About the Summit
On World Food Day on 16 October 2019, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres called for a Food Systems Summit to be held in 2021. The announcement followed conversations with the joint leadership of the three Rome-based United Nations agencies – the Food and Agriculture Organization, the International Fund for Agricultural Development and the World Food Programme – at the High-level Political Forum in July 2019.
The announcement was made in a video statement.
The Summit will provide an opportunity to unleash ambitious new actions, innovative solutions, and plans to transform our food systems and leverage these shifts to deliver progress across all the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Everything and everyone must change – that means understanding the tradeoffs, but also recognizing that all can benefit.
The Summit process aims to achieve the following outcomes:
1. Generate significant action and measurable progress towards the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The Summit will identify solutions and leaders, and issue a call for action at all levels of the food system, including national and local governments, companies, and citizens.
2. Raise awareness and elevate public discussion about how reforming our food systems can help us all to achieve the SDGs by implementing reforms that are good for people and the planet.
3. Develop principles to guide governments and other stakeholders looking to leverage their food systems to support the SDGs. These principles will set an optimistic and encouraging vision in which food systems play a central role in building a fairer, more sustainable world.
4. Create a system of follow-up and review to ensure that the Summit’s outcomes continue to drive new actions and progress. This system will allow for the sharing of experiences, lessons and knowledge. It will also measure and analyse the Summit’s impact.
The Summit is guided by its fundamental commitment to inclusivity at every stage of the Summit process. In addition, the Summit is guided by the following seven principles of engagement: act with urgency, commit to the Summit, be respectful, recognize complexity, embrace multi-stakeholder inclusivity, complement the work of others and build trust. Click here to read more about the Summit’s principles of engagement.
The Summit Multi-Donor Trust Fund and expenses have been funded initially by the Food and Agriculture Organization, International Fund for Agricultural Development and the World Food Programme. United Nations Member States have started pledging their commitments to the Summit. The Summit leadership is working with United Nations agencies to mobilize resources and seeks contributions from Member States in all regions of the world.
The culminating Summit gathering will take place in New York in September 2021 in conjunction with the UN General Assembly. This will be preceded by a pre-Summit gathering in Italy in July 2021.
The preparatory process is now already underway and builds on the many existing global events, processes and platforms that support the transformation of the world’s food systems through agreements, commitments or other collaborative actions.
The Summit process is also building synergies among multiple regional and national initiatives and alliances that are working to support the transformation of food systems. The Summit and preparatory process draw on evidence and knowledge from all sources to inform the global ideas and recommendations that will be shared with stakeholders around the world.
The term “food system” encompasses every person and every process involved in growing, raising or making food, and getting it into your stomach – from farmers to fruit pickers to supermarket cashiers, or from flour mills to refrigerated trucks to neighbourhood composting facilities. Billions of people make a living in the world’s food systems. In 2017, farming alone accounted for 68 per cent of rural income in Africa, and about half of rural income in South Asia. Experts at the World Bank have estimated that the global food system is worth roughly $8 trillion – about one tenth of the entire world economy.
The health of our food systems profoundly affects the health of our bodies, as well as the health of our environment, our economies and our cultures. When they function well, food systems have the power to bring us together as families, communities and nations.
The COVID-19 pandemic has further exposed dangerous deficiencies in our food systems, which actively threaten the lives and livelihoods of people around the world, particularly the most vulnerable and those in fragile contexts. Even before the onset of the current crisis, the evidence for the need of transformation had never been clearer. Food systems are in many cases part of the problem, but there is scientific consensus that transforming food systems is one of the most powerful ways to change course, realize the vision of the 2030 Agenda and support the Secretary-General’s call to “build back better” from COVID-19.
Just after the World Health Organization declared the pandemic, the United Nations Special Envoy for the Food Systems Summit and leaders of the United Nations Committee on World Food Security co-authored a call for all governments to step up their safeguarding policies around agriculture.
This will be the first ever UN Food Systems Summit, but it builds on decades of countries, civil society and UN leadership and critical efforts to ensure food security and nutrition for all. The 2021 Summit’s objectives are to engage a very broad set of actors in addition to those who typically engage within the food security and nutrition area, acknowledging the critical role of food systems to achieve all SDGs. The Food Systems Summit is not a platform for negotiation, but a time-bound opportunity to unleash ambitious new actions, innovative solutions, and plans to transform our food systems and leverage these shifts to deliver progress across all SDGs. The Summit is fortunate to build on the leadership, evidence, knowledge, ideas, innovations, and actions that are emerging from many leading actors and institutions across the landscape, including in Member States, the UN System, and, particularly, the Committee on World Food Security. The Summit intends to help grow the movement around food systems and strengthen the role of existing institutions for the duration of the Decade of Action.
