Source: Small Island Developing States
The UN held a Food Systems Summit as a virtual event on 23 September 2021, part of the 76th UN General Assembly’s high-level week. Serving as a review of the global food system, the Summit yielded a statement of action that sets out plans for a new coordination hub to implement outcomes. The UN will hold a global stocktaking of progress every two years.
UNGA President Abdulla Shahid told participants around the world that the Summit is the culmination of an 18-month process to review and transform “the entire spectrum of food” including its production, shipping, consumption, disposal. He highlighted that the seeds that provide diverse food are disappearing, and seed banks are a way to combat this threat. He highlighted food systems as part of the UNGA’s “super-session on the environment.”
The Summit convened under the leadership of UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who released a summary of the meeting and statement of action. The document titled ‘Inclusive and Transformative Food Systems Nourish Progress to Achieve Zero Hunger’ points out that it is possible to both feed a growing global population and protect the planet. It notes that in preparation for the Summit, National Dialogues took place in 148 countries, and elicited the building blocks needed for action by governments to strengthen food systems.
The paper identifies five action areas: Nourish All People; Boost Nature-based Solutions; Advance Equitable Livelihoods, Decent Work and Empowered Communities; Build Resilience to Vulnerabilities, Shocks and Stresses; and Accelerating the Means of Implementation. UN resident coordinators and country teams will support national governments in implementing the Summit outcomes. At the global level, the Rome-based Agencies — FAO, IFAD, WFP — will lead a coordination hub to support follow-up, with partners such as civil society, business, and other non-governmental actors.
The paper also addresses accountability for action, noting that leadership by the CFS will be critical, and annual reporting will be coordinated by the Rome-based agencies. The UN Secretary-General will submit a report to the UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) each year until 2030 on progress to follow up on the Food Systems Summit. In addition, the Secretary-General will convene a global stock-taking meeting every two years to review implementation.
During the Summit, Guterres said that over 100,000 people had been part of the discussions leading to the Summit. He also called on more businesses to join the effort.
Agnes Kalibata, UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy to the 2021 Food Systems Summit, said the Summit was the first to address food systems in all their complexity and the most “open” UN summit in terms of placing farmers, youth, and Indigenous Peoples in leadership roles to represent their constituencies. Kalibata highlighted the initiative of leaders in Africa, where 48 of 55 countries held national dialogues on transforming food systems.
UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Executive Director Inger Andersen said food systems are contributing to the current “triple planetary crisis” – climate change, nature and biodiversity loss, and pollution and waste. These, in turn, are making life harder for smallholder farmers. She cited several levers to help make the food system work for everyone, including to repurpose agricultural support, and to have “difficult conversations” about why people in wealthy countries demand ever-cheaper food, despite its clear impacts on farmers, human health, and planetary health.
The five regional commissions of the UN jointly released a policy brief explaining ways to reverse the current performance of food systems and improve their outcomes. The brief draws on dialogues held in each region during the preparatory process for the Food Systems Summit.
Food systems were also in the spotlight at the UNGA’s high-level debate, where, among other announcements, the US said it will devote USD 10 billion to ending hunger and investing in food systems around the world.