United Nations Food Systems Summit: Need to transform food systems, say experts

More than 90 heads of states and governments submitted their national strategies, commitments to strengthening food systems at the Summit   

By Deepak Bhati
Published: Friday 24 September 2021
More than 90 heads of states and governments submitted their national strategies, commitments to strengthening food systems at the UN Food Systems Summit. Photo: Asian Development Bank

There is a need to achieve the United Nations-mandated Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) by 2030 and address climate change in view of food production, leaders and subject matter experts stressed at the United Nations Food System Summit September 23, 2021.

This transformation can stem from an understanding that we must urgently move from incremental and siloed action towards a systems approach. The food system will not prosper until all sectors concerned work together, they said.

They said all stakeholders and people within the system play a crucial role through responsible and innovative practices in ensuring that everyone has access to healthy food.

More than 90 heads of states and governments submitted their national strategies and commitments to strengthening the food systems.

According to Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), food systems encompass the entire range of actors and their interlinked value-adding activities involved in the production, aggregation, processing, distribution, consumption and disposal of food products.

Food systems comprise all food products that originate from crop and livestock production, forestry, fisheries and aquaculture, as well as the broader economic, societal and natural environments in which these diverse production systems are embedded.

 After an 18-month process of dialogues and engagement at community, national, regional and global levels, the UN Secretary-General António Guterres intervened as world leaders prepared to announce their commitments to more resilient, inclusive and sustainable food systems.

The world is looking forward to a simpler and more inclusive food system. The novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic has already given the world a ‘One-Health’ vision, and the world is optimistic of a food system that recognises the associated concerns of non-judicious use of chemicals as well as unregulated animal intensification.

The leaders also emphasised that while we consume different types of food, the food system unites us. They stressed how nations encounter challenges and how this platform offers to assist them in addressing them.

The UN secretary-general commended the summit for “injecting new life into multilateralism” and for “leading the way to food systems that can drive the global recovery in three fundamental ways: For people, for the planet, and for prosperity.” 

Five action areas to help inform the transitions needed to realise the vision of the 2030 agenda have emerged from the Summit process. These include:

  • Nourish all people
  • Boost nature-based solutions
  • Advance equitable livelihoods, decent work and empowered communities
  • Build resilience to vulnerabilities, shocks and stresses
  • Support means of implementation

At a global level, UN agencies as the FAO, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), and the World Food Programme (WFP) will jointly lead a UN system-wide coordination hub to continue the work of the Summit.

To track progress toward the UN’s 2030 Agenda, the secretary-general will present an annual report to the high-level political forum. Every two years, the secretary-general will also lead a global stocktake to review the progress.

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