Will CFS pre­vent pend­ing COVID-19 hunger cri­sis?

Iran Daily - - Society - By Michael Fakhri*

All eyes have been on the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion dur­ing the COVID-19 pan­demic. The coro­n­avirus, how­ever, has not only cre­ated a med­i­cal emer­gency, it has also brought the world to the edge of a hunger cri­sis.

School clo­sures ev­ery­where mean that an in­creas­ing num­ber of chil­dren across the world no longer have ac­cess to free school meals and are go­ing hun­gry. Es­sen­tial food work­ers in the fields, fac­to­ries and mar­kets, are be­ing forced to put their health at risk be­cause their em­ploy­ers are not pro­vid­ing safe work­places and their gov­ern­ments are not pro­vid­ing ad­e­quate sup­port dur­ing the pan­demic.

With­out healthy work­ers, we can­not have a sta­ble sup­ply of food. Parts of the food sys­tem are also a pub­lic health haz­ard. For ex­am­ple, meat­pack­ing plants around the world have fos­tered the pan­demic, spread­ing the virus to nearby com­mu­ni­ties.

Where then should we look to find the po­lit­i­cal will and pol­icy tools nec­es­sary to avoid a world hunger cri­sis?

The UN Com­mit­tee of

World Food Se­cu­rity (CFS) in Rome is best suited to shape the global re­sponse to the pan­demic’s dev­as­tat­ing ef­fects on food se­cu­rity. Fol­low­ing its es­tab­lish­ment in 1974, the CFS was a use­less “talk shop” for decades. But it was re­vamped af­ter the 2008 world food price cri­sis. Since then, the CFS has be­come the pre-em­i­nent global venue where gov­ern­ments, in­ter­na­tional agen­cies, the pri­vate sec­tor, and civil so­ci­ety co­or­di­nate their ef­forts to tackle hunger and mal­nu­tri­tion.

To­day, how­ever, it is not clear whether it will be able to adapt again and hold on to this im­por­tant role.

The CFS is in the process of de­cid­ing what it can do to stave off the hunger cri­sis. It is try­ing to de­ter­mine how it can adapt it­self to the post-pan­demic world and what role it can play in the global coro­n­avirus re­sponse.

Ul­ti­mately, it has two op­tions: It will ei­ther just be a place where gov­ern­ments share na­tional pol­icy re­sponses, or it will act as a fo­rum that can fos­ter global co­op­er­a­tion and co­or­di­nated ac­tion against COVID-19’S bru­tal ef­fects.

Not only is the CFS the most in­clu­sive in­ter­gov­ern­men­tal in­sti­tu­tion ad­dress­ing global food pol­icy, but it is one of the few such bod­ies that pri­or­i­tize a hu­man rights-based ap­proach. Through the Civil So­ci­ety and Indige­nous Peo­ples’ Mech­a­nism (CSM), vul­ner­a­ble com­mu­ni­ties have an ef­fec­tive seat at the CFS ta­ble. The CSM is an au­tonomous space that al­lows dif­fer­ent so­cial move­ments, Indige­nous peo­ples, la­bor unions, and ad­vo­cacy or­ga­ni­za­tions to work to­gether and shape the CFS’S poli­cies.

A hu­man rights ap­proach does not just mean pro­tect­ing vul­ner­a­ble peo­ple. A hu­man rights ap­proach means plac­ing vul­ner­a­ble com­mu­ni­ties at the cen­ter of pol­icy re­sponses, en­sur­ing that their de­mands are heard and ad­dressed by gov­ern­ments, and grant­ing them as much power as pos­si­ble to de­ter­mine their own fu­ture.

Some gov­ern­ments are not will­ing to adopt a rights-based ap­proach or co­or­di­nate their poli­cies with oth­ers, and there­fore re­luc­tant to re­spond to the pan­demic through the CFS. Be­cause of this, there is a real chance that the CFS will slip back to be­ing just a place where gov­ern­ments share in­for­ma­tion and do noth­ing.

If it is not al­lowed to fa­cil­i­tate an ef­fec­tive and broad re­sponse to the food cri­sis trig­gered by the pan­demic, the CFS will lose its pop­u­lar le­git­i­macy. This would be a shame, as, with­out the CFS, the world will be left with­out a sin­gle space where all voices are heard and global food pol­icy is en­acted in the spirit of col­lab­o­ra­tion.

* Michael Fakhri is the UN spe­cial rap­por­teur on the right to food. This ar­ti­cle was first pub­lished in al­jazeera.com.

ES­TE­BAN FELIX/AP Demon­stra­tors clash with the po­lice dur­ing a protest de­mand­ing food aid from the govern­ment amid the coro­n­avirus pan­demic, in San­ti­ago, Chile, on May 18, 2020.

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