Statement of the Asia Pacific Network on Food Sovereignty

Published Nov 12, 2012

We, the members of the Asia Pacific Network on Food Sovereignty, on the occasion of the Regional Meeting and Workshop on Food Price Volatility and Agriculture Issues in Quezon City, Philippines, on September 26-28, 2011,

 Express our collective position that the Food Crisis of 2008, was a food price crisis brought about by the irresponsible actions and greed of a few. The 2008 crisis was not an isolated phenomenon confined to a few countries or a region, but a generalized crisis which affected the whole world.

The swift rise and fall of prices of key agricultural food commodities during this period cannot be explained by simple supply and demand fundamentals alone.

There is mounting evidence that it was propelled by the massive influx of money into the commodity derivatives markets largely through commodity index funds pioneered by Wall Street powerhouse, Goldman Sachs. It was these so-called “index speculators”, seeing the commodity futures markets as an attractive alternative to the imploding financial markets, that created the huge artificial demand that sent prices soaring. None of this would have been possible without the questionable deregulation of the US commodity futures markets which gave speculators unlimited access to futures contracts.

An even bigger problem, however, lies with the current model of the global food system—a model characterized by the dominance of a few transnational agribusiness corporations who own multiple stages of the food production chain. The dangers of allowing private corporations, who are concerned only with profit to control a disproportionate chunk of the world’s food supplies, and influence national food policies are many and immediately apparent . It is under this regime that countries in the developing world have been transformed into suppliers of cheap agricultural exports even as they have become markets for surplus production in the developed countries,

We stress the culpability of champions of neo-liberalism such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank for much of the policy neglect of and consequent stagnation in developing country agriculture since the massive realignment of public spending away from agriculture in previous decades was based on their policy recommendations. However, this does not, in any way, absolve our individual governments from any responsibility for the decline of agriculture in our countries. Often they were willing accomplices in the implementation of these policies and deserve as much, if not an even greater share of the blame.

We are alarmed at the on-going large-scale disenfranchisement of domestic small farmers, agricultural workers, artisanal fishers, indigenous people and their communities by large corporations and foreign governments in their bid to lock in lands as part of a global land-grabbing trend. We will continue to reject attempts to appropriate our lands and reaffirm our stand that agricultural lands should be utilized primarily to produce food for our peoples instead of being converted to large-scale plantations for export crops that do little to ease hunger and provide little or no benefit to our communities.

We call on our governments not to be deceived by the World Bank’s promotion of the principles for Responsible Agricultural Investments (RAI) which has been repudiated by civil society groups as they see it legitimizing global land-grabbing. Calls for agriculture investments within the market framework will lead to land speculation, commodification of land, undermining poor peasants’ access and ownership of their land thus preventing  them from realizing their right to food.

While we recognize the need to increase investments in agriculture, we are deeply concerned over the current head-long rush to open up the domestic agriculture sector to private investment–particularly foreign investments, at the expense of our respective countries’ long term interests as well as the interests our communities and peoples. In many cases, governments in the region have had to bend their own laws in order to facilitate the entry of foreign capital in agriculture.

The on-going global land grab disguised as agricultural investments leads to re-concentration of large tracts of agricultural lands in the hands of few elites and their transnational corporations. Worse, it denies landless farmers, peasants and artisanal farmers of their main source of income and threatens their livelihood, driving them to further abject poverty, hunger and injustice. Meanwhile, new demands on land and water – such as for biofuels production, livestock feed, carbon-sequestration projects, urbanisation, and speculative investments – are competing with food production for the very land and water that small food producers depend upon.

We assert that only massive state intervention in the form of public investments and not more private sector-led, profit-motivated investment can pull waning developing country agriculture sectors out of the pits. The hype of Public-Private Partnership (PPP) as promoted by World Bank and IMF is a not a solution to the food crisis and underdevelopment of poor countries. Rather it will worsen and deepen poverty, inequality and hunger as this will lead to further concentration and dominance not only of agriculture, but of the whole economy by transnational corporations and their local elite partners. The PPP is a mere euphemism for privatization not only of vital industries but also of natural resources such as water and land.

We, likewise, emphasize that agriculture and climate are inextricably linked and small farmers and the rural poor are among the first to confront the negative impacts of climate crisis. Among these are the quickening pace and increasing severity of adverse weather phenomena which have been ravaging our farms and fishing grounds for many years now. The current focus on mitigation measures at the global and national levels ignores this reality. Agriculture is one of the most vulnerable sectors of the economy to climate change.

We thus join the global call for climate justice that combines the urgency of placing both mitigation and adaptation programs to reduce the negative impact of the climate crisis on the lives and livelihood of the marginalized and the most vulnerable sectors of the rural communities. We further emphasize the Historical Responsibility of developed and Annex I countries and condemn their “business as-usual” approach and false solutions to confront the climate crisis.  We call upon these countries to implement deep and early cuts in their green house gas emissions and provide financial and technological grants to developing countries as part of providing restorative justice for their role in the climate crisis.

It is the wanton behavior of developed countries and their transnational corporations which has led to the present food and climate crisis and continues to undermine the Right to Development, Right to Food and Sovereignty of developing countries. We call upon our governments and the international multilateral institutions to recognize and respect the Sovereign Rights of the people and calls for agrarian justice, sustainable agricultural development, economic democracy and respect human rights of small and landless farmers, agricultural workers and artisanal fishers rather than focusing on enticing foreign investments and leasing agricultural lands. We also call upon them to recognize and uphold the concept of commons in all natural endowments in order to ensure the equitable use and appropriation of economic benefits from our natural resources.

Thus, we resist neoliberal economic policies, their market-based approach and investments to rural development, agriculture and fishery as the root cause of the different crises that we continuously confront and struggle against.

Therefore, we stand against and call for the rejection of the following:

  1. Proliferation and expansion of destructive industrial agriculture and fishery;
  1. Adoption and implementation of World Bank sponsored Responsible Agricultural Investments (RAI) and facilitation of massive land-grabbing by foreigners and corporations
  1. Loans and finance-base solutions to the Climate and Food Crisis
  1. Promotion of  free trade through Bilateral and Regional Trade Agreements
  1. Continuing implementation of neo-liberal economic policies through liberalization, deregulation and privatization