The UNFSS Stocktaking – shadow and a little light

By Dr Harry Hoffmann (TMG) and Nathalie Demel (WHH)
The United Nations Food System Summit (UNFSS) was held in 2021 despite a partial boycott by civil society - now, two years later, a stock taking was held for the first time in Rome from July 24-26, 2023. The primary goal of this large-scale event with about 2,000 participants was to analyze the progress made by states and voluntary associations in achieving their transformation agendas. The final result shows: initial steps have been taken, but the achievement of a real transformation of our food systems is still a long way off.

The primary objective of the event was to analyze the progress made by states and voluntary associations in achieving their transformation agendas. © FAO

By Nathalie Demel

Nathalie Demel is Senior Policy Advisor for Nutrition Policy at Welthungerhilfe. She has been advising Welthungerhilfe programs in their advocacy work around nutrition issues for more than 2 years.

All contributions

By Dr Harry Hoffmann

Dr Harry Hoffmann ist Senior Forschungsmitarbeiter für Governance of Food Systems Harry Hoffmann is Senior Research Associate for Governance of Food Systems Transformation at TMG Research gGmbH as part of the TMG Think Tank for Sustainability. His research interests are in food and nutrition security, natural resource management, bioenergy, and food systems transformation.

All contributions

The consensus is that the way we produce, process and consume food needs a fundamental transformation if we are to achieve the global sustainability goals. Because, as Viktoria de Bourbon de Parme, head of Food and Agriculture Transformation at the World Benchmarking Alliance, put it on a panel,

 

„Currently our food systems reinforce business as usual“.

 

But how which sectors and actors or groups of actors should approach this required transformation of systems, in what way and, above all, with what specific goal, is and remains largely unresolved. In order to address these complex challenges - which are local and national, but above all ultimately global in nature - the so-called United Nations Food System Summit (UNFSS) was realized in 2021 at the instigation of the UN Secretary-General. One of the main outcomes of this summit was to initiate and politically shape transformation processes at the national level (the so-called "national pathways"), which should initiate a fundamental transformation of food systems. An essential building block for this were various dialogue formats, the results of which were to be incorporated into the National Pathways; according to their presentation, they were "a powerful opportunity to engage meaningfully, explore collectively and emerge resiliently for sustainable food systems."

 

Now, two years later, the first stock was taken as planned: Almost 2000 experts and decision-makers met in Rome from July 24-26 for stock taking, in order to review in four different exchange formats (plenary sessions, leaderships dialogues, special and side events) what has been achieved, what remains to be done and, above all, how the (further) systemic transformation can be promoted and supported. It already became clear in the run-up to the summit that the adequate participation of various groups of actors, including marginalized groups, in the governance of the transformation of food systems was and is one of the main weaknesses of the National Pathways and consequently of the entire UNFSS process (Canfield, Anderson, and McMichael 2021; Fakhri 2022; Montenegro de Wit et al. 2021). The latter is also highlighted in the UN Secretary General's Summit Report,

 

„Engagement with youth and indigenous people groups however is still limited“.

 

To actively address this challenge, BMZ, BMEL, Welthungerhilfe and TMG, among others, jointly realized a side event entitled "How to re-set the table? Challenges and opportunities for civil society actors and marginalized groups in shaping the governance of food system transformation" with the aim to highlight the importance of civil society and marginalized groups for the transformation of food systems, but also to present successful participation models as role models. The importance of this event was underlined by a key note from Michael Fakhri, Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food (RaN) at the United Nations, who emphasized the fundamental importance of the RaN: "the UNFSS presents the right to food as a policy choice among other policy choices on how to tackle food security and transform food systems but [...] the right to food is not just a policy tool as it provides governments with a clear, cohesive and detailed framework grounded in law and legal obligations". Above all, he emphasized that "the right to food gives people the right to participate in all aspects of the food system," which explicitly includes governance processes. This importance of diversity was also emphasized by St.SK Jochen Flasbarth (BMZ) when he stated that "inclusive societies are the much stronger societies" and specified that "the more involvement of local communities [...] the better the solutions will be".

