Social movements statement to the ICN2

Social Movements statement to the Second International Conference on Nutrition ICN2

Rome, 19-21 November 2014 | Social Movements around the world are deeply disappointed in the Second International Conference on Nutrition (ICN2) process and outcome documents that fail to address the fundamental causes of nutrition issues. We fear that many of the proposed solutions at ICN2 will create more threats to nutrition, the environment, sustainability and social justice. We, representing social movements around the world including Women, Youth, Indigenous Peoples (our indigenous elderly woman and men, the youth, boys and girls), Peasants, Workers, Urban Poor, Consumers, Small-scale Farmers, Small-scale Fisher-folks and Fishing Communities, Mobile Pastoralists, and the Landless are strongly concerned that ICN2 neither represents nor reflects the interests and needs of our constituents. Instead, it meets the demands of private sector, including agricultural, food, pharmaceutical and chemical industries, all of whom have played a strong role in exacerbating nutrition and hunger challenges. The private sector is given increasing power and space in policy processes and governance structures, especially at ICN2.

Nutrition cannot be separated from food. The artificial separation of nutrition from food systems (including traditional food systems), health, environment and agriculture that has been encouraged by the neoliberal economic model, has resulted in technical and product-based solutions that ignore economic, environmental, social, health and cultural determinants.

For members of social movements, nutrition also encompasses identity, love, caring, spirituality, and health. Nutrition is more than simply eating. It forms an integral part of the transmission of methods, knowledge, language, ceremonies, dances, prayers, oral histories, stories and songs related to food, subsistence practices. It is also essential to the continued use of traditional foods in our daily diets. We denounce a global food system and international paradigm that is increasingly dominated by transnational and other corporations. They damage the connection between humans and their connection to food and nutrition, and fail to respect human rights obligations.

Development priorities of today’s agribusiness have had negative impacts on nutrition. Monocropping and the use of GMOs (genetically modified organisms) and chemical inputs are poisoning our communities, soils, and water resources. These negative impacts are often irreversible for our environment. The increasing practice of land and ocean grabbing - that also involves lakes, rivers, aquatic resources and indigenous territories - and the damage caused by unregulated expropriation and extractive industries, such as fracking, all damage natural resources, prevents access by our community food producers to their resources, and create barriers to mobility routes.

Real nutrition requires an ecologically sound and socially just food regime that does not promote privatization, and puts the needs of small-scale food producers at the center of solutions. This includes the need for stronger support of fishing communities, both inland and offshore, as well as for mobile pastoralists. We urge States to establish and implement fishing policies that place small-scale fishers and fishing communities at the core of their governance and to care for the oceans, lakes, rivers, aquatic resources and marine ecosystems. We demand an end to corporate enclosures, and that oceans be brought back into the global Commons. Furthermore the lack of respect of the mobility of many producers and their enforced sedentarization, as well as the lack of respect for the communal tenure of their natural resources, and privatization or their destruction of governance structures, have all caused malnutrition and environmental damage that has had irreversible consequences on their productive systems.

Food sovereignty is a prerequisite for food and nutrition security. Food sovereignty is the right of peoples to define their own policies and strategies for sustainable production, distribution, and consumption of food, that respect their own identities and systems of managing natural resources.

The interdependence of a healthy environment, food sovereignty, food security and nutrition cannot be underestimated. We are deeply concerned by the impacts of the agro-industrial model that continue to cause degradation and contamination of our environment, as well as the negative impacts on ecosystems, soil, water and other productive resources. All people have the right to healthy, safe and chemical-free food.

Social movements are alarmed by the explicit exclusion of gender in the outcome documents of ICN2. We emphasize the links between existing threats to reproductive and maternal health, the lack of protection of women and their sexual and reproductive rights, environmental violence and contamination. Women and girls are disproportionately affected by malnutrition, and the realization of the right to adequate food and nutrition. Socio-economic inequalities between men and women have direct impacts on nutrition.

