Canada's Action Plan for Food Security

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Executive Summary

Canada's Action Plan for Food Security is Canada's response to the World Food Summit (WFS) commitment made by the international community to reduce by half the number of undernourished people no later than the year 2015. It builds on a wide range of existing international commitments which affect food security, including agreements on international trade and environmental issues, conventions on human rights (including women's and children's rights), social development, education, housing and urban development. In addition, it builds on commitments and actions which flow from current domestic programs such as Canada's own Nutrition for Health: An Agenda for Action; Gathering Strength: Canada's Aboriginal Action Plan; revisions to legislation, including the Fisheries Act; and Canada's evolving economic, social and environmental programs and policies.

This Plan is the work of a Joint Consultative Group (JCG) composed of both government and civil society(1) representatives (see Appendix I for membership). During the drafting discussions, it became apparent to the JCG that it was dealing with a wide range of issues, many of which are complex and interconnected. To assist the reader in an initial understanding of how food security was perceived during these discussions, Part I, a short introductory section entitled "Understanding Food Security", has been developed. It is not meant to be comprehensive, nor does it pretend to be conclusive; it is simply a frame of reference for the actions which follow.

The structure of this document is based on the WFS Plan of Action endorsed by 187 countries at the World Food Summit in Rome in 1996. The WFS Plan of Action contains seven commitments, which also form the backbone of this document. Part II outlines Canada's plan for actions in the domestic environment, and Part III outlines Canada's plan for actions in the international environment as a donor to developing countries and countries in transition; as a member of the multilateral community; and as a trading nation. Each action is followed by a list of the main implementing organizations in parentheses. Lastly, Part IV details Canada's approach to the implementation and monitoring of its Action Plan.

In the context of Canada's obligations related to the goal of the WFS, this Plan presents the Canadian perspective on the complex issue of food security, and then sets out the actions themselves within the broad context of current challenges. It recognizes that food security implies access to adequate food and sufficient food supplies. Poverty reduction, social justice and sustainable food systems are essential conditions.

The Plan acknowledges the important role that civil society plays in contributing to food security and recognizes the achievements of the academic community and private sector in expanding production and improving access to food since the global effort to end hunger began in earnest some 50 years ago. Information sharing, partnerships and intersectoral cooperation play a key role in Canada's approach.

The Plan is a work in progress which forms a basis for further discussions on the specifics of implementation, including timing, roles and responsibilities, coordination mechanisms and related actions. It is open-ended and flexible, adaptable to changing conditions and responsive to evolving needs. It is not an exhaustive inventory of existing programs or planned actions; rather, it is a blueprint which sets out the highest priorities as identified by members of the JCG. These priorities are outlined below. The order in which they appear does not reflect an order of importance but rather follows the order of the seven commitments.

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Priority 1: The right to food reiterates Canada's belief that this right is an important element in food security and underscores the need to better define the meaning of this right, and the actions required to implement it. Actions include civil society support to the International Code of Conduct on the Human Right to Adequate Food, and all sector participation in national and international efforts to clarify the meaning of the right to food towards its full and progressive realization.

Priority 2: The reduction of poverty is an important element in the strategy for addressing food insecurity in both domestic and international actions, based on the notion that a key condition for food security is access to sufficient resources to purchase or grow food. International actions are influenced by Canada's poverty reduction focus in its development assistance program; actions include maintaining or exceeding the 25% Official Development Assistance (ODA) target for investments in basic human needs such as food and nutrition, education and primary health care. The Plan also reaffirms Canada's commitment to engaging citizens in policy making and program design in the area of poverty reduction.

Priority 3: Promotion of access to safe and nutritious food is seen as a critical component of food security. In developing countries, actions on micronutrient and vitamin supplementation of foods contribute to improved nutrition. Breastfeeding is also highlighted as critical to infant health and nutrition worldwide. In Canada, commitment to this is furthered through actions to support working mothers, hospital programs, mother and child health care and other initiatives in support of the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes. Beyond the promotion and protection of breastfeeding and other food security conditions, caring practices, and health and education measures are important for the nutrition security of mothers and children, particularly, but not only, in developing countries.

Priority 4: Food safety underlines the new threats to global food supply posed by the rapid increase and deep market penetration of new and exotic foods from a variety of trading partners, which may constitute a safety or disease hazard; by environmental contaminants, especially in traditional food sources in Canada's Far North, which are also a threat to safety; and emergencies or disasters, which can cause problems such as contamination from hazardous chemicals or disease-causing micro-organisms. In addition, lack of knowledge about preparation and storage of foods is identified as a threat, mainly at the household level. Actions to ensure safe supplies and safe handling include enhanced public education, better product labelling, enhanced biotechnology assessment, improved monitoring methods and stronger multisectoral partnerships.

Priority 5: Traditional food acquisition methods of Aboriginal and coastal communities acknowledge the important role that hunting, fishing, gathering, bartering and trading play in the food security of many communities in Canada and abroad. By sharing their awareness of traditional foods and their knowledge of sustainable natural resource practices, indigenous people have an important contribution to make in achieving the World Food Summit's goal. Actions related to the reduction of environmental contaminants, sustainable management of resources (including fisheries) and appropriate supplementation with high-quality commercial foods, strengthen access to food for these communities.

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Priority 6: Food production emphasizes the critical role of research, rural development and investment in the productivity of the agriculture and agri-food sector. This priority makes a strong link between the sustainable management of productive resources and the production of sufficient quantities of safe and nutritious food for all. It demonstrates the need to support local production, particularly in developing countries, where agrarian reform, participation of affected communities (including women producers) and fulfilment of basic human needs are essential to successful rural development programs. In Canada, actions aimed at enhancing agricultural production include: supporting sustainable resource management, continuing to invest in and build research capacity and encouraging investment in rural areas.

Priority 7: Emphasis on environmentally sustainable practices explores some of the most pressing challenges to food production. Canada's actions in support of this priority are channelled through its support to a wide variety of commitments under current international agreements. Internationally, this covers specific challenges to developing countries in such areas as water resource management, community forestry, sustainable population growth and respect and preservation of indigenous knowledge. For Canada, additional actions complement these agreements to enhance stewardship of natural resources in the areas of northern contaminants, sustainable fisheries management, biotechnology, climate change and biodiversity.

Priority 8: Fair trade outlines the potential impact of liberalized trade regimes on incomes and overall welfare, and indicates the possibility that there may be adjustment costs in non-competitive sectors. Actions within this priority involve enhancing trade in the food and agri-food sectors, particularly for developing countries, while achieving a better understanding of the impacts of liberalized trade on people vulnerable to food insecurity.

Priority 9: Acknowledgement of peace as a precursor to food security underlines the need for safe and secure access to means of production, especially arable land and harvestable waters. Actions within this priority strengthen emergency measures, conflict prevention, peacebuilding and disaster preparedness in Canada and abroad.

Priority 10: A monitoring system for food insecurity identifies the need for a comprehensive set of agreed-upon indicators to determine the nature, extent and evolution of food insecurity, both to develop appropriate responses and to monitor their effectiveness. This Plan provides for both government and civil society to work toward developing indicators for national and international systems and using them for monitoring purposes.

For the purpose of this document, "civil society" refers to organizations and associations of people, formed for social or political purposes, that are not created or mandated by governments. Included are non-governmental organizations, trade unions, cooperatives, churches, grass-roots organizations, academic institutions, and business associations.

Consult Canada's Action Plan for Food Security (in PDF version). [PDF Help]

For more information on this publication, please contact Daryl Nearing.