In search of winning recipe

Hakim Hayat

There is a need to achieve the United Nations- (UN) mandated Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030 and address climate change in view of food production, leaders and subject matter experts stressed at the first ever United Nations Food Systems Summit held virtually on September 23.

UN member states and constituencies from around the world attended the coveted summit that also featured keynote remarks from UN Secretary-General António Guterres.

Different sessions were held, featuring statements from heads of state and governments, multi-stakeholder commitments to action, constituency voices, and pre-eminent people to bring about tangible, positive changes to the world’s food systems.

Over 90 heads of states and governments submitted their national strategies in strengthening the food systems.

Brunei Darussalam was represented by Minister at the Prime Minister’s Office Dato Seri Setia Haji Awang Abdul Mokti bin Haji Mohd Daud, who highlighted the Sultanate’s commitment to strengthening its own food system by accelerating the production growth of the agriculture and fisheries sector; promoting both domestic and foreign direct investment; and increasing productivity through the use of technology to meet domestic demand and for export.

“Food security remains an important agenda and a major concern for all of us, especially during the pandemic, and has put pressure on our global food system,” the minister said in a statement. “Our collective efforts need to be accelerated to ensure more equitable, sustainable, and resilient food systems to achieve our Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.”

According to a joint communique issued following the meeting, the transformation “can stem from an understanding that we must urgently move from incremental and siloed action towards a systems approach.

“The food system will not prosper until all sectors concerned work together. All stakeholders and people within the system play a crucial role through responsible and innovative practices in ensuring that everyone has access to healthy food”.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), food systems encompass the entire range of actors and their interlinked value-adding activities involved in the production, aggregation, processing, distribution, consumption and disposal of food products.

Food systems comprise all food products that originate from crop and livestock production, forestry, fisheries and aquaculture, as well as the broader economic, societal and natural environments in which these diverse production systems are embedded.

After an 18-month process of dialogues and engagement at community, national, regional and global levels, the UN secretary-general intervened as world leaders prepared to announce their commitments to more resilient, inclusive and sustainable food systems.

The COVID-19 pandemic has already given the world a ‘One-Health’ vision, and the world is optimistic of a food system that recognises the associated concerns of non-judicious use of chemicals as well as unregulated animal intensification.

The leaders also emphasised that while we consume different types of food, the food system unites us. They stressed how nations encounter challenges and how this platform offers to assist them in addressing them.

The UN Secretary-General commended the summit for “injecting new life into multilateralism” and for “leading the way to food systems that can drive the global recovery in three fundamental ways: For people, for the planet, and for prosperity”.

Five action areas to help inform the transitions needed to realise the vision of the 2030 agenda have emerged from the process.

These include: nourish all people; boost nature-based solutions; advance equitable livelihoods, decent work and empowered communities; build resilience to vulnerabilities, shocks and stresses; and support means of implementation.

At a global level, UN agencies – the FAO, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), and the World Food Programme (WFP) – will jointly lead a system-wide coordination hub to continue the work of the Summit.

To track progress towards the UN’s 2030 Agenda, the secretary-general will present an annual report to the high-level political forum. Every two years, the secretary-general will also lead a global stocktake to review the progress.

FAO Director-General QU Dongyu made the pledge at the closing segment of the UN Food Systems Summit, “Carrying forward the vision and momentum for 2030”, where he delivered the summit’s closing statement.

The landmark event adopted, for the first time, a comprehensive approach towards agri-food systems transformation, to fight poverty and hunger, reduce inequalities and preserve the environment.

Held during the annual UN General Assembly high-level week in New York, the summit brought together world leaders, experts, farmers and producers, indigenous peoples, the private sector and civil society, uniting participants in one of the most comprehensive attempts yet to align agri-food production and consumption with the UN’s SDGs.