The Treaties - 19 - Food Security Treaty

Preamble: Current Policy and Critique

1. Food security is having the means as an individual, family, community, region, or country to adequately meet nutritional needs on a daily and annual basis. It includes freedom from both famine and chronic malnutrition. Food security is best assured when food is locally produced, processed, stored and distributed and is available on a continuous basis regardless of climatic and other variations.

2. Despite significant increases in food production in recent years, food insecurity has increased. Recent estimates by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) place deaths due to hunger-related problems in rural areas of the developing world at more than 15 million for 1990 and about 500 million from the same areas are likely to remain chronically undernourished. Paradoxically, these occurred in spite of dramatic increases in food production.

3. Presently, the world food insecurity problem is a result of an undemocratic and inequitable distribution of and access to resources (such as land, credit, information and incentive), rather than a problem of global food production. As a result, there is a concentration of production in certain regions and in the hands of fewer and fewer intensive producers, to the detriment of the other regions, small scale farmers and local food security.

4. Although hunger can be caused by social or political breakdowns, crop failure or ecological disaster, the main cause of hunger is chronic poverty - a poverty so absolute that its victims possess neither the resources to buy food nor control over the resources needed to produce it.

5. The food security problem is addressed by two approaches - local self-reliance or trade policy. The trade-oriented policy promoted by the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and other bilateral and multilateral agencies does not solve food insecurity but aggravates it.

6. The prevailing export-oriented development strategy has led to numerous problems. These include having four multinational corporations control ninety percent (90%) of world trade in cereals; dependency of developing countries on a few exportable products which are vulnerable to falling commodity prices; wide scale cash crop production at the expense of local food production; and the gradual isolation of small farmers. The current foreign debt load of many developing countries is a deterrent to their food security.

7. Dependency on food imports also leads to numerous difficulties: increased debt and compounding of balance of payment problems; fluctuating external market prices for developing countries, which face a sharp reduction of their import capacity; and increased energy consumption in food transportation. The problems of dependency on food import and food aid include political conditionality, vulnerability to a failure of delivery mechanisms, disincentive to local producers due to decreased food prices, competition with local traditional foods and changed consumption patterns. Additionally, importing countries face vulnerability to drought and political unrest and they have less control over food quality, which requires increased chemicals to preserve the food being transported long distances.

Principles of Food Security

We agree that:

8. Food security is a basic human right. Every person must be assured access to safe, high quality food. To ensure the right of people to feed themselves, food security must be based, to the extent possible, on local self reliance. Food security is best assured where the production, transporting and consumption of local food is a priority and where dependence on food imports is reduced as much as possible, acknowledging that food imports can be necessary to supplement local supplies

9. The attainment of food security is vital to sustainable development. People have the right to the dignity of sustainable self-reliance. National and international trade policy must not be allowed to undermine this right

10. The right to food encompasses not only material aspects such as quantity, quality and access but also the cultural aspects of food. Food production and consumption patterns reflect the environmental, cultural, political and social diversity of communities and societies, and should be respected and promoted. However, non-healthful food consumption patterns should be discouraged. The community should decide for itself what is healthy or unhealthy

11. Just and democratic forms of land ownership, use and access are essential to the creation of sustainable food systems and food security

12. The application of the principles of sustainable agriculture and biodiversity maintains the health of the resource base which is critical to food security

13. The strengthening of people-oriented initiatives in the area of agrarian reform, community organization, development activities and enterprise, can create strong foundations for eventual community control over food related decisions, strategies and economic sustainability

14. Women often play critical roles in food production and have the responsibility for the storage of food and seed. In addition, they provide the cultural bonds in the process of ensuring nutrition, health care and income generation for the family and society at large

15. A full understanding of the ecological, economic and social aspects of agricultural systems is a pre-condition to sustainable agriculture and food security. Well-trained food producers and consumers educated in the principles of food security and sustainable agriculture are essential

16. Insuring food security is an essential and appropriate agricultural policy for governments to pursue. As there is an important difference between agricultural subsidies which encourage overproduction and those which are used to increase local self-reliance, quantitative import restrictions are appropriate for improving food security as long as they are linked to an effective policy that stops overproduction and export dumping

17. The geographic distance between consumers and producers must be as narrow as possible in order to insure food security. A close relationship of mutual understanding between consumers and producers is also essential

18. Special attention must be given to those who are potentially the most food insecure, including indigenous peoples, refugees, displaced persons, the unemployed, the disabled and minority groups

19. Traditional agricultural peoples often possess substantial knowledge about the principles of food security, which are applicable to sustainable production systems

20. Opportunities for exchanges of information, ideas, resources and experiences on the principles of food security can be essential for improving the capacities of those working in this field

21. It is essential for food security that farmers receive fair income from sustainable agriculture by internalizing the environmental and social costs in all agriculture.

Food Security Action Plan

We non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and social movements agree to:

22. Advocate for food security to be a central objective in the agricultural and food policies of local and national governments, intergovernmental agencies, NGOs and community groups

23. Encourage intra-regional trade in food products in both primary and processed forms to increase diversification in food production within countries and to improve regional food security

24. Work within our communities to develop mechanisms to reduce as much as possible the distance between producer and consumer

25. Work within our communities to ensure the viability of small and family farms and the diversity of products and production practices

26. Establish community buffer stocks of seed and food

27. Actively promote democratic and just forms of land ownership and land tenure systems, including community control over land use, access and ownership, as well as water resources, and over food related decisions and strategies

28. Advocate for national and local governmental agencies, intergovernmental organizations and NGOs to give priority to integrating women's roles into mainstream agricultural development and other agricultural activities, and to empowering women's capacities by ensuring their access to such resources as land, credit, appropriate technology and education

29. Work to promote infrastructure facilities such as transportation, storage, communications, water and energy to enhance the capacities of women and men, enabling them to participate fully in the economic activities of the community leading to food security

30. Promote traditional knowledge and practices of sustainable agriculture, biodiversity and food security strategies and techniques (such as beneficial seeds and plants) and policies which preserve and reinforce that knowledge and those practices

31. Establish research programs, especially participant-oriented (that is, involving the participation of those who may be affected by or benefit from the research), to identify successful food security policies and practices

32. Develop educational and training programs (especially on site) for food producers and consumers in the principles of food security, sustainable agriculture and nutrition

33. Establish regional and international mechanisms (e.g. networks, institutions, cooperative agreements) among farmers' groups, environmental and development NGOs, consumer advocates and other concerned groups and individuals to implement these and other food security actions

34. Identify funding sources for these actions and actively seek funds from those sources

35. Advocate for financial assistance programs to make food security a top priority and to allocate sufficient resources accordingly

36. Support efforts to deal with critical environmental threats to food security in such areas as global climate change, loss of biodiversity, biotechnology, deforestation, soil loss, desertification, misuse of chemical inputs, population growth and overconsumption

37. Advocate for food security becoming a central objective of trade policies - especially in the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) - including the right of countries and regions to regulate imports in order to achieve food security as long as it is linked to effective systems that prohibit overproduction and export dumping

38. Promote funding priorities that lead, insofar as possible, to independently sustainable food security systems

39. Ask our governments and multilateral institutions supporting structural adjustment policies to withdraw their support to measures and mechanisms, including commodity boards, which halt and undermine food security in developing countries rather than promote it

40. Promote the concept that farmers receive fair income from sustainable agriculture by internalizing the environmental and social costs in all agriculture.

© 2001 by Ulrich Schmitthenner • Bildschirm-Version