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Wednesday, 03 September 2008 10:17

Food Security & Fair Trade

Every person has a right to food. Food that is safe and nutritious. Food that is adequate, accessible and affordable. Food that is culturally acceptable and produced in sustainable manner.

Food security at the household and national level refers to self reliance and self sufficiency in food production using sustainable food production systems and approaches.

Today, aggressive trade liberalization of food and agriculture is threatening food security in many parts of the world. Free market policies of governments, financial and multilateral trade institutions have changed the nature of how food is produced and distributed. The rural farmers and fisher folks of Southeast Asia who traditionally had the power to decide what they cultivate, how they produce or farm, are currently faced with critical challenges compounded with  economic competitiveness with multinational corporations.  These challenges have been further worsened by the impact of climate change and the scarcity of natural resources such as land, water, forest and agrobiodiversity.  Their market competitiveness has also been undermined by the aggressive marketing strategies of more affluent corporations facilitated by biased and unfair policies, favoring those with monetary and economic power.

Driven by large agro-food corporations which prioritize profits over local self-sufficiency, agriculture is increasingly unsustainable. Trade is free but not fair. Fair trade centrally allows the food producers to earn a decent livelihood without resorting to unethical means or plundering the soil and at the same time is acceptable by the consumer, supported by an efficient marketing system that will ensure the environment and socio-economic concerns are adhere to.

The result? Degraded environments. Destruction of rural livelihoods and endangered food security.

SEACON

The Southeast Asian Council for Food Security and Fair Trade (SEACON) was informally established in 1996  with a primary objective of providing a coordinated approach and an integrated initiative to address food security, agriculture and trade issues. In each of the member country, SEACON provides support to its partners through people-centered mechanisms that enable government, private sector and civil society representatives to meet and dialog on agriculture, food and trade issues.

The partnership with the national networks is to ensure participatory positions and analysis to be brought forth at the regional level, through a secured backing from the grassroots. SEACON's role is thus to:

  • Monitor and keep in check the adverse effects of free trade
  • Monitor the development of relevant economic and social domestic policies in the region
  • Offer alternative agro-trade strategies based on the principles of fair trade and food security
  • Improve and lobby for policies related to food, agriculture and trade at regional and international levels

How SEACON Began

Before the World Food Summit and NGO Forum in Rome, Italy in November 1996, a conference was held in Manila to discuss the impact of trade liberalization and economic deregulation on food security and people's livelihoods. From this, emerged the Balay Declaration, a document containing the collective aspirations and vision of NGOs for food security in this region. SEACON has since become the mechanism and platform to translate the spirit and objectives of this Declaration into reality.

The Balay Declaration calls on governments of Southeast Asia to respect, protect and fulfil the right of their citizens to food, and to make food security for all the cornerstone of their economic policy. It demands that:

  • Governments provide adequate food supply through national and regional food self-sufficiency efforts
  • International institutions such as the WTO, APEC, WB, IMF acknowledge the inherent right of all countries to food security
  • Governments recognize the vital role of small farmers, fisher folk and women in ensuring food security, and see that these sectors have access to and control of resources
  • Governments guarantee long term food security through the adoption of sustainable agriculture, equitable access to resources, and improved governance

What SEACON Does

Participatory Research

Through research we aim to build an understanding of how global politics impacts on food security and to strengthen capability building initiatives. SEACON has initiated various research undertakings, including:

Rice trade in Southeast Asia
Rice is the main staple food in this region. Its production and distribution are central in ensuring freedom from hunger. These issues are explored in our present "Food Security and Markets in Southeast Asia: State and private sector interaction in rice trade". Our findings will form the basis of policies forwarded to national and regional bodies to promote the development of sustainable and dynamic producing sectors.

The food crisis in Indonesia
In 1999, SEACON organized a fact-finding mission to Indonesia to investigate claims of a food emergency. The mission, comprising experts and activist in the field of food security, discovered that this was due to the ineffective development policies of the government. A food crisis had been manufactured for political reasons. Instead of food aid, Indonesia was in need of an economic recovery that would provide employment for the people in order to have the purchasing power to buy food that was produced locally, to support the rural farmers in Indonesia.

Women and food security
Women's role in ensuring food security is often ignored and undervalued. SEACON's report, entitiled "No Shortcut to Food Security: From A Women's Perspective", was published to correct this distortion. It shows how women are connected to the production and distribution of food. It also identifies the obstacles they face, including gender-biased policies. Based on secondary data from Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand and Laos, the recommendations of this study have been compiled into a regional policy networking paper.

The Impact of Trade Liberalization on Small Scale Producers in South East Asia
This Report was timely released in 2005 to address the socio-economic impact of the ASEAN Free Trade Area Agreement.  The report was jointly researched and produced by SEACON member-partners from Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam.

 

Advocacy

SEACON carries out advocacy at many levels, from lobbying national governments and regional institutions, to working directly with civil society actors in food security and fair trade matters. Our past projects include the WTO-Agreement on Agriculture Campaign and a conference in 1999 titled "People's Response to the Food Security Crisis in Southeast Asia" in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. SEACON has also held national meetings to popularize the Balay Declaration, and actively taken part in other gatherings where we have contributed to the debates on food security and fair trade.

The World Trade Organisation Agreement on Agriculture Campaign
The WTO Agreement on Agriculture aims to liberalize agricultural trade. However, it is heavily biased and unequally distributes benefits between the world's players. Typically, rural and small farmers and local livelihoods in developing nations have been marginalized, thus jeopardizing food security in these countries. Through education workshops with NGOs and government officials.  Campaigns were also organized to highlight the impacts.

Networking


SEACON facilitates processes whereby non government and people's organizations can share and learn from one another. Through these processes, SEACON encourage joint actions to influence national and regional policies impacting on food security. In this manner, SEACON champions people-centered development, i.e the meaningful participation of people in development.

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Food Security and Fair Trade Issues

  • Agricultural practices
  • Climate change, carbon and water foot-printing, GHG,
  • Biodiversity
  • Rights to seeds
  • Rights to food
  • GMO
  • Food safety and acceptability
  • Trade policies, WTO
  • Agricultural policies
  • Standards, certifications, harmonization
  • Farmers’ rights
  • Land-grabbing
  • Agribusiness, multinational corporations
  • Agricultural subsidies, incentives
  • Sustainable agriculture, IPM, Organic agriculture
  • Labeling, packaging and grading of agricultural produce
  • Capacity building and farmers’ empowerment
  • Conflict issues on Land and natural resources
  • Farmers’ market access
  • Farmers' Rights

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Last Updated on Saturday, 22 June 2013 22:53