Summit Participation and Leadership
In keeping with the Summit’s fundamental commitment to inclusivity, the Summit process is open to everyone. Not just another conference, this is truly a people’s Summit, and everyone is encouraged to contribute – from smallholder farmers and research scientists, to indigenous leaders and corporate executives, to youth organizers and environmental activists, to supermarket cashiers and avid home cooks. There are many ways to get involved in the Food Systems Summit, from becoming a Food Systems Hero, helping to raise awareness of food systems on social media, to hosting or joining a Dialogue. For more information on how to join the Summit, visit the Take Action page.
The Food Systems Summit Dialogues are a core element of the engagement process and offer a purposeful and organized forum for stakeholders to come together to share evidence, experiences and new ideas to transform the way the world produces, consumes and disposes of food.
There are three types of Dialogues: UN Member State, Global, and Independent, with this last one allowing individuals and institutions to hold their own Dialogue within their own communities. Throughout the process, the Dialogues will feed in to the Summit’s five priority areas, or Action Tracks, and the preparatory work of its scientific and advisory groups to support a dynamic and harmonized global push to leverage changes in our food systems to deliver the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030. Dialogue participants can step forward to indicate how they will contribute, with a view to foster new actions and partnerships and amplify existing initiatives.
The Summit’s aspiration is that all Member States use the Food Systems Summit Dialogues to review their own food systems, create action and thus make significant contributions to meeting the SDGs. These dialogues encourage analyses, explorations, and solutions that are specific to the local context.
United Nations Member States are central in defining and operationalizing solutions and actions that will allow food systems to contribute to the achievement of the SDGs. Their engagement is essential in the preparatory process and in the delivery of the United Nations Food Systems Summit. During preparations for the Summit, the Special Envoy and Secretariat will engage with Member States to establish agile and innovative consultations, including regional and country consultations, such as the Food Systems Summit Dialogues.
A multistakeholder Advisory Committee, an independent Scientific Group, a system-wide UN Task Force, and a Champions Network seek to bring in a wide range of ideas and drive a new coalition for change and collective action. The structures draw on the strength and complementary views of different individuals and institutions by seeking diversity across geographies, constituencies, expertise, gender, age and other dimensions. The members identified for the structures are intended to get broader input from the networks that they connect into so that this is an inclusive Summit that mobilizes all countries and all people.
In addition, they will provide important feedback and strategic guidance, bring to bear the foremost scientific evidence, and help expand the base of shared knowledge about experiences, approaches, and tools for driving sustainable food systems, and ensure that there is a strong connection with the knowledge and unique capabilities of the UN system to deliver on this agenda beyond the Summit.
The Action Track Chairs, Vice-Chairs and members are experts across the fields of food, agriculture, health and climate change who have committed to advancing solutions to make food systems more resilient and inclusive through the UN Food Systems Summit in 2021. They work with a larger leadership group, representing country representatives and actors from across society, including farmers, scientists and youth leaders, as well as representatives from the private sector and civil society. Together they constantly ensure that priority areas for action will not sit in silos. They will explore how key cross-cutting levers of change such as governance, finance, data, indigenous knowledge, human rights and law, innovation, and the empowerment of women and young people can be mobilized to meet the Summit’s objectives.
Civil society organizations are critical Summit partners. Their contributions are valued at every stage and are essential to the Summit process. Civil society is engaged at all levels of the Summit – in its Advisory Committee, Action Tracks (including a dedicated space for the Civil Society Mechanism of the CFS), and Champion’s Network, as well as in agile and innovative dialogues, at both regional and country levels, and through less formal research and advocacy channels.
Businesses large and small are part of the world’s food systems and have a responsibility to act with urgency to shift the world’s food systems onto a path that is healthier, more sustainable and more equitable. Businesses of all sizes and nature – local, national, regional, and multi-national – must rise to this challenge, work through any impasses, and join hands with peers and forward-thinking partners to realize the vision of the Summit. The private sector, in all its diversity, is invited to engage in the Summit process alongside academia, government, youth groups, women’s organizations, smallholder farmer cooperatives, workers’ unions, indigenous groups and civil society. Guidelines on Private Sector Engagement are available here.