About the CSM for CFS

The UN Committee on World Food Security (CFS) has placed itself as a key body where global decision and policy making on issues of food and nutrition security are held. After a reform process in 2009, the CFS has worked to become a space that promotes multistakeholder and inclusive dialogue, with a dedicated mechanism for civil society engagement.

The Civil Society Mechanism (CSM) is the largest international mechanism of civil society organizations (CSOs) seeking to influence agriculture, food security and nutrition policies and actions at national, regional and global levels. The CFS provides a platform to engage with governments, UN agencies, private sector and civil society. Each policy area has a dedicated working group within civil society that collects inputs from regional and global constituencies of food producers and food insecure communities, creating a unique space that seeks to place civil society on equal footing with other actors

Habitat International Coalition coordinates the urban food and nutrition constituency within the CSM, currently through Davinder Lamba, HIC president emeritus based in Nairobi, Kenya, and Emily Mattheisen, based at the HIC-HLRN office in Cairo, Egypt. HIC representatives work within this mechanism to ensure that the concerns and needs of urban populations are streamlined in CFS decisions and dialogue.

Annual CSM Forum

Every year prior to the CFS, the CSM holds a forum to discuss priorities, strategies and interventions for the coming CFS session, as well as give space for working groups to meet. This year, the CFS agenda featured several decision boxes and plenary discussions on specific themes. HIC representatives took part in the working group meetings on protracted crises, food losses and waste in the context of sustainable food systems, monitoring, and nutrition and the post-2015 agenda, and future priorities for the CSM.

The government meetings for the Second International Conference on Nutrition (ICN2) took place parallel to the forum. The process and outcomes of that meeting fed into many discussions during the CSM Forum, and the disappointing output created a strong impetus among civil society to streamline nutrition better into the CFS agenda, and to push the CFS Secretariat to stronger take action.

Participants in the CSM Forum came to decisions regarding the next year’s priorities and work streams. The Agenda for Action for Food Insecurity in Protracted Crises has been set as a top priority for the CSM, and efforts to push this issue forward, including a focus on an action plan that includes monitoring and accountability, will be the focus of the working group’s tasks in the coming year. (More information can be found in the Land Times article on this issue.)

The CFS High-level Panel of Experts (HLPE) is in the process of finalizing a report on the issue of water as it relates to food security. Representatives from HIC-HLRN and the organization Focus on the Global South were asked to organize the CSM working group on water in order to follow this issue. Water issues have been a core part of the HIC work in the MENA region and in Latin America, and this working group will provide an opportunity to streamline a more-nuanced human rights-based approaches to water governance and share HIC’s perspective and lessons learned. Recently the HLPE held an e-consultation on the zero-draft of this report, for the HIC input please visit here. HIC will share updates and progress on this work stream.

Committee on World Food Security

During the CFS sessions, HIC was active in working groups, plenary discussions, negotiations, and side events relevant to HIC work globally, and specifically in our efforts within the City-region food systems platform and local authorities.

The discussion on the HLPE report on Food Losses and Waste in the Context of Sustainable Food Systems offered an opportunity for the CFS to place appropriate responsibility on local governments and push for local implementation of policies. The CSM working group spent several late nights negotiating the text of the decision box with member states, and the final version can be found here; civil society interventions during the official CFS plenary can be found here. Among other key “wins” in the decision box, CSM was able to push the CFS to bring the relevant decision making down to the local-authority level, which is a first for CFS, and is a result of many working group members’ dedication to supporting decentralization of power and support to local authorities. CSM also was able to include a reference to multistakeholder governance bodies, which is an idea that can be used and taken forward in other CFS documents and use as a precedent to push for these types of mechanisms, including Food Policy Councils.

The last issue of Land Times featured the “Call for Global Action” for the city-region food systems platform that HIC has been involved in. During the past several months HIC has engaged in meetings and forums to better push this agenda, inter-linking it with our work on the right to the city and local authorities, and included a side event during the CFS. This event brought representatives from HIC, the Milan Food Policy Council, FAO-Food for Cities, IFAD, International Sustainability Unit, and representatives from local governments, among others. From HIC, Davinder Lamba described the work that the Mazingira Institute (Nairobi, Kenya) engages in, focusing on its activities related to agricultural training of urban farmers. He also discussed the current work with the city of Nairobi council to develop polices on urban and peri-urban agriculture and livestock in relation to food security, stressing the importance of working with local authorities on a city-region food systems approach to promote this agenda on a national level.

This event was a great opportunity to further promote the city-region food systems work and vision, and also offered an opportunity to launch the city-region food systems web platform: www.cityregionfoodsystems.org. There you can find background information and the call to global action; materials will be added in the coming year.

Principles on Responsible Agricultural Investment

This year marked the conclusion of a two-year long processes of negotiations between states, UN agencies, the private sector and civil society on the Principles for Responsible Investment in Agriculture and Food Systems (RAI), and the principles were endorsed at this year’s CFS. Although this marked the end of a large process, civil society was not ready to celebrate. The CSM had many issues with the final document which were expressed during the CFS plenary and can be found here. Among these issues was the lack of meaningful inclusion of human rights. The RAI refer to human rights but this is undermined by repeated references that seek to subordinate human rights to trade agreements and rules. Unjust trade rules have removed from governments the resources and policy space needed for responsible investment which can help achieve the Right to Food.

The Principles also reflect a refusal to acknowledge that different production systems have different environmental impacts. This silence allows business as usual for agricultural practices that damage people and the planet, which can now be carried out in the name of responsible agricultural investment. State delegations also attempted to block the inclusion of the principle Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC), which lies at the core of standards to protecting communities. The full CSO statement and video of the intervention on the RAI process can be found here. Overall, a lot of work remains to be done, in order to ensure these principles do not work against the communities whom the CSM represents.

The CFS is held annually in October, but the work is ongoing throughout the year. HIC members are invited to contribute to working groups relevant to their local and regional efforts. HIC representatives will be in contact with members over the next year to work towards greater urban-based participation within the CSM and CFS processes. For more information please email Emily Mattheisen (emattheisen@hic-mena.org) and Davinder Lamba (davinderlamba@gmail.com).