As a co-facilitator of the Youth Working Group of the Civil Society and Indigenous People's Mechanism, CERN Member Anisah Madden has been working with young people from grassroots organisations such as La Vía Campesina, the World Fisher Forum and the International Indian Treaty Council to assist them participate in policy discussions at the UN Committee on World Food Security.
Madden has been in this role since January 2020, and with co-facilitators from Canada and the Netherlands, she is supporting young people from small-scale food producer and worker organisations to speak for themselves in this global food policy forum about issues that affect them and their futures.
The role has involved activities such as organising virtual meetings to gather youth inputs on UN policy consultations, assisting young people to contribute to UN meetings, and convening discussions on political processes to inform international grassroots strategy-building.
Madden says “The young people we are working with are concerned that many governments are focusing too narrowly on agribusinesses courting and cultivating young agri-preneurs, and that this presents a limited view of young people’s contribution to a sustainable transformation of the current agriculture and food system.”
“These young people come from around the globe and they are farmers, fisherfolk, pastoralists, and Indigenous representatives from grassroots organisations, and they share an alternative vision that is based on ethical relationships with land and earth others and that fosters grassroots and community-based solidarity economies.”
“I think of them as young food system visionaries who are already practising diverse livelihood strategies, caring for their communities and traditional lifeways, and advancing a more ethical and ecological vision of food and agriculture systems based on the principles of food sovereignty and agroecology.”
The Youth Working Group developed a Youth Declaration on COVID-19 that identifies key weaknesses in the industrial food system that have been exposed by the pandemic, and outlines the ways youth have been responding to provide fresh, nutritious foods to their communities through mutual aid networks.
The declaration was presented it to governments at the UN Committee on World Food Security in October 2020, and again in February 2021, and it urges governments to commit to a multilateral and coordinated response to address food system dysfunctions exacerbated by the pandemic and to enact policies to support the plurality of youth efforts and put public goods over private profits.
The Civil Society and Indigenous People's Mechanism, which the Youth Working Group is part of, represents some 300 million small scale food producers globally. Madden is based at Western Sydney University and became involved in the Mechanism as part of the fieldwork for her doctoral study into the dynamics of global food and agriculture governance processes.
Image by Teresa Maisano. Featuring four members of the Youth Working Group, taken at the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation, at the Committee on World Food Security annual Plenary in 2019. From left to right: Margarita Gomez of MOCASE-Vía Campesina Argentina; Jessie McInnis of National Farmers Union of Canada; Nasmin Choudhury of Action Aid India; and Silvia Dwilii of the World March of Women Mozambique.
Story by Jenny Cameron and Anisah Madden