The extent of today’s global food crisis has only made our call for radical food systems transformation more urgent and imperative.
Last year saw hunger figures and food prices soar to an alarming level, the highest in the past decade. Yet these record-breaking figures only garnered global attention as being part of a bigger crisis after the start of the Russia-Ukraine war, which has been largely blamed for the crisis. It is said to have been caused by disruptions to the global value chain, which has been the narrative ever since the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic and its accompanying restrictions on movement, and further amplified by the Ukraine conflict.
The situation is worst in war-torn and occupied territories, as the risk of famine is at an all-time high, threatening 49 million people in 46 countries—a 20% increase from the past year. Meanwhile, the number of people already experiencing starvation and acute malnutrition increased by 28% in the same period to 750,000 in five countries.
Behind this food crisis are the neoliberal policies that have aggravated the structural roots of hunger and poverty—the real culprits. The unprecedented pandemic and the impacts of climate change have been exploited to push for more neoliberal reforms that only serve corporate profit and imperialist interests.
Big capitalist countries, their transnational corporations, international finance institutions, and other supporting actors have posed as our heroes, while continuing to promote the systematic expansion of the same techno-fixes and market-based approaches that have further impoverished the world’s rural peoples. Issues manifesting the structural flaws of the prevailing neoliberal and corporate-controlled food systems are downplayed and the powers-that-be continued to enjoy zero accountability. Worse, food sovereignty and agroecology – born out of decades of the people’s struggles for just and sustainable food systems – are being hijacked and distorted to legitimize the neoliberal agenda.
We have seen this in the many recent intergovernmental arenas, as the transformation of food systems was put in the spotlight as key to achieving the off-track 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development – so much so that the United Nations Food Systems Summit (UNFSS) was organized in 2021.
These are the issues confronting the rural peoples of the world and the People’s Coalition on Food Sovereignty (PCFS) as it convenes its 5th General Assembly this year.
On 28 October 2018, PCFS held its 4th General Assembly (GA) in Surat Thani province, Thailand with the theme “Defend Our Victories! Assert Peoples’ Rights to Land, Water, and Food!” The GA approved the Coalition’s General Program of Action (GPOA) for 2018-2021, which encapsulated the Coalition’s major resolutions and campaigns. These are built on the successes and advances of the Coalition’s fifteen years, in a bold march to defend victories in our struggle.
PCFS was able to launch vibrant campaigns in support of local movements’ struggles for food, land, and life and raise these as regional and international concerns. These include the fight against landgrabs and the increasing domination of agriculture by agrochemical TNCs in Asia; the continuing struggle against famine, wars, and occupation in West Asia-North Africa; the call to stop the killings of farmers and land rights defenders in LAC and in the Philippines; and the campaign for people-led rural development and agroecology in Africa.
Among the successful campaigns of the Coalition and its members are the closure of Chinese landgrabber Hengfu in Cambodia, the consistent support for the call to free Palestine, the fight against the commercialization of Golden Rice, and the land occupations in the Philippines, India and Thailand.
The Coalition has been consistently raising the alarm on the current food crisis while tackling the current state of landlessness, hunger, and political repression in the yearly commemorations of the Day of the Landless (March 29), World Hunger Day (October 16), and International Human Rights Day (December 10).
These efforts, among many others, resulted in major organizational gains for the Coalition.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020, PCFS developed the Nine Demands for Food and Rights. These were further developed and broadened on World Hunger Day 2020, when the #Hungry4Change campaign was launched. It is an ongoing initiative of the Coalition and its network to develop actionable, pro-people, and pro-planet alternatives to radically transform the food systems.
Central to the #Hungry4Change campaign are the Four Critical Pillars to address the roots of hunger—later to be called the “Four Pillars of Food Systems Transformation”:
- Food sovereignty and democracy at the core of food and agricultural policies;
- Agroecology and sustainability in production, distribution, and consumption;
- People’s right to land, production, and resources; and
- People’s right to adequate, safe, nutritious, and culturally-appropriate food.
As part of the #Hungry4Change campaign, PCFS and 21 other global and regional networks and formations organized the Global People’s Summit (GPS) on Food Systems, the people’s movements’ counter-summit to the corporate-led UNFSS. The GPS campaign, which culminated on September 21-23, 2021, drew attention to the voices and demands of marginalized rural peoples, especially from the Global South.
PCFS 5th General Assembly
To build on its gains in the past four years and effectively confront the challenges facing rural peoples and their movements amid the global food crisis, the PCFS is convening its 5th General Assembly.
The theme “Advance the movement for people’s food sovereignty, defeat neoliberalism, and radically transform our food systems!” gives emphasis to the strengthening of rural peoples movements at the grassroots level, which will be encapsulated in the General Plans of Action of the Coalition for the next three years (October 2022 to 2025). This is because the backbone of the Coalition’s work at the global level comes from the collective strength of members working locally for the promotion of people’s food sovereignty and opposing neoliberalism. Our vision of the radical transformation of our food systems can only be built through these struggles on the ground.
It is worth noting that the timeframe of the Coalition’s plans to be tackled in this General Assembly includes its 20th anniversary in 2024.
The 5th General Assembly is slated from October 18 to 19, 2022 in Uganda, Eastern Africa, with the leaders of the Coalition gathered physically in Kampala and the rest of its membership joining online via Zoom. This will be held back-to-back with the Rural Peoples Conference on Land, Hunger, and Climate happening from October 17 to 18. ###