ROME – More than 100 countries came together over the course of three-days to discuss how they will transform their national food systems to drive progress against the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.
Convened at the UN Food Systems Pre-Summit, more than 500 in-person delegates and over 20,000 virtual delegates, from 190 countries, indicated how they would implement changes for more sustainable, equitable, resilient and nutritious food systems after an extensive process of engagement and dialogues seeking new ideas and evidence-based solutions.
The process will culminate at a Head of State-level Summit in New York this September.
As national pathways began to take shape, the UN Deputy Secretary General Amina J. Mohammed also previewed the emerging global coalitions that would champion further progress.
“Anything we do must always include those at the center of our food systems: smallholder farmers, indigenous peoples and especially women and youth,” Mohammed said during her closing remarks.
“Just as food brings us together as cultures and communities, it can bring us together around solutions. But what is clear is there is no one-size fits all solution. Our diversity is our strength and reflects the complexity of our world.”
The coalitions are aligned with common themes where as a global community there is a need to support efforts at country-level by working with governments to come through on their visions and priorities.
Referring to the recent G20 Matera Declaration on food security, Italy’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Luigi di Maio called it “a prime example of how joint political action can lead to broader results on the ground.”
Early commitments before the Summit in September came as HRH Prince of Wales raised the alarm on the impact of failed food systems on our health and planet. “It gives me hope that the pressure for change is now being met by a substantial, determined global response,” he said. “But that response, and its practical implementation on the ground, must be expedited as the window of opportunity left to us is rapidly closing. The security and capacity of our planet’s entire life-support systems are banking on it, and if we all work with that primary responsibility to the fore, not only will we benefit nature, we will benefit people and the planet too.”
Katrín Jakobsdóttir, Prime Minister of Iceland, called for political leadership, saying, “We have to be brave and politically focused to eliminate harmful practices and at the same time advance what has been proven to be positive, human and nature-friendly. It takes courage to transform at the same time our value systems and our food systems. But this we must do.”
The United States in partnership with the United Arab Emirates and with the support of Australia, Brazil, Denmark, Israel, Singapore, the UK and Uruguay, has already set out its Agriculture Innovation Mission for Climate (AIM for Climate) initiative, to increase and accelerate global research and development on agriculture and food systems in support of climate action.
Japan, meanwhile, outlined its alignment with the European Union on the importance of innovation to transforming food systems, along with a balanced diet, while emphasising the need for solutions adapted to regional contexts.
Transforming food systems to contend with and tackle climate change was also a priority, particularly among Small Island Developing States, the countries facing the worst impacts of rising global temperatures.
“Today we are still able to consume our main traditional staple root crop, pulaka, but only very sparingly,” said Katepu Laoi, Minister for Local Government and Agriculture, Tuvalu at the Pre-Summit. “Our government recognises that providing sustainable, adequate food supply chains for the people of Tuvalu will be increasingly more challenging due to extreme weather events, which have been worsened by climate change.”
African countries have mobilised around a common position outlined earlier in the Pre-Summit by Rwandan President Paul Kagame. In this light, Modibo Keita, Minister for Regional Development in Mali, highlighted the importance of irrigation, biofertilizers and reducing post-harvest losses to improve national food systems: “Ours is a Sahelian country and the food systems here suffer from climate change, hence, every year 10 per cent of food stuffs are imported from the rest of the world.”
Improving nature-positive production, addressing nutritional challenges and increasing gender equality were on the agenda for countries across Latin America.
“Women are agents of change,” said Beatriz Argimón, Vice President of Uruguay. “This understanding led Uruguay to adopt this year a national gender plan in our agricultural policy, which we’re very proud of because it’s the first time that we really were careful to listen to the opinions of rural women in our country.”
The development of national strategies is an ongoing process in the months leading up to the Summit, with 145 countries having already convened national dialogues.
“Diverse voices are heard, tensions are exposed and actions are advanced together. There is extraordinarily inspiring momentum,” said Dr. David Nabarro, Senior Advisor to the Special Envoy for the Summit Dialogues.
“The priorities from national pathways were shared by many Ministers in Rome: they point to the need for urgent, inclusive, people-centred and nature-positive systems change that is based on the best science and reflects local and national realities within a global context.”