The CFS + Nutrition: A Sticky Situation

by Jace Viner //

The time had finally come, and before I knew it, I found myself tucked away on a seat on a massive jet plane. I’m squeezed in between the window and a director of food for some swanky hotel in Boston. We talk about why I’m going to Rome and his job, and the way the CFS and his company interact in certain aspects. Most of the conversation I was nodding my head in agreement, trying not to argue my point about how important supporting local food producers is, and he spent a lot of time explaining that Cisco makes it much easier to supply for a hotel full of guests. I was tired and nervous for my flight, so I didn’t spend much time entertaining that idea and quickly went back to reading. It reached the point in my flight where they were handing out strange dinners with everything wrapped in plastic, and though I knew it was too late to eat, I ate some pasta and sipped water out of a tiny plastic container – think about the way applesauce is packaged. Soon I was watching the lights of Ireland below create gold veins across the deep, green land, fell asleep as the sun rose on the flight into Italy, and boarded a train that sped me into a city where Italian words began to wash over my ears.

After a day of confusion, since all the streets appear exactly the same, I found myself seated in the first Civil Society plenary meeting, listening through an earpiece as people began to talk about all things food policy related. These people within Civil Society are absolutely brilliant – I have never met more passionate and intellectually inspiring human beings in my life! I quickly found myself to be completely overwhelmed by all this knowledge, and I am astounded by how much they know (where do they find the time to learn all of this?).

After a few larger body meetings, the group divided into specific workstream meetings, and I opted for the Right to Food and the Nutrition/Post2015 (ICN2) meetings.

The Post2015 Agenda and Nutrition meeting mainly discussed what was happening in the ICN2 conference across the lounge. The Second International Conference on Nutrition (ICN2) finally met with Civil Society (CSM) to negotiate a political declaration and framework for action, but these negotiations were mainly stalled by the US and Canada. Flavio Valente reported that the most critical paragraphs have been deleted because a consensus between governments and non-state actors could not be reached. Instead of debating until an agreement, they simply decided to disregard crucial paragraphs. These paragraphs regarded issues on national sovereignty and the right to development because countries agreed these topics are not linked to nutrition; the US then blocked the definition of cultural foods “due to trade.” Negotiators also spent hours discussing what the nature of the framework will actually be – a document of government declaration or a technical document? Finally, they decided it was simply a technical document, so it is not fully endorsed by governments.

Negotiators decided to keep the original text. For example, delegations decided not to change the term ‘small-scale farmers’ to ‘small-scale producers’ leading to more exclusion, Valente stated that “arguments [were] always falling on deaf ears.” Since the CSM was invited to participate, they were grouped as non-state actors, along with the Private Sector Mechanism (PSM). A CSM-like mechanism is necessary in Changes proposed by the CSM were taken as “good suggestions,” but such a conference since civil society is most affected by malnutrition and hunger, but not with such a conflict of interest. The CSM insists on no medical nutrition solutions, and to make people and the right to adequate food (RtAF) at the center of attention. CSM argues that nutrition should be a discussion of the Committee on World Food Security (CFS), and that this conference is only leading to more separation and division of food and nutrition. The CSM is requesting that governments coordinate this process, with a multi-stakeholder platform with a safeguard to protect conflicts of interest (this is currently not in place); policy coherence, in order to include human rights, the right to food, and food security along with nutrition; coordination with the CFS, but governments decided not to include the CFS in the conference.

If you don’t embed nutrition into the model of production, you don’t have nutrition! The current food system is excluding nutrition, which is a major cause of malnutrition and obesity, due to the lack of food, ultra-processed foods, and cheap foods. The ICN2 also disregards the link of gender inequality and poverty to malnutrition. This is mainly due to the influence of large corporations from key countries (hello, US and Canada) on decision-making, causing a deregulation in favor of transnational corporations, along with a corporate market in malnutrition. We must reclaim these public institutions, disempower large corporations, and reclaim our power as civil society in order to fight for nutrition, the right to food, and food security – these are all basic human rights that should not be up for debate!

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