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Transformation or the Next Meal? Global-Local Tensions in Food Justice Work
Astrid Vanessa Perez Pinan1, Elizabeth Vibert1, Matthew Murphy1, Bikrum Gill2, Claudia Puerta Silva3
1University of Victoria, Canada; 2Virginia Tech; 3Universidad de Antioquia
This article presents conversations across difference that took place among community partners and researchers at a week-long workshop in T’Sou-ke First Nation territory in 2019. The workshop launched the Four Stories About Food Sovereignty research network and project, which brings together food producers, activists, and researchers representing T’Sou-ke Nation in British Columbia, Wayuu Indigenous communities in Colombia, refugee communities in Jordan, and small-scale farmers in South Africa. We focus here on conversations that highlight global-local tensions in food justice work, the pressures of extractive economy, and pressures arising from climate crisis – challenges that some participants framed at the level of global extractivism and colonial-capitalism, others at the level of the soil. As the conversations reveal, there was more common ground than conflict in shared histories of dispossession, shared predicaments of extractive capital and its government allies, and shared concern to renew and reinvigorate ancestral practices of care for territory.
Set up to fail: Sisyphean Mandate of the World Food Programme
University of Guelph, Canada
How much funding does the World Food Programme require to eradicate hunger? This question was asked in November 2021, when the world’s wealthiest person attempted to discredit the largest humanitarian organization while defending his aversion to state taxation. Albeit cynical, the question reflects the legitimacy crisis of multilateralism more broadly and global development more specifically. Employing Dimitrov’s (2019) concept of “empty institutions,” this article argues that the World Food Programme’s mandate of “Zero Hunger” is incompatible with the organization’s bureaucratic apparatus.
Findings are based on 89 interviews with staff of United Nations and government donor agencies, including 35 interviews with the World Food Programme staff conducted since 2019. Interpretive policy analysis of the World Food Programme’s official documents from its foundation to its latest Strategic Plan suggests that the evolution of the organizational mandate has not been followed by necessary organizational and system-wide reforms. Donor-imposed institutional structures undermine organizational effectiveness and obfuscate political dimensions of food insecurity. The World Food Programme is grappling with an existential question of a mandate that cannot be achieved within existing mechanisms of organizational and global governance. The two potential responses include: (i) sliding back to an organizational mandate of hunger alleviation in humanitarian contexts alone or (ii) active engagement in political mobilization for fundamental reform of existing multilateralism.
Plantation Economies and the Corporate Food Regime
University of Waterloo, Canada
As public attention to racial injustice has surged in recent years, so-called objective histories are being reinterpreted to reveal their underlying structural and systemic biases. While scholarship has long focused attention to the inequality between North and South in the global food system (Clapp, 2006; Mintz, 1986), structured analyses of underdevelopment have fallen from favour. This paper re-examines the Caribbean scholarship on plantation economies to re-evaluate the region’s contemporary food system: one that is subject to a rapidly changing climate and environmental degradation, growing malnutrition, and reliance on imported food (FAO, 2020). I argue that Caribbean scholars of this period recognized the vacuum created by pre-independence policies that would eventually lead to the contemporary and neocolonial corporate food regime. This paper sheds new light on the critical work of the 1960s and 1970s Caribbean thinkers by acknowledging the continued validity of their ideas in the contemporary food system.