Food Security Governance

Empowering Communities, Regulating Corporations

By Nora McKeon

© 2015 – Routledge

246 pages

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Paperback: 9780415529105
pub: 2015-01-19
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About the Book

This book fills a gap in the literature by setting food security in the context of evolving global food governance.

Today’s food system generates hunger alongside of food waste, burgeoning health problems, massive greenhouse gas emissions. Applying food system analysis to review how the international community has addressed food issues since World War II, this book proceeds to explain how actors link up in corporate global food chains and in the local food systems that feed most of the world’s population. It unpacks relevant paradigms – from productivism to food sovereignty – and highlights the significance of adopting a rights-based approach to solving food problems. The author describes how communities around the world are protecting their access to resources and building better ways of producing and accessing food, and discusses the reformed Committee on World Food Security, a uniquely inclusive global policy forum, and how it could be supportive of efforts from the base. The book concludes by identifying terrains on which work is needed to adapt the practice of the democratic public sphere and accountable governance to a global dimension and extend its authority to the world of markets and corporations.

This book will be of interest to students of food security, global governance, development studies and critical security studies in general.


'There are few people who have been involved in grassroots efforts to transform the global food system, been veterans of international organizations, and still been able to imagine compatibility between the two. Yet Nora McKeon’s subtle analysis, with its centerpiece examination of the history and possibilities of the Committee on World Food Security, is required reading for those who feel the trenches dug by governments and civil society can never move. It’s a wonderfully readable account of the world food crisis, distinguished by its grounded faith in the capacity of organizations – of people and governments – to prevent future hunger.'-- Raj Patel, Research Fellow at the University of Texas, Austin and author of Stuffed and Starved, and The Value of Nothing

'Global food governance is at crossroads. The rich world is over-consuming; the poor continue to lose out; meanwhile global systems of governance have not fully risen to the challenge. This book is an overdue account of the fight over reform. It is a fine reminder that food democracy is the key to feeding everyone equitably, healthily, affordably and sustainably.'Tim Lang, City University, London, UK

'At such an uncertain time in global food provisioning, Nora McKeon’s book offers an exceptional perspective. Not only does she evaluate the organization and politics of the world’s food systems with erudition, but also she provides brilliant practitioner insights from within the UN Committee on World Food Security and the Food Sovereignty movement. The result is a lively account of food system crisis, competing paradigms and new questions of governance in an accessible and forward-looking analysis.' --Philip McMichael, Cornell University, USA

'Nora McKeon does a superb job at describing how governments have allowed markets and corporations to take control of food systems, and which tools could be used to provide healthier diets, ensure greater resilience, and empower communities. Building on her unmatched experience working both with farmers’ organisations and with international institutions, she brings us into how global governance of food security is shaped, and why food democracy matters: an illuminating and eye-opening journey.'-- Olivier De Schutter, former UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food

'Nora McKeon understands the Byzantine world of global food politics better than anyone I know – from inside the Rome-based agencies and from outside. She has put herself on the line time after time and has earned enormous respect for her intelligence and integrity. Everyone fighting for Food Sovereignty has to read this book.' -- Pat Mooney, ETC Group

'Brilliant! An eye-opening tour of the march to democratize global food governance. Discover the other side of corporate globalization as social movements gain a voice at the table. With the eyes of a veteran insider and the mind of an astute analyst, McKeon offers powerful insights. A must-read for all who want to go beyond competing "issues" to governance itself -- and real solutions.' -- Frances Moore Lappé, author of Diet for a Small Planet

'The far reaching implications of food governance –local and global—are trenchantly addressed in this impeccably researched book. Nora McKeon brings decades of engagement with farmers movements, multilateral agencies and academia to bear on the question of how the dysfunctional global food system can be transformed through citizens’ concerted action. A must read for food activists seeking to go beyond slogans, techno-administrative fixes or business as usual into the realm of active, popular democracy.' -- Eric Holt-Giménez, Food First/Institute for Food and Development Policy

'Nora McKeon, with her long professional experience and transdisciplinary approach, takes us admirably through the various components, contradictions and controversies of food systems governance, both at global and local scale. This insightful book is an essential guide for anyone who wants to understand the social and political dynamics of the food systems in the contemporary capitalist world-economy.' -- Pasquale De Muro, Rome 3 University, Italy

‘Nora McKeon’s book is a must-read for both social activists and academics involved in the realms of agriculture, food, justice and social movements. But it is equally an accessible and highly informative source for interested members of the general public.’- Jan Douwe van der Ploeg, Wageningen University, Netherlands

'The author weaves together a complex landscape of policies, activities, and levels of food security governance. Opinions differ because of the ideologies of the constituencies, but in all those controversies, small producers of food are pivotal to ending hunger, malnutrition, and extreme poverty. Nora, thank you for this effort." —Yaya Adissa Olaitan Olaniran, Former Chair, Committee on World Food Security (CFS), Permanent Representative of Nigeria to the UN Agencies of Food and Agriculture

‘Food Security Governance; Empowering Communities, Regulating Corporations’ is a must read for anyone striving to understand the grammar of the global food system, and what can be done to support the building of the existing alternatives.

What makes this volume particular captivating is that McKeon moves between global and local perspectives in a unique combination of a food regime analysis combined with her personal portrayals of encounters with some of the key actors engaged in the struggle to solve global food problems, in particular small-scale food producers themselves.' - Ingeborg Gaarde, Centre d'analyse et d'intervention sociologiques

'…this book illustrates its importance to the present-day and future wellbeing of most people in the world. In the United States, interest in food justice has risen rapidly over the past decade. Food governance and democracy are perhaps the most critical elements of food justice, although just beginning to emerge as emphases in the US. Justice will not be possible without the full political participation of marginalized people affected by food policies. This book is an excellent addition to upper-level undergraduate or graduate courses on food security, food justice, and the sociopolitical context of food.' Molly Anderson, Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems and Community Development

'Nora McKeon’s book is a tour de force and a perceptive addition to readings on this subject. It will reinforce the commitment of those who are in solidarity with the world’s food providers and it will inform newcomers. Simultaneously it is an eye-opener and guide for emerging students of food regimes and novice negotiators in what is described in an endorsement of the book as the ‘Byzantine world of global food politics’, and a vivid historical account of decades-long processes to realize the Right to Food for the majority that will be heartening to activists.'

Food Chain Vol. 5 No. 1–2, Patrick Mulvany, Director of Kamayoq.

This is a book of brilliant insights from a seasoned practitioner in both the UN system and the agrarian movements, and with a forward-looking analysis towards the re-democratization of the public sphere and the end of the scourge of hunger and food insecurity. A veritable tour de force!

Philip McMichael, Cornell University

Table of Contents

Introduction 1. Food governance: a rapid historical review 2. Food provision in a globalized world 3. What’s in a paradigm? Food security, food sovereignty and evidence-based decision-making 4. Reactions to the food price crisis and the challenge of rethinking global food governance 5. Local-global: building food governance from the bottom up 6. Building a better food system from the top reaching downward 7. Where to now? Bibliography

About the Author

Nora McKeon is engaged in teaching, writing and advocacy on food issues and social movements, following a career at the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations. She is the author of Global Governance for World Food Security (2011), The United Nations and Civil Society (2009), and Peasant Organizations (2004).

About the Series

Routledge Critical Security Studies

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / Military / General
POLITICAL SCIENCE / International Relations / General
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Political Freedom & Security / General
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Developing Countries