Dr. Agnes Kalibata
UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy to the 2021 Food Systems Summit

11 August 2021

In just a little more than six weeks, the UN Secretary-General will convene the global community to accelerate action in food systems that will help drive our recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic and get us back on track to the achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030. The historic Food Systems Summit, set to take place alongside the UN General Assembly in September, offers us the greatest opportunity for all people to come together to realize the vision of an equitable and healthy future that respects our planetary boundaries.

It is a pinnacle moment of the 18-month journey of the People’s Summit that brought together people across the world who had a fierce determination to join us in our ambition to create the change we need for more inclusive and sustainable food systems. More than 1000 Dialogues took place across 145 countries where people raised awareness of the challenges faced not only at a local level, but globally as well. The latest science and evidence deepened our knowledge of the problems we must solve. And through public fora, surveys and an online community, more than 2,500 ideas, 52 solution clusters surfaced through the diligent and hard work of thousands engaged in the Summit’s Action Tracks, Levers of Change, Scientific Group and Constituency Groups.

These work streams converged a few weeks ago at the Pre-Summit where more than 500 in-person delegates and over 20,000 virtual delegates, from 190 countries highlighted how they would implement urgent and inclusive changes that reflects local and national realities within a global context. As national pathways came forward, global coalitions also emerged that would support further progress.

Out of the three-days it became clear that there is not a one-size fits all solution, but that all of us have a responsibility to act because every one of us has a stake and a role in functioning food systems. And now with 18-months’ worth of progress compressed into the next few weeks, another alarm bell has given the need for joint action an urgency we can’t ignore.

The IPCC has just issued the clearest scientific warning that decisive action is needed right now. Food systems are currently contributing more than one-third of the world’s emissions. Food waste alone is responsible for so much greenhouse gas emissions that those emissions would be equivalent to the world’s third largest emitter country.

We have the unique chance at the UN Food System Summit and at COP26 in Glasgow to turn our food systems around – creating the world’s largest climate solutions while bringing food security and jobs to those most in need. We must channel our anxieties, our fear, our hunger, and most of all our energies into action. The need to come together around ambitious action has never been greater.

Indeed, on the heels of the report release, the UN Deputy Secretary-General, Amina Mohammed, stressed that important substantive inputs, such as the IPCC report, continue to emerge and will help inform the final shape of the Summit’s outcomes. She urged governments and all stakeholders to use the next weeks to continue seeking feedback and strengthening ideas, mobilizing the greatest leadership possible at both country and global levels.

The Summit currently expects deliverables on a few fronts:

  • A statement of action from the UN Secretary-General;
  • A compendium of the rich inputs from all of the Summit’s preparations;
  • National pathways for food systems transformation to deliver the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030 tailored to local context and priorities;
  • Coalitions of Action that can help support Member States in the delivery of national pathways by responding to gaps and needs at country and regional level; and,
  • A follow-up and review process supported by the UN and its agencies.

In addition to this, my hope is that beyond governments a range of actors will come forward with complementary commitments to action. There is significant space for all stakeholders to come together around the 2030 Agenda, and indeed we can only succeed in progress with the leadership of all actors in their own right and with additional multi-stakeholder coalitions, at local, national, and global levels.

The success of this People’s and Solutions Summit so far has been driven by getting all ideas on the table through the deep engagement of Member States, civil society groups, and the tireless work of hundreds of organizations and thousands of individuals. The Action Track Chairs and Vice Chairs were particularly lauded by government and UN leaders at the Pre-Summit for marshalling an inclusive process that generated thousands of ideas.

Only by working together can we realize the ambition of the 2030 Agenda. The final weeks in the lead up to the Summit will help to identify critical areas and methods for continued collaboration in support of this urgent objective. We owe it to ourselves and our collective future to deliver a Food Systems Summit with strong ambition from all of us.