International Planning
Committee for Food

Who we are

The International Planning Committee for Food Sovereignty (IPC) is an autonomous and self-organised global platform of small-scale food producers and rural workers organisations and grassroots/community-based social movements whose goal is to advance the Food Sovereignty agenda at the global and regional level.
More than 6000 organizations and 300 millions of small-scale food producers self-organise themselves through the IPC, sharing the principles and the 6 pillars of Food Sovereignty as outlined in the Nyeleni 2007 Declaration and synthesis report (Read more).
The IPC facilitates dialogue and debate among actors from civil society, governments and others actors in the field of Food Security and Nutrition, creating a space of discussion autonomous from political parties, institutions, governments and the private sector.
The legitimacy of the IPC is based on the ability to voice the concerns and struggles that a wide variety of civil society organisations and social movements face in their daily practice of advocacy at local, sub-national, regional and global levels.
All the positions or joint policy initiatives must be signed by the individual organisations, and each participant can only speak on behalf of its own organisation, and not as a representative of a sector, geographic area or representing the network as a whole.

What is Food Sovereignty?

  • More than food security

    Food sovereignty is the right of peoples to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods, and their right to define their own food and agriculture systems. It puts those who produce, distribute and consume food at the heart of food systems and policies rather than the demands of markets and corporations.

    Nyéléni Declaration – February 2007

Our History

The IPC originates back to the World Food Summit organised in Rome in 1996 by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), as a part of global civil society’s reaction to ongoing global processes on food and agriculture, and to engage actively with them.


The eighth round of the General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs (GATT), held in 1986 in Uruguay, which led to the creation of the World Trade Organization (WTO), included agriculture in multilateral trade negotiations, together with intellectual property and dispute settlement. GATT’s primary purpose was to increase international trade by eliminating or reducing various tariffs, quotas, and subsidies, while maintaining meaningful regulations. Although GATT did apply to agriculture, it was incomplete: as a result, signatory states (or ‘contracting parties’) excluded this sector from the scope of the principles stated in the General Agreement.


In 1994 the Marrakesh Agreement enabled a new multilateral framework to encourage the gradual liberalization of agriculture. It facilitated corporate access to (financial) markets and raw materials through international standard rules, removing many national social protections. The Marrakesh Agreement on Agriculture and the formation of the WTO accelerated global coordination by civil society, in particular small-scale food producer organizations.

FAO World Food Summit

The November 1996 FAO World Food Summit (WFS) held in Rome addressed the 800 million people without adequate food through the neoliberal vision of trade policies fostering food security for all through a fair and market-oriented world trade.

At this juncture, global civil society and social movements felt FAO to be a politically interesting intergovernmental forum for advocacy, and an alternative to the WTO and international financial institutions such as the World Bank (WB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). There were several reasons for this: as a UN body, FAO stood for more-democratic governance with universal membership and, formally, a one country/one vote decision-making process.

FAO maintains a specific focus on food and agriculture and a mission to eliminate hunger, a mandate that includes a strong normative dimension and relative openness to the engagement with civil society and rural people’s organizations.

The parallel NGO Forum, held on 11–17 November 1996, gathered more than 1,300 delegates of food producers organizations from some 80 countries. They were asking for a review of the Uruguay Round and a departure from both market-led solutions dominated by transnational corporations operating within the global economy and from the policy framework created by the Structural Adjustment Programs of the WB and IMF. Their aim was to counter-propose a new agenda based on Right to Food and Food Sovereignty to overcome the social injustices rooted in the governance of food production and marketing.


The 1990s were the decade of global UN summits, starting with the UN Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, each accompanied by a parallel civil society event. The Rome civil society forum held in connection with the WFS, however, was the only one in which a deliberate political choice was made by the organizing committee to put social movements in the majority among the delegates. They had the deciding voice in determining the statement that was being adopted, which highlighted the autonomy and self-organisation of civil society as principles.

The forum gave the newly established organisation La Via Campesina its first global opportunity to present the principle of food sovereignty. The forum also pushed for the recognition of the “right to food” in a dedicated legal initiative. In effect, civil society advocacy’s greatest success in influencing the outcome of the official Summit was the identification of freedom from hunger as a fundamental human right.


