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Global Goals

Major push to transform harmful food systems seen




Uru-Murato indigenous women get information from a World Food Programme representative in Bolivia about COVID-19 awareness and healthy nutrition practices. / Photograph courtesy of UN

United Nations (UN) chief António Guterres set out a new plan to transform the world’s food systems — coinciding with the start of World Food Week — which will culminate in a major summit, scheduled to take place in September next year.

In a video message, Guterres highlighted the importance of food systems and their impact on economies, environment and health, but warned that they are “one of the main reasons we are failing to stay within our planet’s ecological boundaries.”

This year, the coronavirus pandemic has brought the fragility of the world’s food supplies to the fore, with millions going hungry. At the same time, the climate crisis continues to wreak havoc on food security.

To address these issues, the Secretary-General is convening a Food Systems Summit next year to raise global awareness and spur actions to rethink food systems, so that they can play a more positive role in ending hunger, reducing diet-related disease, and help in the fight against climate change.

The event will be held at the UN Headquarters in New York in September, in conjunction with the next UN General Assembly opening session Guterres said this will focus the attention of world leaders on the issue.

“The awarding of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize to the World Food Programme highlights the Summit’s timeliness,” he added, underlining the need for global engagement and action for inclusive and sustainable food systems, and calling on everyone to join these conversations.

The Summit will be run by a specially appointed envoy, former Rwandan Minister for Agriculture, Agnes Kalibata as she emphasized the need for food systems — which are responsible for trillions of dollars in wasted food, and significant greenhouse gas emissions — to radically change.

The Special Envoy told reporters that the Summit puts food and food systems at the heart of the UN’s Decade of Action, the 10 years left to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Work to make sure the Summit is a success has already begun, she explained, with a scientific group, made up of experts drawn from a range of disciplines, having met over the summer to ensure that the event is based on sound scientific principles.