Advancing people’s rights in consumption and production: a radical transformation for sustainable development

July 13, 2021

July 15, 2021

Advancing people’s rights in consumption and production: a radical transformation for sustainable development

Various civil society organizations (CSOs) and grassroots groups across Asia converged and called for global action in achieving just, equitable, people-centered, and rights-based sustainable consumption and production systems in a webinar today, July 13, 2021.

The said webinar concludes the three-part forum series dubbed as “Beyond COVID 19: Promoting People-Powered Sustainable Consumption and Production (PP-SCP) in Asia” spearheaded by IBON International and co-organized by People’s Coalition on Food Sovereignty (PCFS), Council for People’s Development and Governance, and Climate Change Network for Community-based Initiatives.

The series was launched to discuss the inherent problems of the UN Sustainable Development Goal 12 (phrased as sustainable or “responsible consumption and production”), the neoliberal framework in which it is implemented, and the challenges posed by the adverse effects of COVID-19-induced crises. A parallel activity was also held in Africa led by IBON Africa.

IBON International and other progressive CSOs assert that PP-SCP—where the people and their rights are placed at the center of the consumption-production in contrast to the prevailing SCP paradigm—is an alternative to end the “business-as-usual” configuration of economic systems that institutionalize unsustainability in the name of profit and at the expense of the people and the environment.

The first part, held on June 15, 2021, outlined the history and the state of SCP enforced by a few multinational elites in Asia. The second one, held on June 29, 2021, became an avenue for grassroots and advocacy groups to share their community and sectoral practices that challenge the status quo.

Lei Covero, IBON International Program Manager opened the program with a short summary of the previous webinars, citing the reason why they were held.

“Let me bring everybody back to the reasons why we are holding a webinar series on sustainable consumption and production or SCP.  Since 2020 and until today–we are witness to how the COVID-19 pandemic further laid bare the unsustainability and unjustness of the neoliberal global consumption and production system that continues to lay waste to ecosystems; privatize public services such as health, water, education; depress workers’ wages and deprives them of social protection; forces peoples to give up self-sufficiency; and prevents them from exercising their democratic rights all in the name of economic growth that amasses huge profits for an elite few while impoverishing millions,” Covero narrated.

In the third and final part themed “Advancing PP-SCP in Asia”, the need to forge a strong global solidarity movement in eroding the dominance of a few developed countries and global financial institutions such as the World Bank and the World Trade Organization was emphasized.

“There is no hope for sustainable consumption and production under the exploitative system that maintains the semi-feudal systems in the Global South” says Kurniawan Sabar, Director of the Institute for National and Democracy Studies (INDIES), an Indonesian independent research institute.  “Based on the experience and practices from many countries, the best way to mobilize communities and sectors is by solid organizing. This means that we be a part of communities and sectors that we are working with towards building programs and solidarity, Sabar expounded.

Added to this, he also noted that analyzing the economic and political situation of societies is necessary in creating and strengthening peoples’ movements. Sabar explained: “we should clearly define the economic and political situation of communities, the mode of production which affects them. We need to implement social investigation and find out what the problems are and understand its roots,”.

He also stated that even though the pandemic is one big threat, the people must not lose sight of the current makeup of societies, especially across the global south; that a sustainable future is not possible with the status quo. Farmers, according to  Sabar, are the most exploited in such a system.  “There is no bright future in building sustainable consumption and production without releasing the peasants from their burden. We should join them in fighting the semi-colonial and semi-feudal order” Sabar affirmed.  “Genuine Agrarian Reform is our main demand which can be the foundation for industrialization towards achieving food sovereignty.” he further added.

“So what do we do? The messages from the webinars were clear. We need to resist! As Azra Sayeed said in the first Webinar, the situation is grim but we must resist, fight for equitable distribution of land, for food sovereignty, demand government and corporate accountability and resist neoliberalism,” Julie Smit of PCFS asserted.

“For decades, imperialism has dominated our food, our agriculture, our culture, and our land. In many places, farmers are being killed non-stop and by the hundreds in the name of land grabbing for plantations, mining, and industrial hubs, merely for profit. Despite this, we will work to build a brighter future for the working peoples of the world.  Resist imperialist control in food and agriculture!” Smit ended.

The webinar served as a build-up activity for the Global People’s Summit (GPS) on Food Systems’ (GPS) and the actions planned to counter  the corporate-captured UN Food Systems (UN FSS) Pre-Summit scheduled to take place from July 26 to 28 in Rome. The manifesto, activities, and programs by the GPS can be viewed at the PCFS website. ###

Prior to the UN FSS Pre-Summit, the GPS will stage a protest at the UN Food and Agriculture Organization Headquarters in Rome on July 25. Simultaneous actions against the UN FSS pre- summit on July 26 will also be held in the Philippines, Indonesia and Cambodia. A webinar on the Global Food Systems in war, sanctioned and occupied countries is also happening on July 27.

A People’s Action Plan to realize Just, Equitable, Healthy, and Sustainable Food Systems will be the major outcome of the People’s Summit. PP-SCP is a thematic area of the GPS and an integral instrument in achieving such a food system as it empowers the people, especially the producers, and grants them sovereign power in the decision-making process. In effect, the people’s right to food will become the overarching principle in food systems as opposed to the multinational corporations’ neoliberal agenda. The results of these PP-SCP forums in Asia and Africa will be presented at the GPS this coming September 2021. #