Hunger in our world today is the result of injustice, not scarcity. In a world of plenty, where more than enough food is produced to feed everyone, it is outrageous that almost a billion people still live in constant hunger. Women are especially hard hit.
Solutions lie in participatory democratic governance of our food system, challenging unbalanced corporate power, and in sustainable agroecological methods of production developed in the framework of food sovereignty.
Who comprised the UK Food Group?
The UK Food Group was a network of around 50 development, environment, farmer and academic organisations in the UK working on global food and agriculture issues. The diversity of its membership* gave it a unique, dynamic and holistic perspective on food and agriculture, as well as environmental, issues. It was an independent network, overseen by its own Management Committee, and run on a day to day basis by a succession of excellent coordinators. It was hosted by one of the member organisations, in succession: Christian Aid, Sustain, Compassion in World Farming and Send a Cow. It was supported by its members, governmental sources, and by many non-governmental funders, including, in particular, Polden Puckham and the Tudor Trust.
*Members of the UK Food Group included, over the years: ACORD, Action Against Hunger, Action Aid, Agricultural Christian Fellowship, Baby Milk Action, CAFOD, CAWR (Centre for Agroecology, Water and Resilience, Coventry University), Centre for Food Policy (City University, London), Christian Aid, Community Food Growers Network, Compassion in World Farming, Concern Universal, Concern Worldwide, Consumers International, EcoNexus, Excellent Development, Farms not factories, Find Your Feet, Friends of the Earth (England, Wales and Northern Ireland), Gaia Foundation, Garden Africa, Garden Organic, Global Justice Now, Global Witness, International Institute for Environment and Development, Landworkers’ Alliance, Landworkers’ Alliance (UK chapter of La Via Campesina), Methodist Relief and Development Fund, nef (New Economics Foundation), Oxfam GB, Permaculture Association, Pesticides Action Network UK, Pig Business, Practical Action/ITDG, Progressio/CIIR, Results UK, Save the Children UK, Scottish Crofting Federation, Self Help Africa, Send a Cow, Soil Association, Susila Dharma, Tearfund, The Brooke, Tree Aid, War on Want, Women’s Environmental Network, World Family
Observers: Food Ethics Council, Greenpeace, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, Sustain: the Alliance for Better Food and Farming
The vision of the UK Food Group was a world with a fair and sustainable food system that can end hunger, restore the environment and improve social justice.
The UK Food Group worked to strengthen advocacy in the UK, the EU, the UN and other international bodies for a global food system that would achieve its vision.
The UK Food Group was always striving to be in solidarity with the networks of those most vulnerable to hunger, and the movements of small-scale farmers, herders and fishers in the global South. It supported their right to be part of decision making in the global food system at all levels.
The UK Food Group always tried to identify the underlying causes of problems in the global food system.
The UK Food Group aimed to let everyone know about the many great examples of sustainable and fair approaches to agriculture and localised food systems that exist, and also spoke out against unjust and environmentally reckless approaches to food and agriculture.
The UK Food Group was formed in 1986 when Christian Aid, led by Clive Robinson, identified the need to bring together people working in three distinct sectors which rarely connected: overseas development, environment and farming, particularly in the context of the debate on the EU Common Agricultural Policy. The aim was to promote the issue of food and farming in a global context and build relationships with organisations in Europe and worldwide. The UK Food Group closed on 2018 with a ‘Transition Process’ that took stock of the role of the group and considered options for possible future networks/ collaborations as the group wound down and planned for a future beyond the group. It was based on a mapping exercise and transition workshop, which culminated in a meeting in London in November 2018, which formally closed the group. A summary report of the transition process is available here.
Selected Achievements and Events
- Key issues that the UKFG has worked on include the increased role of the WTO in agriculture, export dumping, the development, release and spread of GMOs in the food system, the emergence of speculation in commodities including food for the growing power centres within the world food system. A key example is the sudden rise in the price of food in 2008, when many UKFG members pooled their information and realised that the crisis was driven by speculation in food commodities before other agencies or media had addressed this. UKFG set up a UK Platform for Food Sovereignty in 2004, supporting the European food sovereignty platform in its campaign for a new Common Agricultural Policy, and subsequently helping organise Nyéléni 2007: forum for food sovereignty and the Nyéléni Europe Forums for Food Sovereignty in 2010 and 2016.
- The UKFG commissioned many reports and policy briefings over the years. For example, Mapping Government thinking about globalisation highlights the many assumptions underlying UK government policy; Food Inc describes the concentrations of power within the world food system; while Hidden Threats: An analysis of intellectual property rights in EU-ACP economic partnership agreements: unveiling the hidden threats to securing food supplies and conserving agricultural biodiversity provides an overview of how international rules on intellectual property rights, as proposed to be included in the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPA) texts, add significant challenges and threats to securing food supplies, food sovereignty and the sustainable use and conservation of agricultural biodiversity, especially in African, Caribbean and Pacific countries.
- Spotlight on the marginalised: strengthening the position of smallholders in European trade policy, an EC-funded project in partnership with sustainable development organisations in Europe and a number of African organisations, focussed on highlighting the effects of European policies, particularly Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs), on the livelihoods of smallholder farmers.
- A second EC-funded project europAfrica: towards food sovereignty, organised with Practical Action and Italian, Belgian and Hungarian NGOs and with the regional African farmers’ networks ROPPA (the West African regional network of smallholder farmers), PROPAC (Central Africa) and EAFF (Eastern Africa) focused on agro-food policies, regional integration and Europe-Africa solidarity, and disseminated information about different models of agricultural production, as promoted by farmers’ organisations, governments and aid agencies, through the lens of food sovereignty. Among many reports produced, the UKFG published Securing Future Food: towards ecological food provision that built on the Nyéléni food sovereignty process.
- The UKFG represented the British Overseas NGOs for Development (BOND) on global food and farming issues and in this role has participated in many EU meetings and fora.
- The UKFG has worked with other bodies in Europe – including CONCORD (the European alliance of development NGOs) – and elsewhere in pursuit of common goals such as engaging with the Committee on World Food Security (CFS). The UKFG was instrumental in the renewal process of the CFS in 2009/10 and the setting up of the Indigenous Peoples and Civil Society Mechanism (CSM) for interfacing with the CFS in 2010 and subsequently supporting the CSM in its various processes.
- Submissions were made to Government bodies on a range of policy issues, including, among others: the All Party Parliamentary Group on Agriculture and Food for Development for their enquiry on Global Food Security in 2013; the 2009 UK White Paper Process “Securing our Common Future”; DFID and DEFRA in the preparations for the World Food Summits in 1996 and again in 2002 and 2009; and the Commission on Intellectual Property Rights (CIPR), commissioned by DFID, which reported in 2002.
- Advocacy activities included the initiative in 2002 to encourage all the directors of the large development NGOs (British Overseas Aid Group – BOAG) to collectively pressure the UK government to stop promoting the acceptance of GMOs (in the UK) in the name of hunger eradication (overseas). This activity successfully stifled that government initiative for a decade.
- The UKFG participated and organised key meetings. For example, in 2008 a UKFG delegation met with the Director General of FAO, and in 2010 the UKFG joined with hundreds of other organisations in launching a European Food Declaration, which outlined principles for a radically new Common Agriculture and Food Policy that would be fair, inclusive, transparent, sustainable and have the interests of people rather than corporations at its centre. Additionally, the UKFG organised UK events to mark World Food Day, including at the European Social Forum in London in 2004, and it hosted distinguished UK and international speakers at its Annual Meetings.