Why I am a candidate for the organic World Board

It is a sign of health and vitality in the global organic movement that 23 Candidates from all over the world are seeking seats on the IFOAM Organics International World Board. With over 800 organizations in more than 100 countries, we are a global movement of unequaled diversity working for sustainable farming and food production one farm, one community, one nation at a time.

Together we are creating solutions for food security, biodiversity, health, climate, fair trade and other goals—all at the same time, because organic farming and agroecology contribute to all these efforts. We have made great strides. But there is so much more to do. This is why I am seeking a seat on the World Board.

Having stepped down after 25 years of leadership in Organic Denmark, I will bring political, market, and organizational experience to the World Board, but I also look forward to tuning into members’ needs, living by the Danish saying “there is a reason that we are given two ears and only one mouth.”

To my colleagues around the world, I ask for your ideas about how our global organization best can help you in your work, and create transformative policy, alliances and initiatives on the global scene that drive change. My thoughts and background are here, and in my Candidacy Statement and CV. And in a short Candidate video statement I hope for your vote!

Stronger members = more change

After speaking with IFOAM members from around the world, I see two areas in particular where I will focus my efforts if I have your support.

The first is strengthening our members’ capacity to make change. IFOAM is only as strong as our members. With a focus on capacity building, training, and sharing best practice, IFOAM can empower our member NGOs to drive education, political policy, market development, agenda setting communication, and membership growth. If IFOAM were a plant, our members make up the soil that nourishes it. We must attend to soil (and our memberships’) diversity, health, and robustness.

Empowering members should be a central goal in IFOAM structural reform, projects and organizational development.  IFOAM’s regions must have a mandate, doing what they do best, and some need help strengthening cohesion and capacity. It is an exciting time, as visionary regional organic initiatives are joining together, scaling up and going global. The Asian Organic Youth Forum and Young Organics, forming Young Organics Global Network. ALGOA and other regional and local collaborations and bio-districts became in 2020 the Global Alliance of Organic Districts.

To this first effort—strengthening our members–I will bring decades of hands-on experience with NGO leadership, capacity building and lobby work in a transformative organic NGO, Organic Denmark, as well as experience advising NGOs on 4 continents in political advocacy, coalition building, fundraising and market development.

Setting a global agenda

My second focus is IFOAM’s mandate to position organic farming and agroecology in the global sustainability agenda. Not least the UN climate and food security fora, that are beginning to give our members powerful arguments about agroecology as a positive tool for addressing climate change and hunger. IFOAM must continue to rise up to the heights of global debates, shading and protecting the movement, and drawing energy down to the “grassroots”.

This requires strategic focus and tactical abilities so we can create alliances in international fora and win the very real battles with global corporations determined to control our food and our land and set a very different agenda for “sustainability”. Many natural alliances with trade unions, commercial interests and organizations working for biodiversity, climate, food security, plant-rich diets and fair trade provide opportunities for transformative change.

To this effort I bring international advocacy and coalition building experience, going back to my role in the successful campaign for a total EU ban on GMOs in organic production, and in combating myths about organics and climate. A recent result: a commitment from many of the worlds largest cities to work for både climate friendly and organic food, in the Declaration from the C40 Climate Summit (2019). This was based on the Danish model for organic meals in public kitchens, with less meat, more plants, and much less food waste.

Diversity is strength, and health

The work in our very diverse World Board and membership, requires a culture of respect and curiosity. To this work I will bring experience in working with and uniting people across national, religious, racial, and ideological divides, respectfully finding common ground and fighting together for real change. From diverse inner-city neighborhoods in the USA to international fora. I take it seriously.

In Denmark, this approach has ensured support from 10 of 11 political parties in parliament and from the many allies necessary to advance organics, from the retail sector and NGOs for nature, consumers, and farmers to food companies and the trade unions for workers in farming and public kitchens. These healthy market and advocacy ecosystems have created the world’s highest sales of organic food and have been honored with a One World Award. While the strong organic policies in Denmark won a Future Policy Award for advancing organics and agroecology (FAO, IFOAM Organics International and World Future Council 2018).

I would like to contribute to the important work in IFOAM at the global level. Empowering members and creating a more supportive global market and political ecosystem allowing organics to thrive. I will continue to fight for organic integrity, so we deliver more benefits for people and our planet– watchful of initiatives that undermine organic principles. I support and actively use our ambitious agenda, Organic 3.0. And I hope for your support, both as candidate, and should I be chosen to serve on the World Board.

Let me know how IFOAM can help you in your work:

ph@paulholmbeck.com or connect on LinkedIn.

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