The United Nations Food Systems Summit, held in New York last month, was “hogwash” and a “threat to peoples’ food sovereignty”.

That’s the view of the international peasants’ movement La Via Campesina, one of a number of social movements that boycotted the summit in the belief that it was more aligned with the wants and aspiration of big agriculture and food production, and dismissive of the concerns and needs of the smallholder farmer.

La Via Campesina says “global food systems must undergo a radical overhaul. Rising hunger, ecological harm from food production, including deforestation, soil degradation, loss of biodiversity, decimated fisheries, polluted waters, growing rural poverty, the continued repression of peasant and indigenous movements worldwide, displacement and climate crises – all point to the need for urgent transformation. The demand to transform the global food system and skew it in favour of small-scale food producers has been a long-standing one, stated first during the Civil Society Forum in Rome in 1996.”

The organisation further believes the summit organisers followed a multi-stakeholder approach as against a multilateral arrangement.

Explaining the difference it says “Multilateral Summits, based on human rights, with transparent decision-making processes and accountability mechanisms, are meant to prioritize the voices of rights-holders and hold governments responsible for upholding those rights.”

But this summit “was based on the multi-stakeholder idea, treating all stakeholders as equal, without considering power imbalances or their position in the system.

“This fiction of equality leaves the powerful both unchallenged and unaccountable, hiding or ignoring any conflicts of interest. By conflating private corporate interests with the public interest, it overrides and erases the latter. To advertise “inclusiveness”, it has proliferated a dizzying array of platforms, dialogues, consultations, committees, documents and forums for participation. Private citizens and governments are being drawn into these processes. Some of these are open, but many are for invited participants, bypassing and undermining autonomous, democratic organizations while favouring hand-picked individuals. The entire process lacks transparency and legitimacy,” says La Via Campesina.

As further proof of the summit’s bias away from small farmer interests, says La Via Campesina, the special envoy appointed for the summit was Agnes Kalibata, president of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (Agra).

However, “this Gates/Rockefeller funded agency is pushing high input, high tech agriculture and GMO seeds. Founded in 2006, this alliance has worked in 13 African countries to increase productivity for 30 million smallholder farming households by encouraging them to adopt industrial farming practices.”

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