summit seeks to shape a food system suitable for the future | News | Eco-Enterprise
People disagree on much when it comes to food. But most believe that the way we produce doesn’t work for everyone on the planet, nor for the natural systems essential for food production, including soil, water and climate.
In response, Thursday’s UN Food Systems Summit aims to reduce the damage to the environment and wildlife from what’s on our plates, as well as tackle hunger exacerbated by the pandemic. of Covid-19 and global warming emissions from agriculture and food waste.
The 18-month preparations for the event, held in New York City and online, brought together some 100,000 people – government and UN officials, farmers, indigenous peoples, youth and communities. business leaders – to discuss ways to make food production more suitable for the future.
A July meeting in Rome distilled some of the more than 2,000 ideas that emerged from hundreds of dialogues around the world into a set of themes and coalitions that the summit endorsed, to be taken forward at a practical level.
UN chief Antonio Guterres said the summit process had breathed “new life into multilateralism” and paved the way for food systems “that can spur global recovery in three fundamental ways. For people. For the planet and for prosperity.
Agnes Kalibata, Guterres’ special envoy for the summit, told reporters this marks a ‘turning point’ for the global food system and the challenge now is to get out and make it work on the ground – to end hunger , provide better jobs, produce healthier food and protect the planet.
Did the summit produce the equivalent of a Paris agreement for food?
There was never a plan for a negotiated, legally binding settlement after the summit. Instead, the process that preceded it discussed ways to move towards greener, healthier and more just food systems.
It also explored how to finance and implement policies and measures to achieve this at national and local levels.
Officials and researchers have said that one of the main goals of the first Food Systems Summit was to put the issue firmly on the global political agenda.
Ed Davey of the Food and Land Use Coalition said the summit would launch new international alliances on things like cutting emissions from zero food production and reducing food loss and waste – and could help generate new funding.
What problems did the summit try to solve?
According to United Nations agencies, 2020 has seen a dramatic worsening of hunger in the world, largely linked to the fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic.
In a July report, they estimated that about a tenth of the planet’s population – up to 811 million people – was undernourished last year. A huge effort would be needed to achieve a global goal of ending hunger by 2030, they said.
Meanwhile, whether on small farms in Kenya or in the homes of American families, about a third of all food produced is lost or wasted each year, costing the global economy nearly $ 1 trillion. dollars per year.
Strongly chemical agriculture is accused of polluting soils, rivers and seas – and agriculture alone absorbs about 70 percent of the world’s freshwater supply.
The way we produce food is also responsible for about a third of the greenhouse gases that warm the Earth’s climate.
These are emitted in a variety of ways: when carbon-storing forests are cleared for farming, when goods are transported around the world in gas-guzzling ships, planes and trucks, and when livestock and other animals spit out methane which traps heat. .
How can we do things differently and what happens next?
This is the daunting question the summit attempted to address.
As a result, 148 governments, from Argentina to Ireland and Nigeria, organized national dialogues to gather potential ideas, with the participation of tens of thousands of people. Hundreds of independently organized discussions also contributed to the process.
The most promising initiatives have been grouped under five âcourses of actionâ: giving everyone access to nutritious food; intensify approaches that benefit nature and biodiversity; help small farmers earn a decent living; strengthen food systems against shocks and stresses; and providing the finance and technology needed to drive change.
A key idea, according to Gilbert Houngbo, president of the International Fund for Agricultural Development, is to expand school feeding programs so that all children receive at least one good meal a day.
Although many such programs already exist in countries like Kenya, they could be improved by purchasing food grown nearby to support local farmers and communities, he said.
Other initiatives include working towards deforestation-free supply chains, reorienting environmentally harmful subsidies towards greener food production, reducing food waste, and addressing the real costs of food systems for people. people and the planet.
The selected solutions will be put forward by international coalitions on themes such as school meals, agroecology and decent work – bringing together governments, businesses, farmers, youth and other groups.
Around 100 countries have also developed and submitted ânational pathwaysâ adapted to their needs, which they will deploy over the next decade.
UN agencies will help move the work forward, with a formal review of progress every two years.
Who decided which solutions the summit would support?
It was controversial. More than 300 local organizations representing small-scale food producers, researchers and indigenous peoples boycotted the summit and held their own meetings alongside its official gatherings.
They said the summit was disproportionately influenced by business and lacked transparency and accountability.
They argued that the summit had supported “bogus solutions” such as voluntary corporate sustainability programs and “risky technologies”, including genetically modified organisms.
Alberta Guerra, senior food policy advisor for ActionAid, said the summit created “preferential access to the business sector and agribusiness, and from the start (they) set the agenda, dominated debate and are at the forefront of solutions “.
Instead, the groups want binding rules to end corporate abuses of human and land rights, an end to pesticide use, and the prioritization of agroecology rooted in natural farming methods.
UN officials vigorously brushed aside criticism, stressing the inclusive nature of the process of seeking proposals on how to transform global food systems.
Groups ranging from organic farmers to indigenous peoples, young people and small businesses were involved in the summit, pushing for a central role in decision-making, as well as for funding and other support.
Elizabeth Nsimadala, president of the Pan-African Farmers Organization and the East African Farmers’ Federation, said the process has been diverse and has gathered the voices and proposals of millions of smallholder farmers, pastoralists and fishermen. .
Among other things, they want to see investments in strengthening their organizations and food value chains in a fair and equitable way, especially for women producers who were previously marginalized, she said.
“We have really high hopes,” she said. âNow is the time to move from talk to real action. “
This story was published with permission from the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, which covers humanitarian news, climate change, resilience, women’s rights, trafficking and property rights. Visit http://news.trust.org/climate.
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