for the Summit have evolved has increased our concerns, as it does not correspond to a rights-based, legitimate and inclusive multilateral policy process. What does this mean?
- The Summit is not building on the legacy of past World Food Summits, which resulted in the creation of innovative, inclusive and participatory governance mechanisms with the goal of realizing the right to adequate food for all;
- The Summit was convened by a unilateral decision of the UN Secretary General shortly after he signed a partnership agreement with the World Economic Forum, while the previous Food Summits were convened through an intergovernmental decision.
- The appointment of Agnes Kalibata, the current President of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) as Special Envoy and the role assigned to the private sector confirm the undue influence of the corporate sector on the Summit;
- Multistakeholderism is the form of governance sponsored by the Summit: instead of recognizing Governments as duty bearers and people as right holders, the Summit promotes a new governance with a prominent role for the corporate sector, without taking into account the power imbalance, conflicts of interest, and the lack of accountability of these actors.
Slow Food has engaged in direct discussions with the UN FSS secretariat and has expressed concerns about the UNFSS in a letter addressed to the UNSG signed by more than 500 organizations and another letter sent to the CFS Chair and signed by more than 200 organizations, but we have not received an effective response from their side. Therefore, we decided to join the Open Call for Civil Society and Indigenous Peoples’ Engagement to respond to the UN Food Systems Summit launched by the CSM , who share a common vision of a true transformation of the food systems and a re-alignment with the utmost imperatives of people and planet:
“The fundamental premise of the UNFSS should be that of fostering a holistic and systemic approach that recognises the multidimensional nature of food (social, economic, ecological, cultural and political), asserts food sovereignty (the right of Peoples, nations and states to define their own food systems) and reclaims food systems as public commons that cannot be left to market-based solutions: not only does this require full peoples’ participation and sovereignty, but it also places the wellbeing of people, peoples and the planet at the centre“. 
The joint response of the Civil Society Mechanism
We believe that the need to radically transform unhealthy, unjust and unsustainable food systems towards food systems based on human rights and shaped around food sovereignty and agroecology is more urgent than ever, as well as the discussion on how to achieve this. However we are skeptical about the Summit being the right table to find solutions because of the highly problematic issues of power, participation, and accountability (i.e. how and by whom will the outcomes be delivered) remain unresolved.
This way, we continue to make the voice of those most affected by hunger, malnutrition and ecological destruction heard through our grassroots projects and events such as Terra Madre and we will join the Peoples’ mobilization organised by the CMS and the other organisations that share a common a vision of future food systems that emphasizes the multifunctional role of agriculture and its environmental and social impacts and recognizes agroecology as the paradigm for transforming food systems. Here is an extract from the letter collective letter co-signed by nearly 550 organizations worldwide:
“Against this background, we invite other movements, networks and organizations which are concerned with food and its multiple connections with other essential domains of our lives, and are denouncing corporations’ efforts to undermine human rights, disrupt territories and communities, and capture legitimate democratic spaces for private interests, to join us in building a collective process to challenge the UN FSS… The intention is to build convergence between efforts focused on responding to the threats posed by the Food Systems Summit and other processes targeting global policy spaces which are equally threatened by corporate capture and the destructive attacks of populist nationalism.” 
Stay tuned to know more about the Peoples’ mobilization to call for a radical transformation of the food systems!
References & Useful Links
- UN Food Systems Summit 2021: Dismantling Democracy and Resetting Corporate Control of Food Systems
- Open Call for Civil Society and Indigenous Peoples’ Engagement to respond to the UN Food Systems Summit
- Transforming Global Food Systems – Jose Graziano da Silva on the Path to Zero Hunger
- CSM Letter to the CFS Chair on Food Systems Summit