 

In addition, regional case studies from South America, East Africa and South Asia have shown examples that, despite political exclusionary tendencies, there are promising regional approaches to actively involve previously disadvantaged populations in transforming food systems. One example is the Lake Region Food System Network Kenya, which has successfully established mechanisms to involve local people in five counties along Kenya's Lake Victoria in local government planning processes.

 

Ich bin ein Alternativtext
Mary Njeri Karanu (ROA) and presenter Alexander Müller © FAO

Beyond this special side event, the conference was characterized by thematic complexity: There were, for example, rather special events on school feeding (in the context of which State Secretary Flasbarth committed a corresponding 5-year funding of €22 million) and on the transformation approach of Bangladesh, but also broader topics such as actively strengthening the resilience of transformation processes or their financing were brought into focus. Some of the criticisms already raised for the 2021 UNFSS Summit were certainly addressed - for example, the Agroecology Coalition was able to hold a side event - however, beyond the SDGs as a basis, there is still no uniform and binding agreed targets and indicators or negotiated outcome document against which to measure a successful transformation at both national and global levels. However, this is an important basis for making the right policy and governance decisions and for accountability.

 

On the German side, the political participation by Federal Minister Cem Özdemir and State Secretary Jochen Flasbarth was high-ranking, who also supported the expert dialogue organized by WHH and TMG.

 

In summary, it can be said that this conference made an effort to give direction and actively address points of criticism - but it was certainly not a game changer regarding the global systemic transformation of food systems.

 

References

Dismantling Democracy and Resetting Corporate Control of Food Systems“. Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems 5. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fsufs.2021.661552.

Fakhri, Michael. 2022. „The Food System Summit’s Disconnection From People’s Real Needs“. Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics 35 (3): 16. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10806-022-09882-7.

Montenegro de Wit, Maywa, Matt Canfield, Alastair Iles, Molly Anderson, Nora McKeon, Shalmali Guttal, Barbara Gemmill-Herren, Jessica Duncan, Jan Douwe van der Ploeg, und Stefano Prato. 2021. „Editorial: Resetting Power in Global Food Governance: The UN Food Systems Summit“. Development 64 (3): 153–61. https://doi.org/10.1057/s41301-021-00316-x.

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Small Farms, big money

A contribution by Agnes Kalibata

Agnes Kalibata, AGRA president since 2014 and former minister of agriculture and wildlife in Rwanda, is convinced that Africa's economy will only grow sustainably if small-scale agriculture is also seen as an opportunity.

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How do you campaign “Food Systems”?

Interview with Paul Newnham, Director of the SDG 2 Advocacy Hub.

The UN Food Systems pre-Summit in Rome dealt with transforming the ways of our nutrition. How do you bring that to a broad public? Questions to Paul Newnham, the Director of the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 2 Advocacy Hub.

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UNFSS Pre-Summit: What did it achieve?

Interview with Martina Fleckenstein (WWF), Michael Kühn (WHH) and Christel Weller-Molongua (GIZ)

After the summit means pre-summit: It was the first time that the United Nations held a summit on food systems. Martina Fleckenstein, Michael Kühn and Christel Weller-Molongua reviewed the situation in this joint interview.

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How can the private sector prevent food loss and waste?

An interview with David Brand (GIZ)

From a circular food system in Rwanda to functioning cooled transports in Kenya: The lab of tomorrow addresses development challenges such as preventing food loss and waste

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From lost products to safe food - Innovations from Zambia

A contribution by GIZ

In Zambia, innovative approaches are used to address the problem of post-harvest losses in the groundnut value chain. GIZ's Rapid Loss Appraisal Tool (RLAT) can help to develop more such approaches.

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(c) GIZ

Land Rights for Secure Livelihoods: My Land is My Life

Three quarters of the world's population do not have secure land rights, which hinders investment and innovation. The project "Improvement of Livelihood and Food Security" supports smallholder farmers in acquiring land.

A project of GIZ

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The Future of Development Politics: Voices from the Parliamentary Groups

A Contribution by Journalist Jan Rübel

Representatives of the six parliamentary groups offer their views on the future of German development cooperation.

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How to Combat Hunger in Times of Climate Crisis?

