HIC @ Expo dei Popoli, Milan


From 3-5 June 2015, international
social movements and NGOs working on issues of food sovereignty and
environmental justice gathered together in Milan at the Expo dei Popoli.
This event was organized outside of the Global Expo Milano which boasts the theme “Feeding the
Planet, Energy for Life.” However the Expo dei Popoli was not simply an
alternative forum, but rather the space to put forward the voices of
small-scale food producers that feed some 70% of the world and to share our
knowledge and information on how to support radical transformations in the food
system, as well as civil society participation in the decision making
processes. Prior to the forum many international networks worked together to
create a document that articulates our core strategies in realizing food
sovereignty and for advocating for our relevant human rights- including the interrelated
rights of food, housing, health, nutrition, water and sanitation, and land.

With broad experience in local and
international governance, urban-rural linkages, Right to the City and
interaction with local authorities,HIC-HLRN was asked to deliver a
contribution in order to share strategies and experiences with participatory
governance at all levels- from international institutions to local governments.
This Forum provided an excellent opportunity to better link our work, in
particular the Right to the City and city-region planning, to other movements
and efforts; it is this kind of collaboration across sectors and areas of
expertise that we will create the most impact and change! For any questions
about this process or for more information on HIC-HLRN’s involvement in the
food sovereignty movement, please contact hic-mena@hic-mena.org.

Below is the text of the HIC
intervention delivered @ Expo dei Popoli by HLRN Global Program Officer Emily


Many of us here are directly or
peripherally involved in the Civil Society Mechanism for the Committee on World
Food Security (CFS). For those who are not involved, the CFS is the UN body
that reviews and follows-up food-security policies issues related to food and
nutrition, including food production and access. CFS is the most-inclusive
international and intergovernmental platform for all stakeholders to work
together in a coordinated way to ensure food security and nutrition for all.
The Civil Society Mechanism is an autonomous coordinating facility that engages
with the CFS and brings together representatives of those populations suffering
most from hunger, including different small-scale food producers, workers,
indigenous peoples, landless, urban poor, consumers and the NGOs and
researchers that support them. And through this mechanism, we have seen the
benefits, as well as the limits of multistakeholderism. But in any case, the
effective participation of civil society and social movements in the work of
the CFS should be considered a universal model of good governance.

This is a space the we
collectively fought for and maintain, and now we have the space and expectation
for full and meaningful participation in international discussions and policy making
on food and nutrition; however, we fail to have this space when we go back home
and seek change at the local level. In fact, what we are all fighting for here
is a radical shift in the dominant food system, re-localizing our food systems
and for policies at the international level that recognize and support this
change, upholding policies that protect us and realize our right to food as
peasants, fishing communities, indigenous persons, as marginalized urban poor
and conscious consumers.

We must demand inclusive
decision making at the local level. We must have the same expectation of
inclusive and meaningful participation at the local level in all areas, from
urban planning, budgeting, transportation networks, to water, sanitation and
health, all of which also have direct impacts on our food system. Our
experience at Habitat International Coalition in collaborating to implement
polices at a local level, in particular, through our work developing and
applying the Right to the City and engagement in the Habitat III process, the
coordinating and cooperation with local authorities has been critical, but
equally critical is to have a reconceptualization of how we see the
inter-relation between what is urban and rural.

Other speakers have discussed
the importance of public policies at the local level, and in particular, the
need for food policy councils- but in order for this model of inclusive
decision making to work at the local level- for local government to actually
interact with the small- scale food producers who can feed not only the city,
but the surrounding rural areas. We have to push local governments to better
link rural and urban areas together, what we could refer to as “city-regions.”
Upholding human rights, including the human right to food, often requires local
governments to fulfill their duties by integrated planning and policies that
optimize resources of the city-region as a whole comprised of complementary
urban and rural spheres. This approach also completes the
concept of the right to the city for our Members and partners in the current Global Platform on
the Right to the City

City Region Food Systems

Currently, urban and rural
people, particularly the disadvantaged and marginalized groups and peoples we
are here representing, suffer the same global-local forces of marginalization
that contribute to massive displacements that violate their common food,
housing, health and other rights. The food and nutrition needs of affected
urban and rural people are linked in many ways, but both suffer the tendency of
policy makers and other observers to treat these communities as separate, and
even as competing with, or otherwise adversarial toward each other.

In other processes, including
the development of Goal 11 of the Sustainable Development Goals on sustainable
cities and human settlements, as well as the preparations for the Habitat III
summit in 2016, HIC, along with other partners, have pushed to replace our
understanding of the “City” with the “city-region,” in particular when
discussing local food-system development, but also when advocating responsible
and inclusive decision making.

