NL-CGIAR Strategic Partnership Seminar: Sustainable Food Systems in a Polarized World

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Photo by: Carel de Groot

The NL-CGIAR Strategic Partnership Seminar titled "Sustainable Food Systems in a Polarized World" took place on May 15, 2024, both online and at The Social Hub in The Hague, Netherlands. Co-hosted by the Netherlands Food Partnership, CGIAR, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality, the event explored pathways for advancing global food systems transformation, with a focus on achieving sustainable impact in the Low and Middle-Income Countries.

Short recap of the event

Moderated by Martin Kropff and Simone van Vugt, the event kicked off with the opening remarks from René van Hell, Director Inclusive Green Growth, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Sally Hoffer, Manager for the Plant Agro Chains and Food Quality Department, Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality.

René and Sally recognized that the context in which we operate together is increasingly complex. Therefore also highlighting the importance of the partnerships such as between the Netherlands and CGIAR for accelerating progress to transform food systems. This Strategic Partnership has just been extended until 2030. In relation to the complexity of transforming our food systems, they emphasized the need for collective creativity and action as vital to achieve the goals that we have set as part of the Sustainable Development Goals.

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Photo by: Floor van Koert

Keynote speaker Johan Swinnen, Managing Director of Systems Transformation at CGIAR and Director General of the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), presented insights from the recent IFPRI publication titled "The Political Economy of Food Systems Transformation: Pathways to Progress in a Polarized World."

Jo highlighted the unsustainable nature of the current global food system, mentioning among other important topics, poverty, conflict and climate crises as having a crucial impact on why we are not on track to eliminate hunger. He followed by delving into the complexities of achieving food system transformation. Jo elaborated in particular on the need to navigate polarized political landscapes and for engage diverse stakeholders in non-traditional partnerships and coalitions. This as we now operate in a context that has more objectives, more policy instruments, more trade-off/synergies, more actors, more polarization and more information but less knowledge. Therefore making transformation more complex and the need to include different and non-traditional partners into our collective actions.

The slides used in his presentation are now available for download.

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Photo by: Carel de Groot

Following, Simone van Vugt challenged the participants in the room in interactive exchange session. Participants engaged with statements regarding the challenges and opportunities in food system transformation. First participants were asked to make a yes or no choice on the statement, purposefully polarizing the options. Following Simone skillfully created space for an engaging conversations with participants about the facts, interests and values behind their decisions. This resulted in participants changing their positions and sometimes even crossing the line to the other side. Therefore highlighting the importance of continuing to have meaningful exchanges to find where we have common ground so we can move our collective agendas for food system transformation forward together.

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Photo by: Floor van Koert

To close the event, Wijnand van Ijssel, former Senior Advisor for Food Security at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, IGG department, food and nutrition security team, shared his reflections based on insights from his career. He highlighted that he indeed has seen a shift in development towards a multi-polar world, which he mentioned also to see as positive as we can include more voices, as well as climate change and system thinking being put front and central on our agendas. As the biggest challenge in food system transformation Wijnand mentioned that he thinks that we have lost the common cause and collective approach due to fragmentation. He suggest that we therefore have to rebalance what we do downstream with policy and institutional efforts, which will also require changes to the accountability structures.

The seminar served as a platform to highlight Wijnand van Ijssel's contributions to the NL-CGIAR Strategic Partnership and efforts towards Sustainable Development Goal 2: Zero Hunger. Following the official program, a reception hosted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs marked his retirement.

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Photo by: Floor van Koert


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Mariëlle Karssenberg

Knowledge Broker - Netherlands Food Partnership

Marjan Riepma

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