By Nimisha Bastedo
It’s hard to know how to begin articulating all that’s going on, but I’ll try and get some of the cloud that’s taking over my brain onto this page. The contrast between the weekend’s civil society forum and today’s official proceedings is huge. The morning was filled with the formalities of introduction speeches all quoting the most recent reports on the state of world food insecurity. There was a lot of: “We applaud the remarkable progress, but we still have a long way to go.”
Next, about thirty State ministers (who mostly flew in just for this one short ‘high-level’ section of the meeting) shared their countries’ views on solutions to food price volatility. While some countries proudly talked about their initiatives to remove trade restrictions, others stated that we must do the complete opposite.
It almost feels like people are coming from two different worlds, and this divergence of opinion carried on into the afternoon. It was the ‘Policy Convergence’ Round Table on Biofuels, but the chance of ‘convergence’ looks very slim. Statements ranged from “bio-fuels production will help achieve food security”, to “promoting biofuels will only lead to more food insecurity by increasing price volatility and ripping people from their lands”.
In a meeting with civil society after the round table session, Olivier De Schutter, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, called the issue of biofuels a “test for the CFS”. Will we be able to show the world that the CFS is a place where strong, worthwhile decisions can be made? Or will it begin to be seen in the same light as so many other intergovernmental spaces, where the process of consensus creates nothing but watered down statements and empty agreements?
While our heads are spinning with acronyms, intense discussions and perhaps a little too much coffee, we’re excited to see where these next four long days will take us.