You can’t listen to negotiations for much more than 15 minutes here at the Rio+20 summit before you hear the expression “I am in your hands”. It’s not an expression of love between negotiators, but rather something you say in a deadlock, where you are looking for constructive proposals, or to smoothe the facilitator of negotiations after you have just rejected something and have no compromise in your many instructions.
Well, now, we are actually in Brazil's hands. Friday 15 June is the last day of the UN system trying to come to a conclusion on a deal for Rio. From 16 June onwards Brazil takes over negotiation responsibility.
On one particular issue, there is a golden opportunity for Brazil to really make a difference – eradicating hunger. Brazil has the power, the knowledge and the experience of doing large scale and innovative food security programs, and they know more than any other nation, what a strong agricultural economy can do for a country and its citizens. Not that all is good in Brazil, but former president Lula was, if ever there was one, a hunger-hero.
I have earlier written about how the Rio-negotiations were failing the 1 billion people – every fourth person in Sub-Sahara Africa- that suffers from hunger. In the current sad state of play in the negotiations on food security and agriculture, there are lots of words but very, very little action.
But it is not too late. The world will very soon be in Brazil’s hands and this is what they should do to solve hunger:
Put the right to food at the centre of any discussions on hunger and agriculture
States are really a key player when it comes to ensuring people's right to food. If states don’t care about fulfilling that right, then what interests does a country's agricultural sector serve? Today in the negotiations you could hear the US say that they were hesitant to promise (or ensure is it is called in negotiation language) to anyone that they would fulfill their right to food.
Brazil has, more than anyone, shown that if political will is present, hunger can be combated, and possibly eradicated. Taking the right to food as the point of departure in any discussions, whether It’s discussions about the constitution, budget allocations, national development plans or multi-stakeholder initiatives really does make a difference.
Brazil must use its unique experience and credibility to show countries, that being a hunger hero is cool and clever.
Small holder farmers and women can unlock the food crisis – invest in them
Ever wondered why small holder farmers or women, whose plots of land are no more than 1-2 hectare, are so often not organized? Because if they were, they would challenge power.
It is time for countries to realize that small holder farmers and women are not a threat, but really hold the key to safer, healthier, and richer societies.
Brazil has come some way on this, but not far enough. But Brazil is seen as leader among other developing countries.
From the 16 June onwards, Brazil should impress upon countries that agriculture is not about serving special interests but about providing a sustainable, solid food base for a system and for providing the means to make a living for a very large part of the population. It is time to make small holder and women farmers the key solution in enabling communities to grow their way out of food and hunger.
Transform the food system – it isn’t working
While enough food is being produced for the world now, it is not being produced in a sustainable way. This challenge will only grow as populations grow and the climate changes. A transition towards more ecologically sound and socially just food production systems is a key challenge today, and something that Brazil must work for in the coming days.
We know which way we have to go – agro-ecology – but countries need to be having a process where they share knowledge and begin and manage that transformation together. The right proposals are on the table, but Brazil has to shove them in.
Food, not fuel, should be grown on fields – make sure food will not compete with unsustainable renewable energy production
While a strong commitment to fight climate change and change fossil fuel consumption is vital in order to ensure food production in the future, first generation biofuel production already places strong pressure on land in developing countries.
Brazil’s experience with producing ethanol is unique, but in the coming days Brazil has to resist the temptation to think that anyone must see biofuels as the answer to our energy and climate crisis.
Safeguards must be built in to any Rio-deal on energy, so that land, water is taken from vital food production to grow fuels crops.