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UN Food Systems Summit marginalizes human rights and disappoints, say experts

22 September 2021

GENEVA (22 September 2021) - UN human rights experts said today they are deeply concerned that this week’s UN Food Systems Summit will not be a “people’s summit” as promised, and the most marginalized and vulnerable will be left behind.

“The Summit claims to be inclusive, but many participants and over 500 organizations representing millions of people feel ignored and disappointed,” the independent experts said in a statement ahead of the 23 September Summit on building healthier, more sustainable and more equitable food systems around the world.

“How is it that in the two years it took to prepare for the Summit, the organizers did not substantively address the COVID-19 pandemic and its socio-economic impacts? The Summit does not provide any specific guidance to governments or people on how to transform their food systems in order to overcome the current pandemic and food crisis.”

The experts, appointed by the Human Rights Council, fear that there is a risk the Summit will serve the corporate sector more than the people who are essential to ensuring our food systems flourish such as workers, small producers, women and indigenous peoples.

“It is no mystery that the world’s food systems currently violate human rights, exacerbate inequalities, threaten biodiversity, and contribute to climate change. A root cause of these problems is the fact that transnational corporations have increasingly dominated food systems for the past 60 years,” the experts said. States must at least protect people’s rights and the environment from corporate power and ensure people have access to effective remedies, and corporations respect human rights, they added.

The UN experts said agroecology, or sustainable farming, is one of the best ways to ensure that food systems fulfil human rights and respect the planet’s environment. “We think that agroecology should be a primary focus because it starts with the question of power dynamics. It frames the problem as an issue relating to access to resources and control over the food system,” they said.

“New research suggests that if we calculate productivity in terms of total output per hectare and not for a single crop, and in terms of energy input versus output, agroecology is often more productive than intensive industrial techniques,” they explained.

“Agroecological practices can reduce environmental impacts and improve livelihoods for small-scale farmers, including women, because of reduced reliance on expensive external inputs. Agroecology improves air, soil and water quality, is less energy-intensive, reduces emissions of greenhouse gases and enhances carbon sinks.”


*The experts: Mr. Michael Fakhri Special Rapporteur on Right to FoodMr. David BoydSpecial Rapporteur on human rights and the environment; and Mr. Olivier de Schutter,  Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights;

Special Rapporteurs and Working Groups are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council's independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

For more information and media requests, please contact: Ms Frédérique Bourque [email protected].

For media enquiries regarding other UN independent experts, please contact Jeremy Laurence ([email protected]).

Follow news related to the UN's independent human rights experts on Twitter@UN_SPExperts

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