The reality is that decisions
are taken in cities and urban areas; that is, where most local and regional
government offices are located, including the departments that have a dominant
role in the food system. Unfortunately, even when there is “inclusion,” it
usually stops at the city limits. If we reconsider the spatial dimension of
local food governance as the city-region, we then create a clearer idea of what
“building rural-urban linkages” actually looks like and, thus, how to fulfill
“balanced rural and urban development,” as our government committed to achieve
at Habitat II, in 1996. Throughout its 40 years of activism, this is something
that we in Habitat International Coalition have prioritized with civil society
in many forums. It is a critical understanding that we must promote to better
understand how food sovereignty can be operationalized within a local food

CFS and Local Authorities

Then we come to our other point
regarding the role of local authorities. We have struggled to have
decentralized “responsibilities” in CFS decisions, in particular clear mandates
for local authorities to implement policies negotiated at the international
level. In fact it this issue has not only been difficult, but also quite
contentious, despite the fact that human rights treaty law extends the same
state obligations to local authorities as to central governments.

Last year at the CFS during the
policy round table on food losses and waste, we spent many late nights and long
sessions negotiating different issues. This was one that was particularly
sensitive for many governments. many were fighting against the inclusion of
local authority responsibility in the decisions we were making—decisions about
policies that had a direct link to the local level! Here is what we ended up

“States and, as appropriate,
subnational and local authorities”

It may seem like a small
phrase, but this is a big achievement, and was a resulting of from a long
battle. This is the first time that we had this kind of language in a CFS
decision; and we need to continue to use this language, because, with
this language, there is a mandate for local authorities find an incentive to
engage in change, and a clear mandate for us as civil society to hold them
, as well as, and in some cases,
collaborate closely with them.

Food losses and waste is one of
many issues that need to be discussed at a very local level and across urban
and rural areas- and should be addressed on the current CFS workstreams of
water and connecting smallholders to markets, as well as future workstreams. We
also need this kind of local authority guidance, and support for inclusivelocalgovernance with the implementation and monitoring of the Tenure
Guidelines. Especially as cities are expanding and taking over rural
hinterlands, and to better understand how communities see the social
function of land 
and how
there can be stronger policy protections and responses.

HIC Experience with Local Authorities

In 1996, with the Habitat II Declaration and Global Plan of Action signed in Istanbul, states recognized that local authorities as the
closest ally in implementing and realizing sustainable development:

Recognizing local authorities
as our closest partners, and as essential, in the implementation of the Habitat
Agenda, we must, within the legal framework of each country, promote
decentralization through democratic local authorities and work to strengthen
their financial and institutional capacities in accordance with the conditions
of countries, while ensuring their transparency, accountability and
responsiveness to the needs of people, which are key requirements for
Governments at all levels [para. 12].

As the preparation s for
Habitat III this commitment, along with others have largely been forgotten or

The UN Human Rights Council has
also acknowledged the need for more clarity in the operations of the local
government and human rights, and has undertaken an extensive report and
information collecting process that will be finalized this year.

HIC has a long history of
working with local authorities, especially through our work on the Right to the
City and local food systems, in particular United Cities and Local Governments
(UCLG), and we have worked to hold states accountable to this, above commitment
at Habitat II but it has been difficult. Many local-authority networks have
failed to find a place in international discussions, or rather have failed to
see international policy documents as giving them clear guidance on how to
create policies that are coherent and consistent with international human
rights obligations, as well as those made in other forums such as the CFS. So,
sometimes on their own, or in collaboration with civil society, they have made
their own commitments. This has led to interesting outcomes including:

  • World Charter on the Right to the City
    (finalized in Barcelona, September 2005) , which is a civil society driven
    process that came out of the World Social Forum and has resulted in
    city-commitments in Mexico City, Sao Paolo and Gwanju, among others.
  • Seoul Declaration (2015) which is the result
    of a meeting on 100 cities and includes commitments to City-Region
    Cooperation, city-region food systems, local economy and improved
    procurement polices.
  • Urban Food Policy Pact (to be signed October
    2015), which outlines city commitments to creating local, participatory
    food policy and includes specific actions and examples on governance, food
    production, nutrition, social and economic equity, food supply and
    distribution, and food waste.

In the cases, where our local
level governments have created their own space, we also need to meet them
there. If we want policies to protect us at the local level, where we live,
then we need to be part of their development. Therefore, we need to have
relationships and interaction with those implementing and forming these
policies. No man is an island, and no successful institution can operate as a
silo. Building societies and economies requires deliberate cooperation, particularly
if they are to be, at once, coherent, equitable and sustainable.