CFS agri investment principles don’t uphold food, land rights - PAN AP

Tuesday 4 November 2014

Date: 15 October 2014

Source: PAN AP

Type: Press Release

Keywords: CFS, responsible agricultural investment

his was how regional advocacy group PAN Asia Pacific (PAN AP) described a set of principles on agricultural investments that the intergovernmental and multi-stakeholder Committee on World Food Security (CFS) is set to endorse today during its 41st annual meeting in Rome.

CFS 41 plenary at the FAO headquarters in Rome (Photo: Gilbert Sape/PAN AP)

The CFS is expected to adopt the Principles for Responsible Investment in Agriculture and Food Systems (or the rai Principles) after two years of negotiations among member-states, private sector, civil society groups and other non-state actors. The CFS is considered as the United Nations’ (UN) central political platform and global decision-making forum dealing with food security, agriculture and nutrition issues.

"At best, the rai Principles is a ’confused’ document. While it claims to be rights-based, it also adheres to policy frameworks that facilitate the systematic violation of human rights such as the WTO (World Trade Organization) agreements and current neoliberal trade and investment regime. While it claims to promote agroecology, it also supports ’sustainable intensification’, which is a euphemism for chemical intensive agriculture," said PAN AP consultant Gilbert Sape.

Sape, who is in Rome for the CFS meeting, added "At worst, the rai Principles is designed to contradict itself in order to legitimize the flawed policies on agricultural investments that are biased against small food producers and favorable to large corporate investors."

Penang-based PAN AP expressed concern that the rights of marginalized rural sectors have been sidelined, if not altogether ignored, in the document that the CFS will adopt. It pointed out that the rai Principles has no categorical provisions against land and resource grabbing being perpetrated by foreign corporations and local elites.

"Clearly, the rai Principles failed to promote the human right to food, land and resources especially of small food producers, including the hundreds of millions of landless tillers in the poor countries," said PAN AP executive director Sarojeni Rengam.

Rengam noted that the preferred use of ’smallholders’ instead of ’small food producers’ in the rai Principles excludes the landless farmers, which according to the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) could reach more than 250 million worldwide.

"If the rai Principles truly intends to become a rights-based document, it must directly recognize the landless because in many developing countries, the lack of access to productive resources such as land provides the material basis for the endless violation of the human rights of most poor rural families," Rengam said.

The PAN AP leader also pointed out that even the supposed recognition given to women’s equal tenure rights and access to and control over resources is token in the context of the rai Principles’ non-acknowledgement of the landless. "Women tend to be more marginalised in terms of access to land and other productive resources. The exclusion of the landless in the rai Principles thus has deep implications for rural women," explained Rengam.

Another major point of concern raised by PAN AP is the right of indigenous peoples to free, prior and informed consent (FPIC). While already in the current document of the rai Principles, Canada is still vehemently objecting to its inclusion. PAN AP consultant Sape said that the blatant refusal of Canada to accept the principle of FPIC is an assault to the rights of indigenous peoples over their territories, resources and culture. "The recognition of FPIC is a must for any principles that truly promote responsible investments in agriculture and food systems," he emphasized.

PAN AP executive director Rengam added that the rai Principles is actually a step backward from what has been already achieved in the struggle for a rights-based approach in advancing food security and overall agricultural development. "At a time when hunger, poverty and landlessness remain as ever pressing concerns, we could not afford to have document like the rai Principles that is not only weak in terms of human rights but can even be used to justify resource grab in the name of trade and investment and further advancing corporate agenda in food and agriculture," said Rengam.

The rai Principles came about after Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) rejected the World Bank-led process on the Principles for Responsible Agricultural Investment (PRAI) during the 36th meeting of the CFS in October 2010. The PRAI was developed by various agencies, including the FAO, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) without broad consultations. It was obviously meant to protect and promote the interests of big corporations and private investors, which are involved in large-scale acquisition and transfer of tenure rights of agricultural lands.

Consequently, the CFS initiated a broad and consultative process to formulate principles that explain and regulate responsible investment in agriculture. The rai Principles aims to "promote responsible investment in agriculture and food systems that contribute to food security and nutrition, thus supporting the progressive realization of the right to adequate food in the context of national food security". ###

References: Ms. Sarojeni Rengam, Executive Director, sarojeni.rengam@panap.net Mr. Gilbert Sape, Consultant on rai, sape.gilbert@gmail.com

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