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Pre-Summit Gathering Highlights Food as Powerful Tool for SDGs | SDG Knowledge Hub

by gwcmag

A three-day, multi-stakeholder event provided direction for a global summit on food systems in September 2021. The pre-Summit emphasized the potential of food systems to drive progress on all 17 SDGs. It was the first major UN event held in a “hybrid” format in response to COVID-19 trends.

The current food system is part of a war on nature.

The UN Food Systems Summit will convene alongside the 76th UN General Assembly’s high-level week. It aims to mobilize action along five objectives, or action tracks:

  • Ensure access to safe and nutritious food for all;
  • Shift to sustainable consumption patterns;
  • Boost nature-positive production;
  • Advance equitable livelihoods; and
  • Build resilience to vulnerabilities, shocks and stress.

Ahead of the Summit, the organizers arranged a series of national dialogues through online meetings, public forums, and surveys on the five topics, seeking a broad range of ideas to “develop food systems that cater to all” and “leverage the power of food systems” to deliver progress on all 17 SDGs. Regional consultations have included Asia and the Pacific on 10 June and Latin America and the Caribbean on 15 July.

The pre-summit provided a forum to assess the results of that consultative process.

Hosted by the Government of Italy in a hybrid format of both virtual and in-person events in Rome, the pre-summit highlighted the need to promote human rights and ensure marginalized groups’ participation in the Summit itself.

Opening the event via video message on 26 July 2021, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the current food system is part of a “war on nature,” as it generates up to one third of all greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and is responsible for up to 80% of biodiversity loss. UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed addressed the pre-summit in person, and explained that the outcomes of the preparatory consultations are being “consolidated into national pathways” with UN country teams convening behind each national pathway.

Heads of State and Government also provided opening remarks. Mario Draghi, Prime Minister of Italy, called on fellow leaders to transform their countries’ food systems. Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda, announced a common position for Africa that aligns with the region’s Agenda 2063 as well as the SDGs. The World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) announced a Business Declaration on Food Systems Transformation for “equitable, net-zero, and nature-positive food systems.”

Other high-level representatives emphasized the key role of women in transforming productive systems (Uruguay), and that the knowledge and technology needed to end hunger exist (Germany). Among the stakeholder representatives that spoke, Elizabeth Nsimadala, President of the Pan-African Farmers Organization (PAFO), said the process for the Food Systems Summit has been “inclusive, diverse and open to all stakeholders.”

The heads of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization (WHO) issued a joint statement calling for children and young people to be at the heart of food systems transformation.

A youth leader noted that decision-making positions related to the Summit include youth leadership, and expressed hope that the process will serve as a role model for future UN summit. At the closing session, another youth leader emphasized to governments, “we want to sit at the table with you when you make decisions about our future food systems.”

In September, leaders are expected to re-affirm their commitment to the SDGs and invest in food as one of the most powerful tools to achieve the Goals, according to Mohammed. She said the Food Systems Summit will include:

  • Delivery of a Statement of Action from the UN Secretary-General;
  • Countries’ presentation of national pathways for transforming their food systems, and regional positions on food systems like that presented for Africa during the pre-Summit; and
  • Identification of themes to help global community identify coalitions and support structures.

Also on the occasion of the pre-summit, the organizers announced the 50 winners of a competition for small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and released a report that highlights three critical pathways to support small businesses: creating more conducive business environments, offering more positive incentives, and empowering small business leaders to have greater influence in sector planning.

They also called for more small businesses to sign a pledge by which they: agree to help forge food systems that are more nourishing, sustainable, equitable and resilient; express the need for specific conditions for purpose-driven food SMEs to flourish; and offer to contribute to the action coalitions and national pathways. [Food Systems Summit webpage] [Pre-Summit webpage]

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