From 24-26 July, 180 country delegations from UN member states gathered in Rome to take stock of progress made since the UN Food Systems Summit of 2021. Progress in implementing the so-called national pathways for food systems transformation was the key topic on the agenda. The UN Secretary-General António Guterres opened the conference, referring to the summary report he published, which summarises the 101 national voluntary reports submitted.
While progress is being made since the last summit we are very aware of the challenges that persist. Our current food systems are falling short, they are not offering the food and nutrition that is needed by all people. Transforming our food systems is one key to getting the world back on track and reversing these worrying trends. - Amina Mohammed, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations
One of the key messages arising from the UNFSS +2 Stocktaking Moment, was that many countries face similar challenges on their pathways for food system transformation. Among these challenges, climate change and adaptation emerged as a major concern, alongside political instability and conflict, and issues such as insufficient infrastructure, restricted market access, and obstacles in financing to implement national pathways.
More and better financial instruments needed
Throughout the UNFSS+2, a consistent theme emerged, that adequate financial resources are needed for food systems transformation. Not only more but also better investments need to be made. Transforming food systems requires effective financial tools and models, including enabling domestic resource mobilisation, rethinking international financing and accessing new ways of finance. In this context, it is interesting to note that true pricing is gaining momentum: there is a growing awareness that the global food system needs to take environmental and social costs of food into account in order for sustainable food to become accessible to all.
Supporting smallholder farmers and vulnerable populations was identified as essential activity, as these groups in particular need the financial resources to be able to make the necessary changes and investments to develop more resilient farming practices. This requires both public and private funding, which may further be enabled by tapping into the food system window of the SDG fund. The President of the International Fund of Agricultural Development (IFAD) stated; "Cost of inaction is much higher than the cost of action".
Private sector involvement crucial
Indermit Gill, Vice President & Chief Economist at the World Bank encapsulated one of the main calls to action during the three days with the statement: “Food systems are mainly private, therefore more than anything else we need private sector engagement”. This was amplified by a representative from the World Business Council For Sustainable Development amongst others who called for a good mechanism for engagement of the private sector with the UNFSS process. The World Benchmarking Alliance added that such further engagement needs to go hand in hand with measuring and incentivising business sustainability impact.
Multi-stakeholder collaboration, integration, and governance needed
Continuing and accelerating the implementation of national pathways is what is most urgent now, according to many if not all delegates. The collaboration between stakeholders within a country and across countries is key. Amongst others to share knowledge, mutually support each other, and to scale up successful initiatives. Developing effective public-private partnerships to integrate social impact with business models was the strategy encouraged by leading private sector representatives. In reaction to that, a civil society representative suggested that it should rather be a tripartite effort involving public, private, and people partnerships.
A specific side-event took place, co-hosted by NFP, UNDP, FAO, UNEP, Foresight4Food, WUR and GAIN, about multi-stakeholder collaboration. A panel from five countries in Africa and Asia explained how they worked with multiple stakeholders in the planning and implementation of national and subnational pathways. Several methods and frameworks are used to integrate multiple disciplines, and international partners from the ‘ecosystem of support’ play a supportive role in the respective country processes. From the conversation, it was clear that bringing people together in new ways, at different levels (national, decentral, local), taking power balances into account, requires consistent dialogues and leads to a greater common understanding of the transition pathway ahead.
Video of Side Session: Multi-stakeholder collaboration for FS transformation
Commendable efforts and ideas, but investments needed to sustain momentum
The summit has provided a complex multilateral platform for mutual learning and exchanges between UN member states. These acknowledged the importance of food systems transformation as a key lever for food security and sustainable development. While the summit shone the spotlight on commendable efforts and notable accomplishments, several delegates from governments as well as non-state actors, whom NFP could speak to informally, were concerned about the lack of actionable conclusions. They see a risk that the responsibility for the acceleration has not been defined clearly enough. On a positive note, it was interesting to hear that many countries invest in broad consultations within their societies; this may indicate that some form of inclusive food systems governance is being established step by step.
Stay tuned for further updates on the outcomes and insights from the summit!
Ruth van de Velde