Share The World's Resources attends the UN Commission on Sustainable Development
In light of the escalating food and climate crises, Share The World's Resources participated in the Commission for Sustainable Development (CSD) at the UN headquarters as governments, international agencies and NGOs negotiated a common position for agricultural reform.
With a billion people now reported to be living in hunger and a further billion malnourished, the role of agriculture in securing food needs sustainably should arguably be the most pressing concern for international governments.
As part of a new Poverty and Hunger Program and an upcoming report on food security, STWR participated in the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD), which convened in New York between the 4th and 15th of May 2009. The current session focussed on a number of themes including agriculture, climate change and rural development, and was the 17th in a series of multi-stakeholder consultations on sustainability issues that began with the ‘Earth Summit' in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 1992. The outcome of the Rio summit was a progressive programme for creating a more sustainable future, as extensively detailed in its frequently cited outcome report ‘Agenda 21'.
As well as attending open negotiations between CSD member governments, UN agencies and Major Groups of NGOs, numerous side events and presentations, STWR participated in a meeting with key individuals and organisations working on sustainable agricultural policies at the international policy level. Alexandra Spieldoch from the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) chaired the meeting alongside the Global Policy Forum's (GPF) Director James Paul, and Adam Parsons, STWR's editor, presented a talk on ‘global grain reserves' to those present.
Having established stronger links with a number of NGOs working on sustainable agriculture, STWR actively contributed to a meeting with the new UN-based NGO Working Group on Food Security (WGFS). STWR will continue participating in the working group as corresponding members from the UK, with the intention of keeping abreast of relevant policy developments at the UN and strengthening working relationships with other participants to coordinate lobbying and campaign activities in the future.
The two-week period in New York allowed STWR to strengthen ties with long established faith groups that also advocate at the UN. Most notably, meetings were held with senior representatives from the Baha'i, theQuakers and the Mennonite Central Committee, as well as Caritas Internationalis. All the organisations and individuals we met with were supportive of STWR's programs, and they provided useful information about effective lobbying practices at the UN based on their many years of experience.
Despite the huge potential to highlight urgent problems and solutions to governments attending the CSD, many participating NGO leaders were extremely disappointed by their inability to influence the Commission's outcome document. Whilst government discussions often revolved around issues of self-interest, economic viability and semantics, various analysts also suggested that diplomats sidelined a number of key issues, thereby significantly reducing the impact of the entire process.
Of particular concern was the lack of reference made to a seminal consensus report by The International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD), a worldwide coalition of over 400 scientists and 50 governments. The key message of their 2008 report was that it would be a grave mistake to continue with ‘business as usual' in terms of global agricultural norms and practices. Their synthesis report recommended that government policies must shift the focus from agribusiness to small farmers, local markets and low input agriculture - an opinion also supported by the majority of NGOs present.
Having made appropriate contacts at the United Nations, STWR intend to launch their upcoming report on food security in New York as well as London in the autumn of 2009.