The coordination among the different food producers’ organisations continued until the NGO/CSO “Forum for Food sovereignty: a right for all”, held in parallel to the “World Food Summit: five years later” in Rome (June 8–13 2002). This forum led to the institutionalisation of the International Planning Committee for Food Sovereignty (IPC) as a space of coordination among different food producer organisations, with a formal recognition from FAO through an Exchange of Letters defining common priorities, such as the drafting of Right to Food Guidelines.

In the following years, the IPC facilitated the participation of thousands of small-scale food producers in various FAO processes such as in the International Conference on Agrarian Reform and Rural Development (ICARRD), held in Porto Alegre in March 2006, which recognized the collective right to control land and acknowledged land’s cultural, social and historical dimensions.


In 2007, the IPC co-organised a global gathering during the Nyéléni Forum in Mali to address the absence of global food policy coherence and a global body deliberating on food issues, as well as the necessity not to leave the regulating power to WTO, the World Bank, the G8, or transnational corporations.

The Nyéléni Forum was intended as an occasion for reflection by some 500 delegates representing peasants, family farmers, fisher folk, indigenous peoples, pastoralists, women’s groups, workers, environmentalists, consumers, NGOs and youth groups from around the world who had subscribed to the concept of food sovereignty and were taking action to put it into practice in their respective territories. The Forum’s objective was to develop a common understanding of what food sovereignty entails, starting from the concrete practices of the participants, and to develop collective strategies and action plans on that basis.

February 2007

The venue was a village in southern Mali and the name given to the forum (Nyéléni) was that of a legendary Malian peasant woman who had farmed and fed her people well. The forum, which took place from 23 to 27 February 2007, adopted a Declaration and an action plan covering seven themes:


  • Trade policies and local markets;
  • Local knowledge and technology;
  • Access to and control over natural resources–land, water, seeds, livestock breeds;
  • Sharing territories and land, water, fishing rights, aquaculture and forest use, between sectors;
  • Conflict and disaster: responding at local and international levels;
  • Social conditions and forced migration;
  • and Production models: impacts on people, livelihoods and environment.

The eruption of the food price crisis in 2006/2008 opened another phase in IPC-FAO relations. For the first time in years, the governance of food and agriculture and food policy were at the top of the official global agenda. The IPC and social movements organized a civil society conference, Terra Preta, in June 2008, in parallel to an official FAO conference addressing the crisis.

The civil society conference called for “a paradigm shift toward food sovereignty and small-scale sustainable food production that, unlike industrial agriculture, can feed the world, while making a positive contribution to ‘cooling’ the climate and for a fundamental restructuring of the multilateral organizations involved in food and agriculture”.

Over the succeeding months, the IPC and social movements sided with the G77/GRULAC and FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf against donor and bureaucracy-driven responses to the governance vacuum that the crisis revealed. The IPC/FAO/GRULAC proposal was the only one that sought a political response to the causes of the crisis. It called for a profound reform of the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) to turn it into an authoritative, inclusive forum for ensuring policy coherence in the name of food security and the human right to food.

As a result of the IPC’s work, the G77 and the Transnational Agrarian Movements, with FAO support, proposed to transform the CFS into an inclusive global policy forum deliberating on food security and nutrition. It ensured a strong presence of small-scale food producers contributing to the definition of the agenda through a Civil Society Mechanism (CSM) that replicated the regional and constituency structure of the IPC.


The first outcome of the reformed CFS was the approval of the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security (Tenure Guidelines/VGGT) in May 2012. This new international instrument has been actively used since then by peasant, fishing and pastoralist organizations, indigenous peoples, the landless, women and youth, and civil society as a whole, to assert their rights to access land and other natural resources.

After the CFS reform, the IPC worked with FAO to disclose a similar space for Civil Society in the other FAO processes. The first step was the IPC contribution in drafting the FAO Strategy for Partnership with CSOs, operationalizing the principles of autonomy and self-organization, the technical and grassroots knowledge of CSOs participating in FAO processes, and recognizing that their concerns and work often coincide with FAO’s work and mandate.

After the approval of the FAO strategy, the IPC focused on the FAO plan of work. It sought to implement the Tenure Guidelines, negotiate and implement the Voluntary Guidelines for Securing Sustainable Small-Scale Fisheries in the Context of Food Security and Poverty Eradication (SSF Guidelines), bring agroecology in the FAO regular programme through two International Symposia and six Regional Dialogues, open the negotiation on the implementation of the Art. 9 of ITPGRFA on the Farmers’ Rights to seeds, recognize the role of peasant agriculture, oppose false biotech solutions, open a strong institutional debate on Digital Sequencing Information and to facilitate CSOs participation and priority setting in all the FAO Regional Conferences.

