The hybrid-style event, held in Rome on 14 December, updated the civil society and faith communities on the latest status of the food crisis and the need for policy responses at local, national, and global levels. The meeting was organized by World Council of Churches (WCC) in collaboration with the Civil Society and Indigenous Peoples' Mechanism for Relations with the UN Committee on World Food.
Rev. Dr Kenneth Mtata, the incoming WCC director of Public Witness and Diakonia, offered opening remarks in which he outlined the challenge—and the growing inequalities in the world. “The most vulnerable communities have been battered by increasing inequality, poverty, and hunger globally,” he said. “This crisis has been in the making for a long time and begs for fundamental shifts in the way we manage the world’s resources.”
Dr David Nabarro, co-lead of the UN Global Crisis Response Group and special envoy of WHO director general for COVID-19, addressed the immense interconnected challenges of food insecurity, energy insecurity, and other types of insecurity, and spoke of encouraging “a more coordinated global response to the ongoing multidimensional crisis.”
André Luzzi, co-coordinator of the Civil Society and Indigenous Peoples' Mechanism Global Food Governance working group, explained how consultations across the world were designed to include more people in the process of finding out about the current situation of hunger and grassroots impacts of COVID-19, conflicts, and crises on the Right to Food and Food Sovereignty.
”We organized the participatory consultations to include more people in our process,” he said, adding that the working group also sent out surveys.
Updates from different regions—offered by people in the Civil Society and Indigenous Peoples' Mechanism Global Food Governance working group—gave a glimpse into the unique challenges related to hunger.
Saima Zia offered highlights from South and Central Asia, particularly the urban poor and young people who have lost jobs. Yet within some communities, she said, people developed their own ways of coping that were better than the government’s way.
"They managed to sustain themselves,” she said. She also paraphrased the Apostle Paul: “from hope to hope in defense of our existence and the planet, for rights and food sovereignty,” she said.
Irish Baguilat offered a comprehensive report from Southeast Asia and the Pacific, outlining how social and cultural practices were disrupted by COVID-19. “There were also cases where crops and livestock were not tended to because family members contracted COVID, and family members had to be isolated,” she said.
Dee Woods addressed how the small-scale farmers in fields in Ukraine have continued to produce food, and how European countries and those in other regions have relied on Ukraine’s food production.
“We need a radical transformation of food systems based on human rights and agro-ecology,” she said. “The right to food needs to be enshrined and realized regionally. In this harsh winter, many people of all backgrounds, including children, sit in the cold and dark, or sleep out on the streets without food. Many are sick and some will die this winter.”
She concluded by emphasizing the interconnectedness of food insecurity. “We are each other’s business!” she said.
Katlego Mohuba offered a voice from young people. “It is estimated that 60% of the world’s hungry people live in countries that are experiencing active conflict,” she said. “Today over 22% of children under the age of five are stunted.”
Miriency Gonzalez presented results from Latin America and the Caribbean. “What we noticed was a deepening of pre-existing chronic inequalities. We notice that there was great immigration with a considerable flight of young people to other destinations.”
Patti Naylor spoke of the challenges and the resilience of people in Canada and the United States, particularly Indigenous communities. “These communities are being affected by climate change and by the intrusion of agri-business,” she said, adding that the world needs “radical food system transformation.”
Sefu Sanni addressed the effects of COVID-19, as well as geopolitical factors. “The voice of people is the voice of God!” said Sanni.
Hala Barakat shared information about the Middle East region. “The most vulnerable are the refugees and those living in areas of protracted conflict, or under occupation,” she said.
Victor Suarez Carrera, vice-minister of Food Self Sufficiency in Mexico, concluded the webinar by urging prioritizing the actions toward transformation of the global food systems.
“We cannot continue doing business as usual with the recurring food crisis we are seeing in the world, and unless we take action, years will go by, food insecurity will grow, malnutrition will grow, hunger will grow, and will continue to be a systemic violation of human rights across the world,” he said.
Gabriel Ferrero, chair of the Committee on World Food Security, and the ambassador at large for Global Food Security at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation of the Government of Spain, offered closing remarks, reflecting that “hearing the voice of the poor is hearing the words of God.”
He added: “We have been hearing through the organizations the voices of all those people who live with discrimination and exclusion, who are facing the main impacts of suffering and deprivation,” he said.
“The consultation made it clear that civil society and faith communities need to collaborate, organise, coordinate, and respond to this crisis! It was also evident that rebuilding food systems needs to be bottom up, and needs actions at all levels, and we need hold those in power and ourselves accountable,” commended Dr Manoj Kurian, coordinator of the WCC Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance.