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September 23, 2021

Today, the United Nations is convening its one-day, virtual Food Systems Summit (UNFSS) – and hundreds of civil society organizations and movements are boycotting it. Bizarrely, the organizers are calling it a “People’s Summit,” which is absurd since the “people” won’t even be there. Rather, the UNFSS has centered corporate interests instead of the voices of those who produce most of the world’s food, particularly small-scale food producers, indigenous communities, and women in the Global South.

Here are a few reasons why we’ve joined the boycott:

  • The UNFSS has privileged the wrong voices, namely powerful corporations and governments, instead of the farmers, workers, and communities who are on the frontlines and have a human right to food.
  • It is asking the wrong questions – how to produce more and more food in the face of climate change – when we should be asking how we can better share the abundant food we already produce, while also transforming food production to be ecological.
  • And it will come up with the wrong “solutions,” encouraging corporate-controlled, high-tech schemes that will continue to drive more unsustainable agriculture and consumption, instead of recognizing that simple, cost-effective technologies that work for poor communities are how we will end hunger and stave off the catastrophic climate emergency.

Unfortunately, this wrong-headed approach will only continue, as the organizers of the UNFSS and the corporations and powerful governments that back them are trying to take control of the global debate on the future of food and agriculture.

That is why we need to get more groups organized and ready to participate at the global level than ever before.

We’re excited to launch a new publication today — “Food Connects Us All” – Grassroots Voices from North America on the Importance of Building Agroecology, Fighting for Policy, and Joining Global Struggles — that highlights the voices of grassroots, rural leaders from the U.S. who are already engaged in the global fight for agroecology and food sovereignty.

In this publication, we hear why their rural communities need a transition to agroecology – a new food system based on ecological principles and based in equity and community justice.

They also talk about why getting involved in the global fight for agroecology, alongside global movements, is so important to them. They recognize that global policy change can create new opportunities to put pressure on the U.S. government here at home and can give new legitimacy to the work that communities have been doing for a long time.

They also note that it is particularly critical for grassroots organizations based in the U.S. to get involved in global movements and in policy fights. Not only is the U.S. government one of the main drivers of the agribusiness-centered food system, but U.S. grassroots organizations – and U.S. people more generally – have been discouraged from participating at the UN because it is seen as ineffective and overly technical.

But when grassroots organizations go to the UN, and especially the UN Committee on World Food Security – where social movements have a strong voice – they realize that communities around the world see the UN as a critical space for getting their rights, and they see that the US government takes these spaces very seriously and fights back against what movements and communities advocate.

We hope that this publication will be a resource for grassroots organizations to get involved in these global issues and for large NGOs like ActionAid to work to get more grassroots leaders to fight on these issues and take it to the global level.

To meet this enormous challenge, we will need to organize and join together to raise our voices at the global level, pushing back against this corporate-driven Food Systems Summit and demanding that the UN return to its founding commitment to human rights, which requires that the “holders” of human rights be at the center of policy-making.