Jenifer Queila Santana
Former Counselor of CONSEA
PhD Candidate on Political Science at Federal University of Pernambuco
Member of the Research Group of Hunger and International Relations (FomeRI/UFPB)
The Food and Nutrition Security (SAN, in Portuguese) policy suffered attacks on the first day of President Jair Bolsonaro’s government. Provisional Measure (PM) No. 870 promulgated on January 1st of 2019 effectively extinguished the National Council for Food and Nutrition Security (CONSEA), an agency so important to the historic construction of Public Policies focused on fighting hunger, promoting SAN, and the Human Right to Adequate Food.
CONSEA was created in 1993 under the government of Itamar Franco. The Council was born from the demand of organized civil society. On a historical scale, it was a pioneering attempt to promote the discussion on Food and Nutrition Security (SAN) in a political environment based on social participation and the integration of diverse sectors. Due to the lack of adherence to the theme in the political agenda of the 1990s, the organ was extinguished in 1995 during the Fernando Henrique Cardoso government by Decree nº 1366.
The Lula government re-created the CONSEA in 2003. The composition of the CONSEA was established in order to have 2/3 of its Counselors from civil society (40 members) and 1/3 of the government (20 members). In addition to the Counselors, the body would consist of an Executive Secretariat, a Board of Directors, Standing Committees and Working Groups, and the Commission of Presidents of State Councils of Food and Nutrition Security. The CONSEA advocated a healthy, sustainable, agroecological, fair production model (food system) that respected the diversity of production systems. All of his actions focused on ensuring the non-violation of the Human Right to Adequate Food.
After its re-creation, CONSEA assumed its position of advising the Presidency of the Republic, being institutionally responsible for the social control of formulation, execution, and monitoring of both the Policy and the National Plan of Food Security (PNSAN and PLANSAN, in portuguese). These prerogatives of action and others were instituted through the adoption of Law No. 11346 (LOSAN), considered one of the main achievements of CONSEA’s actions in recent years. LOSAN instituted in its Art. 3 the concept of SAN, and in its Art. 7, it established the National System of Food Security and Nutrition (SISAN, in portuguese).
SISAN was created to be intersectoral; focused on implementation of the PNSAN and the PLANSAN; aimed at fostering integration efforts between civil society and government; and also focused on monitoring and evaluation of SAN Public Policies. The composition of SISAN was structured through the union of two bodies: CONSEA and CAISAN (SAN Interministerial Chamber). CAISAN would be composed of twenty ministries, which would work on the intersectoral articulation of SAN programs and actions, and on the management, monitoring and evaluation of PLANSAN. Subsequently, Decree 7272/2010 instituted the particularities of the National Food Security Policy (PNSAN). It was determined that the Policy would be implemented from PLANSAN, and the construction of PLANSAN, in turn, would also be done through a joint action of CONSEA and CAISAN.
My arrival at the CONSEA happened in 2017, when 60% of the Board members who had been in the institution since the previous decade were renewed. The 5th National Conference on Food and Nutrition Security held in November 2015, approved the creation of a youth segment within the organization, in order to deal more assertively with the demands of this public within the body. As a student of International Relations, my approach to the topic of SAN came from Research Group on Hunger and International Relations of the Federal University of Paraiba (FomeRI/UFPB) itself since its creation in 2012. There I came to have contact with the subject and to study the various relations of the subject with the agenda of International Relations. My entry into CONSEA, also came as a result of the work in the NGO Engajamundo, aimed at training young people to act in decision-making bodies. Engajamundo was invited to occupy one of the chairs for the youth segment in the organ, and since I dealt more directly with the issue within the NGO, I was appointed to the position.
The arrival of youth in CONSEA took place in a very challenging context. Already in the Michel Temer (2016/2018) government, after the fraudulent impeachment of Dilma Rousseff. We went through a fairly cut-off scenario in the budget of several SAN Public Policies, experiencing a setback in historical achievements in the struggle for non-violation of the Human Right to Adequate Food. Instead of advancing the youth agenda, we joined the other Counselors in the various plenaries and we had to discuss the challenges they faced.
Provisional Measure No. 870 decreed by President Bolsonaro on January 1st, 2019 has come to aggravate the challenges already in place. The PM revoked Art. 11 of LOSAN, removing both CONSEA’s activities within the spectrum of SISAN and its position as a direct advisor to the Presidency of the Republic, disarticulating in practice the social control of the institutional framework centered on the formulation, monitoring, and evaluation of SAN Public Policies.
Undoubtedly, the disintegration of CONSEA is something of great concern. Most of the policies approved in Brazil and internationally reputed to be responsible for taking the country out of the FAO’s Hunger Map in 2014 also came about through the relentless demand, articulation, and action of the National Council and the State Councils of SAN. The consolidation of the Human Right to Adequate Food as a social right in Article 6 of the Federal Constitution (Constitutional Amendment 064/2010), the PNSAN and the PLANSAN; the Programs of Coexistence with the Semi-Arid; the Harvest Plan for Family Agriculture; the Food Guide of the Brazilian Population; and the National Policy on Agroecology and Organic Production, consisted of some of the innovative proposals designed or supported by CONSEA, seeking to assure the Brazilians the Human Right to Adequate Food. In addition, the very participatory structure of construction of Policies of SAN used in the SISAN was considered a model for several countries.
Several entities have already reacted against the extinction of the body, among them the Slow Food Brasil Association, the Federal Council of Nutritionists, the Brazilian Association of Collective Health, and the Brazilian Forum on Sovereignty and Food and Nutrition Security. In addition, public hearings and special sessions were held in the Chamber of Deputies, the Federal Senate and some State Legislative Assemblies to defend the permanence of the CONSEA. In a more recent measure (May 1, 2019), Justice Minister Marco Aurélio accepted an injunction from the Workers’ Party in defense of the participatory councils and requested an urgent vote in the Supreme Federal Court. In the direct action of unconstitutionality, the Workers’ Party alleged that the extinction of the councils, in the MP of Bolsonaro, violates the constitutional framework of formulation and implementation of public policies, which requires a social control.
While the process related to MP follows its flow, we can’t know for sure its results. However, it is clear to me that the deconstruction of this Council will represent a setback in the achievements that directly impacted the table of Brazilian citizens. Because food is so basic and primordial, it cannot be subjugated to games of interest that, at the end of the day, favor a model of production and consumption that is not accessible, sustainable, healthy, fair and inclusive. We need all international support in the fight against the CONSEA’s extinction. Join us!