Putting fairness into global food policy


The L20 recently highlighted the fundamental right to food in the global effort to ensure food security and nutrition.

The Labour 20 (L20) represents the interests of workers at the G20 level. It unites trade unions from G20 countries and Global Unions, and is convened by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) and Trade Union Advisory Committee (TUAC) to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

Since the outbreak of the financial crisis in 2008, the L20 has engaged around the G20 inter-governmental process to ensure that the voices of working men and women are heard, as one of the official outreach groups of the G20 (together with the Business 20 (B20), Civil 20 (C20) and Youth 20 (Y20)).

The L20 has argued that in the pursuit of a globalised economy and greater economic growth, nobody should be left behind.

The impetus for the most recent L20 submission is the G20 Food Security and Nutrition Review, which seeks to review “critical opportunities for economic growth and job creation in connection with food security and nutrition.”

The L20 believes that the twin G20 aims for "growth" and "jobs" in the food security area must be based on decent jobs and sustainable growth and underpinned by the rights of humans to feed themselves in dignity, either by purchasing the food or by growing it themselves.

Its submission called for reversing the declines in public investment in agriculture and the need to support agricultural communities through research and development as well as public investment in rural infrastructure such as roads, irrigation, education and waste management.

It also argued that the very foundation of current modes of food production needs to be altered to ensure sustainable production and access.

Indeed, large scale investment is normal in (non-food) monoculture and can contribute to existing workers and small scale producers being forced off their land and environmental degradation.

Small scale production and locally focused production needs to be fostered, and the land tenure of locals must be protected.

To simply allow the support of large commercial interests at the expense of small scale farmers risks undermining food security by reducing government policy space and sovereignty and adversely effecting small producers involved in farming critical (but not commercially attractive) products.

The L20 report provides the G20 with a timely reminder that simply maintaining the status quo is not an option.

Finally, the submission linked food insecurity to poverty and so concluded that the most effective remedy to this social ill is decent employment, which is tied up with collective bargaining and the right to join a union, a living wage and ensuring all workers (particularly women) are free from discrimination and violence.

With the focus of some G20 member states and participants being on unbridled free trade, it is more important than ever that a fairer and more sustainable alternative is championed.

The G20’s Development Working Group will be issuing a draft document in April 2014 before seeking further input over coming months. The final recommendations will be made in late 2014.

The L20 will continue to insist that the rights of people, not corporations come first in the pursuit of global food security.