Leaders of poor countries are beginning to be invited to the big rich nation meetings like the G-8 and G-20. Now, activists are also being invited to meetings of international bodies. The activists and non-governmental organizations used to just protest outside the door, but now the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization is beginning to talk to them.
From the IPS, writer Marwaan Macan-Markar talks to a couple of activists who were finally heard by the FAO.
"It was very empowering. We had opportunities to intervene simultaneously since we were there as co-equals with the governments," said (Marlene) Ramirez, secretary-general of the Asian Partnership for the Development of Human Resources in Rural Areas, a Manila-based regional grassroots network. "It has made a major difference for civil society."
This week’s debates on finding solutions to food security were influenced by "the voices of many civil society sectors," she revealed during an interview from the meeting site. "Governments got to hear alternative solutions and the need to explore alternative ways."
(Sarojini) Rengam and Ramirez were among 150 civil society representatives from across the world that took part in this week’s groundbreaking meeting. These groups, of which 30 were from Asia, represented regional and international farmers’ organisations, herders associations and indigenous organisations.
This break from the format of conventional U.N. meetings – where civil society groups are accorded marginal, or at times only symbolic, space – is winning early praise from some government delegates, among them the representatives from the Philippines and Argentina.
"It is very important that finally, member governments have recognised that NGOs and CSOs (civil society organisations) have a role to play institutionally," said Noel de Luna, current head of the CFS, during an interview. "It serves as an assurance that the voices who we have excluded in the past are heard."
"CSO are directly in contact with the people going hungry and living in poverty and were able to bring that reality to the discussions," the delegate from the Philippines added. "In the past, all we heard were only statements by governments."