026 Promoting Sustainable Food Systems to achieve Zero Hunger

Multi-stakeholder Dialogue for Impact on the Ground


  • Hivos
  • Department of Trade and Industry, South Africa
  • WWF
  • Federal Office for Agriculture (FOAG), Switzerland
  • FAO
  • UN Environment


This side event will bring together leading actors to discuss ways to improve the sustainability of food systems at all levels, through multi-stakeholder dialogues and collaborative action.
The Sustainable Food Systems (SFS) Programme of the One Planet network (10YFP) was highlighted in the recent HLPE report on Multi-stakeholder partnerships. In addition, in recent discussions on GEF-7 replenishment, the SFS Programme was recognized as an initiative of relevance to the GEF impact programme on food systems. The Side Event will thus use the One Planet SFS Programme as an example to show how food system actors can promote concrete action towards better FSN through enhanced multi-stakeholder dialogue.
The development of sustainable food systems is central to achieving the SDGs. In addition to their significance for more responsible production and consumption (SDG12), they contribute to poverty reduction (SDG1), achieving food security and improved nutrition (SDG2), and improving health and wellbeing (SDG3), amongst others. 
Current food systems are unsustainable. Although yields have gone up significantly in many parts of the world in past decades, over 800 million people go to bed hungry every day. Commodification of agricultural crops has resulted in the decline of (agro)biodiversity, soil degradation and habitat loss. People in many parts of the world are shifting to diets that are high in calories, animal proteins and processed foods. Unhealthy diets have become the main risk for human health, and diabetes and obesity are on the rise. Greenhouse gas emissions from the agri-food `value chain' account for almost half of all human GHG emissions, and about one third of all food produced is lost or wasted, with a significant environmental footprint.
The above issues are interrelated and demand that policy makers and practitioners adopt a systemic approach that involves all relevant actors and addresses all elements across the entire food system in a holistic manner.
Concretely, this session will:

  • Highlight the need for inclusive multi-stakeholder dialogue to promote actions towards improved food security and nutrition
  • Present the One Planet network (10YFP) Sustainable Food Systems (SFS) Programme as a key global multi-stakeholder partnership for the shift towards sustainable food systems
  • Showcase concrete experiences and opportunities for multi-stakeholder engagement towards the achievement of the SDGs, at all levels

Key speakers/presenters

  • Prof. Bernard Lehmann, State Secretary for Agriculture, Switzerland
  • Mr. James Lomax, Programme Management Officer (food systems and agriculture), UN Environment
  • Ms. Immaculate Daisy Yossa, Hivos Uganda
  • Ms. Alison Cairns, Managing Director, FReSH, World Business Council on Sustainable Development
  • Mr. Patrick Caron, Chairperson of the HLPE Steering Committee
  • Mr. Roberto Azofeifa, Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock, Costa Rica
  • Jeffrey Griffin, Senior Coordinator, FAO-GEF

Main themes/issues discussed

This side event brought together leading actors to discuss ways to improve the sustainability of food systems at all levels, through multi-stakeholder dialogues and collaborative action.

Main issues discussed include:

The need to move away from fragmented approaches to food security and nutrition towards the adoption of a food systems approach, using multistakeholder dialogue as a key means to advance and achieve this.
The elaboration of a Transformative Framework for Sustainable Food Systems, presented as a tool owned and promoted by the members of the One Planet Sustainable Food Systems Programme that can guide policy decision makers to transform food systems towards greater sustainability. Acknowledging the diversity of contexts in which interventions may take place, the framework is presented as a flexible tool for adaptive use: different actions may be taken in different areas in different contexts.

Summary of key points

With the conviction that development of sustainable food systems is central to achieving the SDGs, particularly responsible production and consumption (SDG12), poverty reduction (SDG1), achieving food security and improved nutrition (SDG2), and improved health and wellbeing (SDG3); the session found that:

  • Current food systems are not necessarily failing as they in fact efficiently deliver what they are designed for: delivering cheap foods to consumers by focusing on the production of commodities. The problem is that current food systems are very often not delivering on nutrition as well as environmental and socio-economic (e.g. livelihoods for smallholders, etc.) outcomes, and that is why they should rather be transformed.
  • The true cost of food is currently not considered in end prices of food products. Negative externalities like climate change, soil degradation, and health-related aspects should be reflected in market prices, while governments and private sector should focus on the promotion of sustainable production and consumption practices, to minimize these external costs.
  • The global trend of the disappearance of native and traditional crops should be reverted by promoting a shift away from the narrow economic focus on the production of a small number of staple crops towards the provision and promotion of a wider array of nutritious and locally adapted and grown crops.
  • Multistakeholder partnerships/dialogues around food security and nutrition are a good means to address the above issues but are not without controversies as there‚Äôs the risk of the reproduction of power asymmetries and high transaction costs. Also, they must be considered as a means, not a goal, and a possible solution, and not a panacea.

Key take away messages

The session participants found that:

  • Continuing business as usual is no longer an option. To improve FSN and to realize the shift towards more sustainable food systems, we must break silos, do a greater effort to work towards greater policy coherence, while cooperation efforts across the board should be taken to the next level, as no single actor can bring about food systems reform alone. Governments should provide enabling policy environments, private sector can provide more sustainable food, and international organizations could support countries in getting a better policy environment in place and support in capacity building.
  • Multistakeholder partnerships are an important means to contribute to improving and financing food security and nutrition in the context of the 2030 Agenda. They are a powerful and action-oriented tool next to existing government-led efforts to address FSN; and more and longer-term investments are needed to ensure the scale up and actual impact of these initiatives, on the local, national, and global scale.
  • Addressing and ensuring effective mechanisms for transparency and accountability, as well as for monitoring and evaluation in food-focused MSPs is imperative to secure real inclusivity and an effective contribution to better FSN outcomes, and to guarantee ownership of all stakeholders involved.
  • A comment was also raised that in designing multistakeholder dialogues, a careful assessment should be made on the possible trade off between integral inclusivity and expected effectiveness of the dialogue (i.e. everyone included, or just a selection of representatives/actors)
  • The One Planet SFS Programme is a key mechanism to support the implementation of food system related SDGs. It promotes action-oriented, multi-stakeholder initiatives at global, regional and national level, while supporting integrated food system policy making.
CFS Side Event 026 - Promoting Sustainable Food Systems to achieve Zero Hunger