Country: Qatar
01 October 2023

Doha, Qatar - October 1, 2023 - The inaugural sub-forum, "Engaging Civil Society against Food Insecurity," organized by the Islamic Organization for Food Security (IOFS) in partnership with the Ministry of Municipality of the State of Qatar, has successfully concluded on October 1, 2023. Themed "Empowering Civil Initiatives for Cultivating Change: CSOs and IOFS for Food Security" and guided by the motto "From Fields to Futures: Empowering Communities for Food Security," this event marked a significant stride in addressing global food security challenges in OIC Member States.

Recognizing the paramount importance of inclusive and participatory approaches in achieving food security, the IOFS convened sub-forum to harness the diverse expertise, local knowledge, and connections of Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) as their active involvement ensures that the needs and aspirations of local communities are adequately addressed, empowering marginalized groups, promoting social inclusion.

The forum was designed with specific objectives in mind, all aimed at fostering a more active engagement of CSOs in the development of national and regional agricultural policies, thereby making significant contributions to the enhancement of food security. Furthermore, the sub-forum served as a catalyst for the exchange of knowledge and innovative ideas within the realm of sustainable agriculture and food security among CSOs, creating a dynamic platform that enriched discussions and propelled advancements. It provided an open arena where CSOs could come together for peer-to-peer dialogues, delving into various aspects of food security and nutrition policies, trends, and challenges, facilitating the invaluable exchange of insights. Most importantly, these exchanges played a pivotal role in ensuring that grassroots organizations were given an equal voice in the discourse on food security and nutrition policies, thereby amplifying the voices of those most directly affected by these policies within OIC Member States.

The sub-forum comprised three major sessions:

In the first session, "Transforming Gender Relations in Agriculture through Women's Empowerment," gender disparities in accessing essential agrifood resources were addressed, highlighting that women lagged behind men in land, inputs, services, finance, and digital technology access. This gap posed a significant challenge to gender equality efforts. The session emphasized reducing these inequalities as a crucial path to gender equality, with localized interventions and civil society movements playing vital roles in closing gender gaps and empowering women in agrifood systems. Women's rights activists and civil society organizations were recognized as essential for advocating gender-transformative changes in agrifood policy and influencing policy processes in OIC geography.

The second session, titled "Urbanization, Rural Transformation, and Implications for Food Security," explored the impact of urbanization on agrifood systems, focusing on the roles of civil society stakeholders, such as NGOs, farmers, and consumer associations, compared to governments and market players. It discussed strategies for engaging these stakeholders effectively in policymaking. The session also examined the complex linkages between rural and urban markets, considering their spatial and functional aspects and how they affect income, employment, lifestyles, economic inequality, and policies. Furthermore, it addressed the role of civic initiatives, including SMEs, cooperatives, and local producers, in fostering meaningful dialogues within formalized retail markets, particularly supermarkets and chains, and discussed potential opportunities for development and growth in OIC geography akin to developing food markets.

The third session, titled "Empowering Youth for a Sustainable Future," delved into the multifaceted challenges faced by rural youth in the developing markets of OIC geography. It examined strategies for not only preparing them for decent work opportunities but also for actively involving them in agriculture and food security initiatives. The discussion emphasized the need for comprehensive youth development programs, including vocational training, education, and mentorship, to equip young individuals with the skills required to thrive in the agricultural sector. Moreover, the session explored innovative approaches to incentivize youth engagement, such as promoting youth-led farming cooperatives and leveraging digital technology to connect them with market opportunities and information. By addressing the specific issues pertaining to youth inclusion in these developing markets, the session aimed to contribute to the sustainable growth and empowerment of the youth population within the OIC geography.

The sub-forum brought together a diverse array of participants, including international organizations, regional and national institutions, and various civil society organizations and initiatives. Alongside the enlightening sessions, a roundtable discussion featuring distinguished experts, leaders, and activists offered valuable insights and recommendations.

This event marks the inception of a promising future characterized by enhanced inclusion, motivating civil society stakeholders to embark on concrete actions in the pursuit of resilient food systems for a brighter tomorrow. IOFS and its partners remain unwavering in their commitment to collaborative endeavours aimed at achieving global food security and eradicating hunger. Additionally, it emphasized the importance of tailoring policy solutions to local contexts, drawing from national and regional experiences to address unique challenges and opportunities effectively.

Furthermore, these consultations serve as a precursor to future CSO forums, recognizing the significance of inclusivity and the enrichment of stakeholder engagement for OIC member countries and beyond, as integral components of IOFS's ongoing mission in shaping the policies and programs.