Straight to the Source

A guide outlines how to support grassroots voices in United Nations food security policy discussions.

In May 2021, a guide to facilitating producer participation in global food policy was sent to hundreds of organisations affiliated with the United Nations Committee on World Food Security. The guide was co-authored by Anisah Madden, as part of her PhD through Western’s Institute for Culture and Society. The Guide to Facilitation in the Civil Society and Indigenous People’s Mechanism gives insights into the methods of the Civil Society and Indigenous People Mechanism (CSM). 

The CSM formed in the wake of a food crisis in 2008, when a series of economic and weather events caused the cereal price index to spike, reaching a peak 2.8 times higher than in 2000. Millions of people found themselves unable to meet their basic food needs. “After 2008, member nations of the United Nations recognised that many solutions to food insecurity and ecological challenges were already being practiced on the ground in communities,” says Madden. 

The CSM gathers organisations and people’s movements composed of smallholder farmers, pastoralists, fishers, Indigenous peoples, agricultural and food workers, landless people, women, youth, consumers, urban food insecure and NGOs. It facilitates the participation of these producers and workers in political discussions with governments about food systems policy.

Need to know

  • A guide to grassroots involvement in UN food security policy was released in 2021.
  • The guide was designed for the Civil Society and Indigenous People Mechanism.
  • The CSM aims to amplify the voices of smallholder farmers, fishers and indigenous peoples, among others.

“Small-scale food producers provide about 70% of the world’s food, yet are among the most affected by malnourishment and food insecurity,” explains Madden. “Opening up policy debates to grassroots voices highlights the crucial role of local and traditional food systems in food security.”

More than 380 million people globally are affiliated with the CSM through participating organisations. A transnational peasant movement, La Vía Campesina, for example, is working to raise concerns about the degradation of natural resources essential to the traditional food systems in which they are involved. In the guide, a Romanian participant in La Vía Campesina, Ramona Duminicioiu, says the United Nations Committee on World Food Security is a place where her group can observe “the flaws and benefits of politics [while] seated directly at the table with governments, not in limited spaces as voiceless observers”. 

Madden’s guide was put together over two years through consultation with the CSM and interviews with 40 facilitators. In addition to outlining some basic principles of how to better faciliate and share power, the guide shows how the CSM channels working group contributions into text-based policy formats, while keeping its mission’s spirit alive.

Meet the Academic | Anisah Madden

Anisah Madden is a late-stage PhD candidate at Western Sydney University's Institute for Culture and Society. Her research investigates grassroots participation in international food policy development, focusing on the ways social movements bring not only visions for alternative food systems futures into the United Nations, but also radically different ways of doing politics.    

Before academia, Anisah lived and worked in rural British Columbia, Canada, as an organic market gardener, herbalist and yoga teacher, and was involved in a number of community-based agricultural projects and small cooperative food businesses. Now, as part of her research-activism, she co-facilitates the Civil Society and Indigenous People's Mechanism (CSM) Youth Working Group. The CSM Youth Working Group brings small scale food producer and worker youth together from all over the world, and supports their political protagonism in UN food policy discussions.  


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Future-Makers is published for Western Sydney University by Nature Research Custom Media, part of Springer Nature.