Nutrition starts with women. In many communities women are responsible for much of the food cultivation, harvesting and processing, as well as providing meals for the family, but many lack access to adequate food and nutrition education. We support the inclusion of the issue of breastfeeding at ICN2, not only as a matter of nutrition and early childhood development, but also as central to the traditional and inherent rights of infants and women that have been compromised by discrimination, harassment, and false information about the nutritional value of breast milk versus manufactured, chemically-enriched formula. Breastfeeding represents the very first guarantee of the human right to healthy food and nutrition.

Realizing the right to nutrition is embedded in the implementation of the human rights-based policies that inherently support food sovereignty. We demand a human-rights based approach to nutrition and food as understood through the lens of existing human rights’ obligations, including but not limited to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on Economic and Social Rights, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of the their Families, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

We also demand that States respect and implement policies that align with the Voluntary Guidelines on Securing Sustainable Small-Scale Fisheries and the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Lands, Fisheries and Forests in Context of National Food Security, that have been developed with the full participation of civil society and social movements. It is also imperative that governments engage with the recently created Open-Ended Intergovernmental Working Group on a legally binding instrument on transnational corporations as well as other business enterprises with respect to human rights; and Open-Ended Intergovernmental Working Group at the UN Human Rights Council on the rights of peasants and other people working in rural areas. We stand ready to support governments´ actions in this regard, and call on States to develop and implement all policies and actions with the full participation of social movements.

We urge States and corporations to implement the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, including States’ obligation to protect human rights. the corporate responsibility to respect human rights, and the right to redress for victims of business-related abuse, as well as the full respect of extraterritorial obligations. On this specific issue, we wish to express our deep concern about the contents of the UN Global Compact on business and human rights, and the concept of “corporate social responsibility” which can be manipulated to shield corporations from true accountability with the complicity of States.

The World Trade Organization (WTO) rules violate human rights, and exacerbate hunger and nutrition challenges. The greatest distortions in the trading system lie in agriculture, based on the WTO regime of agricultural subsidies that allow countries to grant considerable subsidies to their own farmers while preventing the same conditions being implemented in developing countries. Moreover, the constraints imposed by regional and bi- or multilateral free trade agreements erode policy space needed to regulate investment, protect small-scale food producers and local markets, and support rural livelihoods.

We express our deep concern at the corporate takeover of food systems, whereby nutrition has become an industry unto itself, creating business and generating profits not through the provision of natural nutritious food, but by replacing it with expensive supplements and overly processed foods that fail to meet the nutritional needs of communities.

The characterization of nutritional “emergencies” in situations of crisis and protracted crises has promoted and reinforced aid programs and “solutions” that tend to be carried out without consulting local communities, and do not meet the real nutritional needs of affected communities. This has the effect of demoralizing and devastating local economies while undermining social movements and potentially creating new conflicts. UN Agencies, donors, NGOs and States must endeavor to understand the consequences of such projects and work towards more integrated solutions and orientations. This is particularly important in light of the current state of refugees and internally displaced persons, and the potential of future natural disasters due in part to climate change and the insufficiency of measures to address climate change.

Weakened governance and corporate capture of policy space is in direct contradiction to the rights-based advocacy of social movements. We note with alarm the ongoing diminishment of governance and governments, and correlated corporate capture of policy space at all levels, particularly evident at ICN2. This includes significant increases in public-private partnerships that frequently result in strengthened corporate lobbies and influence. Furthermore, shrinking space for governments is resulting in a loss of accountability of governments in relation to food, nutrition and other human rights obligations. Corporate capture of policy space respecting nutrition and food poses substantial risks to human and environmental health, social welfare, and the future of agriculture, fisheries and livestock keeping. Public policy must be in the public interest and it’s critical to fully address conflict of interests.

It is necessary for the formal establishment of adequate mechanisms for consumers to have access to healthy fresh foods that comes from small producers. Governments at all levels should implement public procurement policies that source food from local-small scale producers. Local, regional and inter-governmental bodies should promote and defend sustainable food systems by adapting policies that regulate public procurement and not adopt policies that prohibit local procurement.