Following the mandate of the last IPC General Meeting, IPC Working Groups started to open work stream in other forums such as the Convention on Biodiversity (CBD) or the UN Human Rights System.

Structure and Functioning

For the above-mentioned reasons, the IPC has begun to reorganise at regional level, making a clear distinction in the roles and responsibilities of organisations of small-scale food producers organisations (that make decisions about initiatives and positions) and support NGOs (that play a supporting role). This allows the movements to organise the IPC as a common space, and to maintain their agenda at the centre of IPC initiatives.

Our Work

The IPC Working Group organizes internal meetings, workshops, trainings and consultations on different issues. These meetings are fundamental to: build the capacities of the grassroots organizations; receive feedbacks from the ground; raise the awareness on global issues and negotiations; strengthen the struggles at national and regional levels; raise the voice of small scale producers to the decision-making spaces; strengthen the exchange from farmer to farmer from the North to the South and from the East to the West.

Working Groups

The IPC Working Groups are endorsed by the General Meeting. They have the legitimacy to operate with the full support of all the IPC organizations on a specific priority theme. WGs are open and flexible structures, formed on an ad hoc basis and with an open working methodology. The WGs must be led by the Social Movements (at least two different IPC organizations, all the IPC organizations are invited to actively participate) and should encourage the participation of youth and women. The WGs work in coordination with the FC. They function with financial autonomy, under control of the FC, and contribute to the general functioning of the secretariat. The WGs report to the General Meeting. Information is regularly disseminated and circulated between regions and organizations and within the Facilitating Committee. Each WG has selected a supporting NGO to facilitate the daily implementation of the work plan. Additionally, other NGOs can support the work of the WG. The WG can also be open to other organizations that are not part of IPC, on the basis of the Facilitating Committee decision, as ratified by the General Meeting. Those WG will be denominated “IPC Plus WG”.

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Regional processes

The IPC has set up regional processes on all continents. The regional processes of the IPC follow the general principles and lines of actions agreed upon at the General Meetings. Regional organizations and all regional formations (branches) of the international organizations organize the process by setting up a coordination structure of all the different organizations at the regional level. The regional processes define the regional priorities and also facilitate the full participation of the regional organizations in the IPC Working Groups (WG) and the participation in all institutional regional processes where the IPC is involved.

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Facilitating Committee

The Facilitating Committee (FC) is composed of 5 to 9 representatives of international/global organizations and regional process, with a constituency, gender and regional balance. The FC has the political mandate to organize the internal communication, prepare the meetings, control and monitor funds allocation, facilitate the IPC process, initiate (if needed), coordinate and monitor the WG, and take on the formal responsibilities. The FC is accountable to the General Meeting.
Following the decision of the last IPC General Meeting, the current FC is composed by an Operative Group, composed by 3 representatives of Global Organizations which have been particularly active in the IPC process, and a Regional Group composed by 1 representative from each IPC region (currently Africa, Asia and Pacific, Europe and Central Asia, Americas, NENA) considering gender and youth balance.
The three global organizations that have affirmed their availability and commitment to facilitate the work of the IPC are the International Indian Treaty Council, La Via Campesina, World Forum of Fisher Peoples.


The Secretariat communicates with the FC on a regular basis, informing the IPC organizations. For daily and urgent matters, the secretariat contacts the Operative Group first, which communicates with, consults and/or informs the regional members of the FC whenever it is appropriate.
The Secretariat is shared between different regions following the decision of the IPC General Meeting. It is an operative structure that is mandated to organize communications via the web site, mailing lists, etc. and to fulfil an administrative role for financial issues related to the General Meeting, resource mobilization, support to WGs, etc. The Secretariat prepares the IPC biannual General Meeting.

IPC Handbook

The handbook is intended to provide a brief synthesis of the history of the IPC and a description of its present organization and ways of working in its interface with international intergovernmental processes relevant to food sovereignty.

Year of publication



19 pp.


International Planning Committee for Food Sovereignty


International Planning Committee for Food Sovereignty