According to Action Against Hunger, in 2021, as many as 811 million people go hungry around the world.
The United Nations hosted a Food Systems Summit (UNFSS) on 23 September 2021 as part of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) including, ending hunger and to combat climate change by 2030.
It aimed to bring global awareness to the fact that we all must work together to transform the way the world produces, thinks about and consumes food. It is a summit for everyone, everywhere – a people’s summit.
However, in April this year, an array of scientists, researchers and social movements who work in agriculture and food systems issued an open call to boycott the event.
The reason for the boycott was due to the fact the summit’s agenda was set by the UN secretary-general in close partnership with the World Economic Forum, a private sector organisation representing global corporate interests.
Those who boycotted the summit believe there is no way corporate shareholders and food workers (that have historically opposed interests and hold different levels of power over the current food system) can agree on a new global food system.
Opposing groups joined the “People’s counter-mobilisation to transform corporate food systems”. The alternative forum was held from 25-28 July 2021. It was successful in drawing together a variety of attendees, amplifying a counter-narrative to the official proceedings, getting coverage of major media outlets like BBC and Al Jazeera and reaching the public with its vision for genuine transformation of unsustainable food systems.
However, the mobilisation was not successful in their demands on fundamental issues, like binding rules to force agribusiness corporations to respect human rights and protect the environment, end pesticide use, and end their monopoly over the global seed market to name a few.
The summit went ahead, and corporations still had a large influence on the agenda.
Michael Fakhri, the UN’s Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, who acted as an independent official advisor to the summit’s process came away critical of the summit.
“All they [said] was, ‘everyone needs to be part of the solution’. The same people that cause the problem were invited to be part of the solution,” said Fakhri.