Statement on the UN Food System Summit

Statement on the UN Food System Summit

As a foundation we are committed to practicing solidarity philanthropy and listening to our partners’ concerns. Engagement in the UN Food System Summit is a case in point where we have to be very clear and deliberate about where we stand. 

Engagement in the Food System Summit (FSS) is against the view of more than 500 Indigenous Peoples, farmers and Civil Society organizations as well as academics who have rejected this process as faulty and corrupt. The FSS central aim is to promote food systems modernization around the world, which means advancing a corporate agenda that we cannot support or be affiliated with, even peripherally. We find the vision, governance and strategies of the FSS a reinvention of colonial food relations. We find this deeply problematic, particularly in that they represent indigenous peoples and small-scale farmers’ food systems as inferior under the classification of ‘traditional’, indigenous food systems which ‘lack capabilities’ to innovate, with traits that need to be ‘developed’ through ‘modern agroecology’, ‘climate smart agriculture’, GMOs, etc.  In other words, ascribing underdeveloped subjectivity to indigenous peoples who need to be colonized by modernity. As a foundation, we support indigenous peoples’ and local communities who continue to maintain holistic agrifood systems on which the future of global agriculture depends, in spite of the corporate onslaught and theft of land and knowledge they continue to experience. Therefore, we stand with our partners in rejecting this process. 

To align our culture of solidarity with our partners strategy, we have resigned from the Global Alliance for the Future of Food, a collaborative across different foundations to influence change in the current food system, which is rife with deep inequalities. We have withdrawn from GAFF as a response to their championing of and direct engagement with the UN Food System Summit. With the pandemic turmoil, mass extinctions of languages and species, rising inequality, racism and climate chaos affecting communities across the globe, food has become a critical vehicle for resistance and change. For philanthropy to address current vulnerabilities and inequalities in the food system and support transitioning to a diverse and just system requires structurally changing power dynamics in the philanthropic industry. We have found that this change is nurtured through respectful partnerships with communities and supporting their visions, lived experience, intergenerational knowledge, as well as independent policy engagement and strategies. In this way we are very committed to standing beside our grantee partners.

We hope that our reflections in this statement lead to healthy ongoing discussion. We remain committed to food systems that are diverse, inclusive, circular and resilient.

Swift Foundation

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