An Interview with Martin Frick (WFP)

The climate crisis fuels world hunger. What needs to change in the global fight against hunger, and which role plays humanitarian aid in international development cooperation?

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ICTforAg 2022: Conference

An Initiative by GIZ Fond i4Ag

In March 2022, the virtual conference ICTforAg summons leading actors in the agrartechnology and food sector from low- and middle-income countries to exchange ideas advancing resilience, nutrition and agriculture-led growth.

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No Food Security Without Climate Protection

A Contribution by Michael Kühn (WHH)

Climate change already affects the daily lives of people in the Global South. What are the challenges they face and what do these imply for negotiations at the climate conference in Glasgow?

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Cooperation and Effective Incentives for Sustainable Land Use

A Contribution by GIZ

The second GFFA expert panel highlights the need for governance action to reverse global trends of land degradation.

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GFFA for New Perspectives on the Planet’s Soils

A Contribution by Journalist Jan Ruebel

For five days, the 2022 Global Forum for Food and Agriculture (GFFA) in Berlin is all about strategies for a more sustainable land use.

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Soil Restoration Starts with the People

A Contribution by TMG Think Tank for Sustainability

Highlighting how secure tenure rights are key to achieving land degradation neutrality and soil restoration targets..

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Together towards Sustainable Development: Private Sector Cooperation

A Multimedia-Toolbox by GIZ

Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals through responsible investments in the agri-food sector of emerging countries.

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World Soil Conference ends with resolutions on drought management and land restoration

A contribution by GIZ

At the UNCCD COP15, the nearly 200 Parties met in Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire. A key goal is to halt the loss of fertile soils by 2030.

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German G7 Presidency – fighting hunger with all our might

A Contribution by Welthungerhilfe

In the run-up to the G7 summit, experts from politics and civil society discussed sustainable and more effective options for action by the G7 states to combat hunger.

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Five Questions for Dirk Meyer

An Interview with Dirk Meyer (BMZ)

Development cooperation needs to place good governance and a sustainable agri-food systems transformation at its center: After the first 100 days in office have passed, Dirk Meyer from the German Development Ministry (BMZ) spells out the goals, guidelines and priorities of the Ministry’s new lead.

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The Rice Sector in West Africa: A Political Challenge

New insights on trade and value addition in the rice sector in West Africa

Low import tariffs, smuggling activities, unpredictable tax exemptions and weak enforcement of food safety standards: The potential of local rice value chains is undermined in West African countries.

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Nutrition is not just a women’s issue

A contribution by GIZ

When women have control over the resources of a household and manage the income, it usually leads to a more balanced and healthier diet for the family. But often the decision-making power lies with the men. How can this gender inequality be addressed? The GIZ global project Food Security and Resilience provides insights into project work on gender-transformative approaches finances by the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).

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“More of the same is not enough - we need to rethink”

An interview with Dirk Meyer

Four interviews kick off the relaunch under the new name „Food4Transformation“, asking the same questions from different perspectives. Dirk Meyer, Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, thinks: less individual solutions are needed, but more systemic approaches. Because in addition to the goals for food security, the issues of climate and biodiversity must also be taken into account.

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Innovative donor approaches and sustainable finance – A Review of UNFSS+2

A contribution by the Global Donor Platform for Rural Development

Two years following the UN Food Systems Summit, the Global Donor Platform for Rural Development and the Shamba Centre for Food & Climate hosted an official side event at the UNFSS+2. The event explored how public donors can increase the impact of their investments.

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Podcast: Fighting world hunger together

Chancellor Angela Merkel in the Podcast of the Federal Government

At the start of World Food Week around World Food Day on 16 October, Chancellor Angela Merkel stressed that the fight against global hunger will only be successful with international responsibility and solidarity (german only).

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Together for food security in Zambia

A Contribution by Claudia Jordan (GIZ)

The Agriculture and Food Security Cluster of the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH in Zambia shows how synergies among different projects and partner organisations can help people to eat healthier, diversified food. A delegation of the Bonn based Division of Agriculture and Rural Development learned this in a field visit in the Eastern Province of the Southern African country.

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