4 September 2020

Briefing Member States at Food Systems Summit, Deputy Secretary-General Stresses Transformation of Production, Consumption Chain Key for Sustainable Development

Following are UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, on the occasion of the briefing to Member States on the Food Systems Summit, in New York today:

Thank you for joining this virtual briefing on the Food Systems Summit that will be convened by the Secretary-General next year.  I would like to welcome colleagues that are joining us online from New York and Rome.  The Rome-based United Nations agencies are playing an important leadership role on this topic and I welcome this whole of system approach.

As we begin to look ahead to the annual high-level week of the General Assembly, including the first annual Sustainable Development Goals Moment, it’s an opportune time to share with you an update on the preparations that are already well under way on the Food Systems Summit in 2021.

I am pleased to be joined today by the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for the Food Systems Summit, Agnes Kalibata.  We have shared a short background note in advance of this meeting, and I look forward to hearing your views and answering any questions.

The Secretary-General announced his intention to convene this Summit to accelerate much-needed action on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development — our globally agreed blueprint for people and planet.  This decision built on an increasing recognition that transforming our food systems must be central in our effort to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

For example, food systems and nutrition were identified in the 2019 Global Sustainable Development Report as key entry points to accelerate the worldwide transition to a more sustainable trajectory.  Moreover, in the Ministerial Declaration of the 2018 high-level political forum, Member States anticipated this finding and specifically called “on all stakeholders to adopt a sustainable food systems approach”.

The urgency of this transition has been underscored by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.  We need to rapidly rethink how we produce, process, market, and consume our food and dispose of our waste.  We should turn this crisis into an opportunity to rebalance and transform our food systems, making them more inclusive, sustainable and resilient.

This transition is already under way.  In all countries, stakeholders from every sector are beginning to take action and change behaviours in support of a new vision of how food arrives on our plate.  They are increasingly aware that food systems are one of the most powerful links between humans and the planet.  They want to see a shift in these patterns in a way that enhances inclusive economic growth and opportunity, while also safeguarding our biodiversity and the global ecosystems that sustain life.

We have before us an unprecedented opportunity to capitalize on this growing movement and craft a catalytic moment for public mobilization and actionable commitments to accelerate our progress.  As a foundational element of the Decade of Action to deliver the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, the Food Systems Summit recognizes that we can transform our world in the next decade, but only by working together.

Only together can we end extreme poverty, win the race against climate change and conquer injustice and gender inequality.  Together we can embrace the complexity of our modern world and take action to ensure equity and inclusion for all people.  Together, as we recover from the impacts of COVID-19, we can build the future we want.

The Summit will therefore seek to unleash bold new actions, innovative solutions and strategies to transform our food systems and leverage these shifts to deliver progress across all of the Sustainable Development Goals.  The need is urgent, and our ambition is high.  For this reason, this must not be “just another conference”.  We must act.

The Food Systems Summit should be thought of as both “a people’s summit” and “a solutions summit”, recognizing that food systems touch all of society, and all stakeholders.  Every Government, organization and individual needs to do more.  I will turn to the Special Envoy in a moment to provide a more detailed update on our progress and plans for the road ahead, but I do want to highlight a few elements:

First, I want to thank the regional groups for coming together and nominating two Member States from each region to serve on the Advisory Committee.  We held our first meeting in early July, and I thank each of them for their engagement and for ensuring that they brought broader regional perspectives to the table.  Second, we expect a strong interface between science, policy and action through this process.  I am pleased that both the independent Science Group and the system-wide United Nations Task Force have also held their first meetings.

Third, the Envoy will go into more detail on the five action tracks that will be at the centre of the process ahead, but we will follow-up this meeting and provide more information and invite you to express your interest in engaging in the work of the action tracks.  We will be seeking your expressions of interest by 30 September.  Finally, we will also be looking to you to support the convening of national dialogues on food systems at home.

Food systems vary by location and our approaches must be rooted in local and regional realities.  We hope that you will join in facilitating multi-stakeholder discussions that are guided by the values of sustainable development, informed by science and experience and oriented towards action.

Where possible, United Nations country teams will be your partner, and we see this as an important opportunity to reflect on the role local food systems play in making progress on sustainable development and to identify actions that help countries and local communities overcome barriers to more rapid progress.  They will be complemented by dialogues undertaken independently both within countries and internationally.

Following today’s briefing, we can anticipate more activity around this process as we move towards the United Nations General Assembly and the World Food Day in October.  It is the Secretary-General’s intention to communicate to you by then the approach on the venue and timing of the Summit in light of the current global crisis.  Any views you have on this aspect are certainly welcome.

The Secretary-General and I are enthusiastic about the journey ahead, and we look forward to your engagement and support.  I look forward to today’s discussion, but first I will hand over to our guide on this journey, our Special Envoy, Dr. Kalibata.

For information media. Not an official record.