Int’l coalition on Human Rights Day: hold perpetrators of mass starvation accountable

An international movement of grassroots groups of small food producers and food sovereignty advocates challenged the 2021 UN Food Systems Summit to incriminate the culprits behind today’s global phenomenon of acute hunger.

The People’s Coalition on Food Sovereignty (PCFS) issued the call on International Human Rights Day, stressing the right to food as a basic human right.

“Today’s hunger crisis is a result of systemic violations of people’s right to food. Violations cannot happen without violators, and they should be held accountable for deliberately starving the rural peoples,” said Razan Zuayter, global co-chairperson of PCFS.

According to Zuayter, it will be impossible for the 2021 UN Food Systems Summit (FSS) to deliver its promised “game-changing” transformation of food systems while ignoring the “game masters” and denying the inherently unjust power relations of the “players.”

The UN is organizing the summit as a strategic effort to mitigate the slow progress of the Sustainable Development Goals and achieve them by the 2030 target. Guided by five action tracks, the FSS is expected to address the present crisis-level food insecurity.

About 80 million people from 20 countries are on the brink of famine as of November this year, according to a joint report of the Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Food Programme. The UN agencies also estimated extreme hunger to double by the end of 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic – up to 265 million people affected worldwide.

The Coalition, however, pointed out that the close-to-famine situation in many of the countries is largely man-made.

“Even amid pandemic, imperialist regimes and their agents – the ‘game masters’ – are waging wars and occupying territories, are imposing sanctions, and are trapping countries in debts they cannot pay. These are instrumental to the global hunger situation yet are never tackled in the preparations of the Food Systems Summit,” said Zuayter.

“Superpowers bomb rural communities. Corporations grab our lands. Embargos constrain our access to food and medicines. Neoliberal conditions of loans erode people’s rights, livelihood, and welfare. The line is clear between the oppressors and their victims,” she added.

The PCFS official said governments, corporations, and neoliberal institutions will always have the upper hand. Else, no arrest or killing of farmers and their advocates would have taken place. Zuayter was referring to the state repression experienced by farmers and other marginalized groups, “no matter how defenseless,” whenever they resist development aggression projects and anti-poor policies.  

She cited the arrest of peasant activist Amanda Echanis in the Philippines, who was red-tagged and arrested based on trumped-up charges with her one-month-old baby, and the brutal murder of her elderly father Randallin August this year.

She also mentioned the escalating attacks targeting the ongoing historical farmers protest in India. At least 250 million participants stormed the streets to oppose the passage of the three Farm Acts, which aim to deregulate the country’s agriculture sector.

Zuayter criticized the summit’s Action Track 5 or the resilience building of food systems to vulnerabilities, shocks, and stresses.

“How can food systems practically become resilient – more so function – if small-scale food producers are purposely crippled? What is the use of this ‘game-changing’ resiliency for the Palestinians once the Zionists fully occupy the Jordan Valley?” said the PCFS official, who is also a Palestinian.

Jordan Valley is Palestine’s “food basket,” and part of Israel’s planned annexation of a third of the West Bank. Home to 50,000 Palestinians, losing the Jordan Valley meant the loss of their livelihood and food source as well as their displacement.

The Zionists have also uprooted more than 3.5 million fruit trees and confiscated 85% of the underground water, depriving the Palestinian people of their right to food, the PCFS official added.

“Moreover, resiliency is pointless to sanctioned countries and their fragile economies. It will not decouple food aid from sanctions. Food aid is used as a political weapon to starve the people in Venezuela, Cuba, Iran, Yemen, Syria, and Lebanon,” Zuayter raised.

“Genuine changes to our food systems and the realization of people’s right to food will only happen if the voices of the oppressed are given leverage,” she concluded.

PCFS is currently gearing for the People’s Convention on Food Sovereignty, a parallel counter-summit to the FSS in 2021. ###

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