Finding [a][our] Voice?

 By Pablo Aguilera Del Castillo

FAO, Rome

Day One 


6:30 am. I wake up and get ready for the first day at the conference with the other people in the civil society group, also called the Civil Society Mechanism for the CSF or the Committee on World Food Security. I start revising the background documents with a cappuccino in hand as I wait for the rest of the delegation to come to the lobby of the hostel. A number of conflicts start to become apparent as I go through the various documents prepared by the World Bank, the CFS, Civil Society, and the High Level Panel of Experts. Some people have filled their recommendations for policy with the words “market efficiency” over and over again, while some others see government action as the main tool to address food insecurity in the world. Are the invisible hand and the leviathan our big hopes? How can we make sure that no one goes hungry again?

8:30 am. We arrive at the FAO next to the metro station Circo Massimo. We start to see several new faces entering the building and among all the unknown faces we see Khristian’s at the entrance (my co-year from COA working at the FAO). It’s pouring rain and as we are soaked young students discovering a new world we pass security and get to the reception. After my ‘grazie mille’ to a man in the entrance I get a response in Spanish ‘Hola, ¿De dónde viene?’. The man asking the question is an employee from Chile who is excited to keep coming across people from latin america. It might be the result of the new Director General of the FAO, Graziano Da Silva from Brazil, but the presence of latin america in this forum becomes more and more evident as we navigate the halls and corridors of the building hearing words of Italian, French, Spanish, English, and Portuguese.

9:15 am. The conference finally starts. First we hear the opening addresses by the Director General of the FAO and the Chairperson in the Committee of World Food Security. Graziano Da Silva gives a short but strong introductory speech: “The world has advanced a lot in its economic processes thanks to globalisation, but it has not done so well in the areas of food security or food systems… in fact we need a strong mechanism of global governance for food security, the CFS.” Finally, he closes his speech with a story about hunger, poverty, and voices in Brazil, controversially, he finishes his intervention declaring that “Those who are hungry do not have a voice, hunger speaks for them, you are the voice of those who do not have a voice.” Are we really? Can anyone ever really speak for those whose voice has been silenced or ignored?

10:00 am. The most open space in the FAO, a multi-actor policy space, the most inclusive space, a full and active role for civil society: the CFS. Civil Society starts trying to define a position on Responsible Agriculture, and while moving through the various opinions presented at the plenary, Spanish, English, and French accents resonate in my mind as I keep thinking of that one statement. Civil Society is organising their position, a representative from the indigenous people stands up and addresses the floor: “We have kept raising our voices again and again, yet every time we get to speak, the governments and some NGOs ignore us, they simply erase us from the documents, from the resolutions, and from their agendas.” The conversations go on and new voices come up as some others change or disappear.


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