This report exposes the rising threat of Multistakeholder Institutions (MSIs) and increasing corporate influence over the governance of food systems via the United Nations Food Systems Summit (UNFSS). At its core the UNFSS is geared toward moving from multilateralism – involving processes and decision making led by States – to multistakeholderism – a practice of governance that brings multiple stakeholders including corporations, corporate platforms, business associations, donors, academics and civil society actors together to formulate and implement responses to jointly perceived problems.
Multistakeholderism allows powerful transnational corporations, their platforms and associations to direct international and national policy making, financing, narratives, and governance, while promoting corporate friendly, false solutions to food systems in crisis.
Given the multiple systemic crises (climate change, COVID-19, biodiversity loss, hunger, inequality) that the global, industrial food system is contributing to, and local and national food systems are being affected by, holistic food systems analysis and transformation are needed, firmly aimed at structural and systems change, and rooted in human rights and food sovereignty. But the UNFSS is very far from this vision. Rather it is going in the opposite direction – with a piecemeal approach to solutions, lack of transparency, lack of rigor of analysis and complete disregard for crucial aspects of food systems transformation such as food sovereignty, agency, power, market concentration and systemic inequalities.
MSIs, corporate philanthropies, and other corporate actors within the UNFSS are deeply connected to each other – sitting on each other’s governance bodies, sharing revolving doors of people in leadership positions and joint convening with other MSIs. These interconnections, allow them to promote their agenda in a wide variety of spaces and institutions, almost forming a parallel informal structure to multilateral governance systems. The UNFSS is thus embedding multistakeholderism in food systems governance and is undermining existing multilateral and rights based food governance spaces such as the United Nations Committee on World Food Security (CFS).