10 September 2020
Preparations Underway for Food Systems Summit
Photo courtesy of Jennie Persson
story highlights

To make the event “both a people’s summit and a solutions summit,” several work streams and support structures are being established, including a Scientific Group.

Five Action Tracks are also being established to pursue the specific, interconnected objectives of the Summit.

The organizers are seeking expressions of interest in the action tracks by 30 September 2020.

The organizers of the 2021 Food Systems Summit have provided an update on preparations. The UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the Summit, Agnes Kalibata, said five “action tracks” are at the center of the preparatory process.

UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed, who organized the briefing on 4 September 2020, said transforming food systems will be central to achieving the SDGs. The Summit will be a “foundational element” of the Decade of Action to deliver the SDGs by 2030, Mohammed noted, citing the 2019 Global Sustainable Development Report’s finding that food systems and nutrition are key entry points for getting the world on a more sustainable trajectory. 

The five action tracks will develop “exemplary, game-changing, and systemic solutions.”

Kalibata said the Summit aims to raise public discourse around food systems and what we can do differently. More specifically, it will have five interconnected objectives:

  1. Ensure access to safe, nutritious food for all;
  2. Shift to sustainable consumption patterns by reducing waste and creating demand for healthy diets;
  3. Boost “nature-positive production,” entailing reduced emissions and energy usage and protection of ecosystems;
  4. Advance equitable livelihoods, including raising incomes and promoting decent work; and
  5. Build resilience to vulnerabilities and shocks.

An action track is being established in each of these areas. The action tracks will be charged with developing “exemplary, game-changing, and systemic solutions.” Each track will include participants from the global north, the global south, and youth. The organizers are seeking expressions of interest in the five action tracks by 30 September 2020.

To make the event “both a people’s summit and a solutions summit,” several additional work streams and support structures are being established. As announced in June 2020, these include:

  • Advisory Committee chaired by the UN Deputy Secretary-General, to provide strategic guidance; includes two Member States from each region, as well as senior officials of relevant UN agencies and other international organizations, and individual experts (farmers, indigenous peoples, civil society, researchers, academics, youth, business leaders);
  • Scientific Group to ensure that the science underpinning the Summit and its outcomes is robust, broad, and independent, and provide analyses of trade-offs faced by food system actors;
  • Champions Network to mobilize a large, diverse group of stakeholders to call for transformation of the world’s food systems, and facilitate coordinated action
  • UN Task Force to ensure the Summit builds on knowledge of entire UN system

Initial meetings have taken place for the Advisory Committee, the Scientific Group, and the UN Task Force. The Champions Network will be opened on World Food Day 2020.

National dialogues on food systems also will take place ahead of the Summit.

The Summit is currently anticipated to convene in September or October 2021. According to the organizers, the “best case scenario” is gathering Heads of State and leaders from around the world, but the Summit should also be prepared to take place virtually or in a hybrid format with one or more small, in-person events.

The Food Systems Summit is expected to result in a high-level call to action and a system of follow-up and review. It is being convened by the UN Secretary-General. The Rome-based UN agencies (World Food Programme, Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN, and International Fund for Agricultural Development) are playing a leading role in organizing the event and the preparatory roadmap. [UN News article] [Briefing webcast

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