NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 17 – More than 130 governments are making food systems a top priority amid the pandemic and committing to an unprecedented programme of Dialogues in the run-up to the UN Food Systems Summit in September.
The Dialogues, involving thousands of people around the world, are taking place as the impact of COVID-19 on food systems is laid bare. The recently released 2021 State of Food Insecurity (SOFI) report revealed 118 million additional people are facing hunger because of the pandemic.
Member State Dialogues, hosted by National Dialogues Convenors, give governments the opportunity to engage with actors across sectors and disciplines to shape pathways towards food systems that are sustainable, resilient, and equitable.
“It is an indictment on our entire food systems – from production to distribution and disposal – that in 2020, as many as 811 million men, women, and children went without enough to eat,” said Dr. Agnes Kalibata, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the 2021 Food Systems Summit.
“Hunger on this scale is a symptom of a dysfunctional food system that buckles under pressure and abandons the most vulnerable first. We need systemic transformation, and this is the aim of the UN Food Systems Summit, but it will be up to Member States to pave the way for the changes we urgently need.”
The convening teams of the National Dialogues have a vital role in enabling national stakeholders to have a seat at the table, linking up with those from other workstreams in preparing for the Summit.
Initial insights into the country-led momentum are illustrated in outcomes from the early Member State Dialogues across 40 countries connecting more than 15,000 people. The inclusiveness and diversity of the Dialogues is evident with participants ranging from school students in Asia, rural farmers in West Africa, parliamentarians in Latin America, and producers in North America.
The challenges of facilitating Dialogues amid pandemic restrictions has created a precedent for novel and extensive engagement, with National Dialogue Convenors taking full advantage of digital connectivity to involve communities who are hardest to reach.
There have been thousands of unusual interactions, exploratory conversations, heated debates and constructive exchanges through hundreds of Food Systems Summit Dialogues since October 2020, involving food producers and processors, distributors and retailers, caterers, chefs, marketers, traders and others directly involved in moving food from farm to fork.
“I commend National Convenors for embracing this unique opportunity to engage with the Summit and identify what needs to be done and who needs to be involved in shaping how their citizens can eat food that is nutritious and produced in ways that are good for the planet, despite threats of climate change, infectious disease and violent conflict,” said Dr. David Nabarro, Senior Advisor to the Special Envoy for the Summit Dialogues.
“Convenors are sparking shifts in thought, knowledge and action at scale, and this is just the beginning of a journey that will most definitely continue beyond this monumental year. This is our moment, as a human race, to reveal and respond to the most difficult and often hidden challenges so that we are united in a collective race to build a resilient, sustainable and equitable food systems for all people, and the planet.”
The UN Secretary-General’s Food Systems Summit and all of its preparatory processes have been a powerful catalyst that has brought new and unexpected voices to the forefront as well as grassroots lessons and innovative solutions in ways that will reveal the collective action and commitments the world needs, this September.
The programme of Dialogues in many countries is a three-stage multi-stakeholder exploration through food systems, starting with identifying the characteristics of current food systems, followed by generating a wide range of potential adaptations and evolutions of those systems, and then consolidating these into an agreed sense of direction.