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Food Forward: The road ahead to the Food Systems Summit

02 August 2021

Blog written by João Campari, Global Food Practice Leader, WWF reposted from https://medium.com/@WWFFood/food-forward-the-road-ahead-to-the-food-systems-summit-eabe80c0e605

The Pre-Summit of the United Nations Food Systems Summit, held earlier this week, was a key moment in accelerating food systems transformation. Thousands of stakeholders, from all parts of food systems around the world, came together to discuss solutions for a nature-positive and net-zero emissions, food secure future. As expected from a multi-stakeholder process, member states spoke alongside civil society organizations, research organizations, farmers, fishers and youths. Building on over ten months of work in the Action Tracks, which generated over 2,000 ideas, seven coalitions of action were launched, including several aligned directly to WWF’s core pillars of work — namely on agroecology and regenerative agriculture, blue and aquatic foods, food loss and waste, and healthy and sustainable school meals.

João Campari speaking at the Pre-Summit of the UN Food Systems Summit, July 2021

These coalitions will catalyse game-changing action as we move towards the Food Systems Summit itself, in September, and other major forums on climate, biodiversity, land, oceans and nutrition, this year and next. I left Rome inspired and energised, but there is still much work to do. We need to consolidate and coordinate ahead of the Summit, building these coalitions, exploring others and integrating agendas. To build on the energy generated at the pre-Summit, there are three things we need to do.

1. Continuing to build systemic and integrated approaches

Across all sessions that I attended at the Pre-Summit, I heard three main messages: first, about the appalling numbers on world hunger. As many as 811 million people suffered from hunger in 2020, up to 169 million more than in 2019. Secondly, the impacts of our food system on nature and climate. Food systems currently cause 80% of deforestation, 70% of biodiversity loss on land and 50% in freshwater, and generate around 30% of all greenhouse gas emissions. The third message I heard over and over, brings these together: hunger and malnutrition won´t be resolved if the boundaries of our planet continue to be disrespected.

A systemic, integrated and transformative approach is needed to align human and environmental health. It needs to touch all aspects of food systems: improving nutrition, choosing more sustainable consumption patterns, boosting nature-positive food production at scale, improving livelihoods and respecting human rights, and creating resilience to vulnerabilities and shocks. These are the entry points that the Action Tracks of the Food Systems Summit rely on to integrate agendas for full-system transformation. The environmental dimension is key, as ensuring sustainable and nature-positive food systems will build longer term food security, avoiding preventable conflicts and loss of livelihoods.

As we move forward we must work together to ensure our work is integrated and aligned towards our shared goals of meeting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030. As underlined by the world’s leading biodiversity and climate experts, if we do not solve both of the interdependent climate and nature crises we will also undermine the whole 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. With important and historical decisions on nature and climate to come in 2021 and 2022, the UN Food Systems Summit is a key moment in integrating agendas and setting the tone for unity, and an important vehicles to advocate for the inclusion of food systems transformation in Nationally Determined Contributions to the Paris Climate Agreement, and in the post-2020 global Biodiversity Framework.

2. Leave no one behind

There have been many voices heard at the Pre-Summit and in the Summit process as a whole. Huge efforts have been made to raise the voices of underrepresented and underprivileged people. As we move forward, this effort must be increased even further, with the agency of women, rural farmers, peasants, indigenous peoples and local communities all included in decision-making processes. The solutions we continue to build need to be co-created by all stakeholders so they work for, and reward, everyone fairly — especially when important trade-offs happen. In particular, I want to highlight the crucial role of farmers, fishers and other food producers in enabling transformation. They are the true stewards of land and water resources and, in that role, they are the guardians of nature and climate. They need to incentivized and rewarded for providing food that is healthy for people and nature. There needs to be a whole of society approach to developing and implementing solutions — bringing together various levels of governance and other diverse groups to address power imbalances and manage conflicts of interest.

3. Move urgently from commitments to action

Between now and the Summit in September, the emerging coalitions of the willing must focus on delivering concrete pathways to achieve the SDGs. We need the Summit to catalyse action, to help resolve the interconnected triple challenge of food insecurity, climate change and biodiversity loss. We need to act to accelerate transformation with urgency and scale. Come September, there need to be clear commitments in place and implementation pathways mapped out by Heads of State and other stakeholders such as food producers, civil society and research organisations, private sector companies and financers.

We have nine years, and just nine more harvests, to deliver the transformation that will put food systems on a virtuous pathway to deliver the SDGs. Ultimately, the Summit is a vital moment in achieving a New Deal for Nature and People, that will place nature and nature-based solutions at the heart of our political, social and economic systems. Everyone has a role to play. Join the Action Tracks. Participate in the Summit Dialogues. Engage in the Coalitions. Be part of the movement. It is a positive movement for change. We need this — we need food systems that works for people and planet, and that deliver shared prosperity.
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