The role of communications, information and media is vital to the appropriate development of public policies. All information, communications and media from transnational and other corporations requires regulation and monitoring. We demand regulations that prohibit all marketing of unhealthy, ultra-processed products high in sugar, fat and/or salt, including formula milk, and infant and small children’s foods promoted to parents, children and youth. The rights of consumers include adequate information and consumer education free of corporate influence that alerts people to the risks. In this regard, we need more stringent standards in food labeling and food label standardization that address risk versus disclosure of misleading benefits. Labeling must provide greater information that the current minimum standard requirements and disclosures.

We demand a policy space that is inclusive of those who are consistently marginalized, with the appropriate and meaningful participation of all constituents of social movements. These movements reflect our values and objectives and ideas put forward are done so through our own internal processes. We also emphasize that the increasing criminalization of social movements with regard to food and nutrition-related advocacy and protest in many countries, is totally unacceptable.

Civil society work on nutrition should provide space for the meaningful participation of social movements, such as the space created within the CFS. Nutrition is a core pillar of the CFS mandate and nutrition should be mainstreamed in all CFS policy processes. CFS as the inclusive foremost global forum that ensures coherence of food, should fully integrate nutrition policies within the rights-based framework of its work.

We emphasize the fundamental preventive role that nutrition plays in ensuring good health. Food is medicine, but medicine is not food. In poor communities, the lack of access to healthy food combined with a barrage of highly processed food from transnational and other food corporations is fueling the epidemics of obesity, diabetes and other non-communicable diseases. Effectively tackling issues of hunger, malnutrition in all its forms and diet-related diseases would encourage communities to become active participants in shaping food systems in cooperation with local small-scale food producers, and also contribute to food sovereignty.
An adequate standard of living implies conditions to maintain a healthy life. This includes food, water, sanitation, housing, and health. Some of the most adversely affected are the workers that grow, harvest and process food, but lack a living wage to support their own household’s nutrition, food security and quality of life. A core prerequisite to achieving this goal is labour rights and subsequent social protection. There is a clear link between low wages and poor nutrition. The answer is not to give supplements to workers but to ask employers to pay all workers a living wage so that they can buy nutritious food for themselves and their families.

Small-scale food producers including family farmers, Indigenous Peoples, fisher folk and fishing communities, mobile pastoralists and agricultural and food workers should be at the center of any strategy to combat malnutrition, as reinforced by the FAO International Year of Family Farming. In this regard, overcoming socio-economic and environmental challenges and achieving sustainable nutrition in local communities is best served through the promotion and support of small-scale sustainable, agroecological food production linked to local markets.
We imperatively demand the protection of animal breeds, and native and peasant seeds. This includes centers of origin from the invasion and contamination of genetically modified seeds that affect biodiversity and ecosystems, and that affect humanity of the current generation, the unborn and the lives of those to come.

Social movements are well placed tomake positive contributions in the form of best practice in sustainable nutrition based on local resources. Food systems based on indigenous and traditional knowledge can offer both theory and practice, and make important contributions to collective progress towards sustainable food systems and nutrition.

Social movements support the full and equitable enforcement of concepts such as “fair trade” with regard to family farmers. While terms such as “organic” and “fair trade” have been captured through marketing efforts of transnational and other corporations that oblige producers to acquire expensive certification, participatory guarantee systems do just the opposite: .they provide an accessible, respectful and inclusive alternative to small-scale food producers and social movements and are recognized by consumers in many countries.
We, as members of social movements urge States, local governments and authorities to ensure the equitable distribution of food through reformed public policies and improved public distribution systems, such as school meal programmes and maternal infant programme support. Elected officials and civil servants should pay specific attention to meeting the needs of vulnerable populations, including women, children, senior citizens, indigenous peoples and the chronically ill or disabled. Furthermore, education on nutrition and food must be community-driven and capture of education in the areas of nutrition, food, and food systems, often with the complicity of States.

For this and much more that has not been fully expressed by the oppressed and the unheard, we demand our voices echo and resonate in the hearts of people, international communities and Member States.


See also:

CSO Vision Statement | CSO & Social Movements Forum Final Declaration to ICN2

La via Campesina and Urgenci: Nutrition is not for Profit