Centre for Food Policy Research
  1. PhD students
Food Policy

Jessica Duncan

PhD Work

The reformed Committee on World Food Security and the global governance of food security


  • October 2010- present: PhD Candidate, Centre for Food Policy, School of Health Sciences, City, University of London
    Supervisors: David Barling, Tim Lang
  • Masters of Arts, Sociology, University of Victoria, Canada
    Supervisors: Martha McMahon, Ken Hatt, William Carroll.
  • Bachelor of Arts, Sociology (hons), Political Science, Bishop's University, Canada

The study

Jessica DuncanJessica's research explores the reformed UN Committee on World Food Security (CFS) as an institution addressing a changed world, and as an illustration of evolving global food security governance. The research sets out to answer the extent to which the CFS is realising its reform objectives and how it is positioning itself within a changing architecture of global food security governance.

Informed by literature on global governance and embedded neoliberalism, the inquiry centres around three case studies - Civil Society Mechanism, Voluntary Guidelines for the Responsible Governance of Tenure

of Land, Fisheries and Forests, and the Global Strategic Framework - which serve to highlight the operationalization of key reform objectives while simultaneously providing insight into broader policy processes and dynamics. Data was collected through document analysis, participant observation, and interviews. The resulting analysis provides clear evidence of the impact of enhanced participation on policy outcomes and concludes that the policy recommendations emerging from the CFS are amongst the most comprehensive and useful in terms of applicability and uptake at the national and regional level. The analysis also reveals that despite its methods, outcomes and mandate, the CFS is being systematically undermined by other actors seeking to maintain influence and sustain neoliberal hegemony across food security policies at the global level.

The research contributes to global governance theory by describing the functioning of mechanisms that can address democratic deficits in global governance while elucidating related opportunities and challenges. The
research also contributes to scholarship on global food security policy by challenging the application of previous analyses to the contemporary reality.

The research addresses limitations in global governance literature by mapping the complexity of social and political relations across sites of negotiation, contestation and compromise between actors. The policy implications derived from this thesis focus on the need to further problematize food security and for policies to target structural causes of food insecurity. Building on the experiences of the CFS, it is argued that transparent, participatory mechanisms need to be created which acknowledge, and seek to rectify, existing imbalances in power relations in policy-making processes.


Journal Articles

Bevilacqua, Dario and Duncan, Jessica. 2010. "Towards a New Cosmopolitanism: Global Reflexive Interactive Democracy as a New Mechanism for Civil Society Participation in Agri-food Governance." Global Jurist. 10(1)(Advances):Article 2.

Books (edited)

Duncan, Jessica and Medina, F. Xavier (eds). 2010. Agri-Food Systems: Towards integrated and sustainable solutions. Barcelona: Editorial UOC. (In Catalan)

Book Chapters

Duncan, Jessica. 2010. "Agri-Food Policy: Integrated approaches across the food web". Pp 159-189 in Duncan, Jessica and Medina, F. Xavier (eds). Agri-Food Systems: Towards integrated and sustainable solutions. Barcelona: Editorial UOC. (In Catalan)

Duncan, Jessica and Medina, F. Xavier. 2010. "Sustainability Through Complexity: Navigating the food web". Pp 11-19 in Agri-Food Systems: Towards integrated and sustainable solutions. Barcelona: Editorial UOC. (In Catalan)

Academic Presentations and Panels

  • "Opportunities and Challenges with a new Phase of Global Food Security Governance" Panel Discussion and Expert Workshop on Global Food Democracy, Ubuntu, Barcelona, Spain (October 2011)
  • "Civil Society Participation in Global Food Security Governance: Deliberative Democracy and the Committee for World Food Security". Session on Food Security and Nutrition, European Society for Rural Sociology/World Congress of Rural Sociology, Chania, Greece (August 2011)
  • "Regulation and Resistance: Inquiries into agri-food governance." Panel coordinated for the Joint Meeting of the Association for the Study of Food and Society and Agriculture and Human Values, Bloomington, Indiana (June 2010)
  • "Food Systems: A multidisciplinary approach to analysis and learning". Presentation to the Systems Dynamics and Innovation in Food Networks Conference, Innsbruck-Igls, Austria (February 2010)
  • "Food Systems, Culture and Society to Forward Eco-Education". Presentation at the Eco-University Conference, Barcelona, Spain (October 2009)
  • "Towards a new cosmopolitanism: Global Reflexive Interactive Democracy as a new mechanism for civil society participation in agri-food governance." Presentation at the Association for the Study of Food and Society, State College, Pennsylvania (May 2009)
  • "At the Table with Darwin." Coordinator of public roundtable. Barcelona, Spain (September 2009)
  • "The Silent Tsunami: Understanding the world food crisis." Coordinator of public roundtable. Barcelona, Spain (February 2009)


  • Co-author of the chapter "Food Democracy and Governance" in  Resetting the Table: A People's Food Policy for Canada (Ottawa) (April 2011)
  • Author and Project Coordinator, Global Gathering of Women Pastoralists: Global Action for Local Survival (photobook). IFAD  (Rome)(June 2011)
  • Author, Global Action Plan: Women Pastoralists. Final Report from the Global Gathering of Women Pastoralists. MARAG (Mera, India) (February 2011)
  • Co-authored report on Food Sovereignty and Africa, Veterinarios Sin Fronteras (Barcelona) (January 2011)
  • Co-authored final report on Civil Society Consultation in Advance of the 36th Session to the CFS. CSM (Rome) (January 2011)

Research Interests

Areas of empirical focus include: multilateral food security forums, notably the Committee on World Food Security; interactions between states, the private sector, philanthropic foundations and civil society organisations; relationship between food security, food sovereignty and the Right to Food; strategies of civil society engagement in global food security policy processes; land tenure; pastoralist land uses; pastoralist tenure systems. Jessica Duncan is a lecturer in the Rural Sociology Group at Wageningen University where she teaches courses on food cultures and food policy. From 2008 -2013, she taught in the Department of Food Systems, Culture and Society at the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC). When not working she is likely to be practising yoga, riding her bike or climbing rocks. She blogs at www.foodgovernance.com and tweets @foodgovernance.