Committee on World Food Security

Making a difference in food security and nutrition

The High-Level Panel of Experts on Food Security and Nutrition (HLPE) Issues Paper on COVID-19 launched

12 Oct 2020

The High-Level Panel of Experts on Food Security and Nutrition (HLPE) Issues Paper on COVID-19 launched

Rome, Italy, 12 October 2020 — The Committee on World Food Security (CFS) is this week hosting a special event on strengthening global governance of food security and nutrition. The three-day event is aimed at keeping food security and nutrition front and center on the global sustainable development agenda especially in light of the profound impact that COVID-19 is having on food security and nutrition.

The event will take stock of the global food security situation guided by the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World (SOFI) 2020 report and the CFS High-Level Panel of Experts (HLPE) report “Food security and nutrition: building a Global Narrative towards 2030. It will also reflect on the impacts of COVID-19 on global food security and nutrition and efforts needed to “build back better”.

As the world prepares for the landmark Food Systems Summit, the CFS Special Event will discuss the draft CFS Voluntary Guidelines on Food Systems and Nutrition and the draft CFS Policy Recommendations on Agroecological and Other Innovative Approaches, and consider their relevance to the objectives of the UN Food Systems Summit.

“Since its reform in 2009, CFS has established itself as the most inclusive multi-stakeholder and inter-governmental UN platform for food security and nutrition. CFS has convened this Special Event to bring the food security and nutrition community together to consider how global governance of food security and nutrition can be strengthened in the effort to halt the run-away global hunger and nutrition that has been aggravated by COVID-19”, said Thanawat Tiensin, CFS Chairperson.

The issues paper by HLPE “Impacts of COVID-19 on food security and nutrition: developing effective policy responses to address the hunger and malnutrition pandemic” was launched at the Special Event. The paper calls upon governments and other actors to undertake urgent measures to radically transform food systems, to realize the right to food and to ensure food security and nutrition for all in light of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The COVID-19 crisis has had profound implications for food security, nutrition and food systems. These impacts see the combination of disruptions to supply chains, a global economic recession and enormous income losses, increase in inequality, changes in the way people access and consume food, localized increases in the price of food, a general uncertainty on the evolution of the pandemic and consequent restrictive measures. These dynamics are severely affecting people’s ability to access nutritious food. Hunger is rising globally, and those already in vulnerable situations are the most affected”, says Martin Cole, the HLPE Chairperson.

The issues paper analyzes the impact of the pandemic on six key dimensions of food security proposed by the HLPE: access, availability, stability, utilization, agency and sustainability. “COVID-19 has profoundly affected all these dimensions of food security. The resulting food insecurity and malnutrition is increasing the susceptibility to the disease resulting in a self-reinforcing negative cycle”. Furthermore, Cole adds, “the COVID-19 crisis has made the failures of food systems evident: governments need to seize this opportunity to act in a coordinated way now to ensure food systems are more resilient to crises and more equitable”.

The paper provides six sets of recommendations to address the short, medium and longer term impacts of the pandemic on food security and nutrition. These recommendations include:

1. Implement more robust targeted social protection programmes to improve access to healthy and nutritious foods, including emergency food aid, maintaining robust safety nets, food assistance programmes focused on healthy food, and ensuring access to alternatives to school lunches when schools are closed. Debt relief should be provided to governments in need.

2. Ensure better protections for vulnerable and marginalized food system workers and farmers, including the recognition of their labour rights in national legislation, access to full protection from hazards and risks — paying special attention to migrant workers, mechanisms to protect farmers and small-agricultural producers from uncertainties and income losses.

3. Provide better protections for countries that depend on food imports, which are especially vulnerable to supply chain disruptions. Measures include discouraging export restrictions as a response to the pandemic and, in the longer term, support countries to increase their domestic food production capacity.

4. Strengthen and coordinate policy responses to the COVID-19 pandemic impact on food systems and food security and nutrition to address the interlinkages of food, health, economic and environmental systems. Recognizing the role of the CFS as a lead body in coordinating an international governance response to the impact of COVID-19 on FSN and in facilitating information sharing among governments to track these impacts are among the recommended actions.

5. Support more diverse and resilient distribution systems, including shorter supply chains and territorial markets, and support small and medium scale agrifood enterprises’ participation in supply chains.

6. Support more resilient food production systems based on agroecology and other sustainable forms of food production, including by strengthening local food production and ensure that not only farming, but also sustainable fisheries and aquaculture, animal production and forestry are central in policy responses to COVID-19.

These recommendations support the realization of the types of policy shifts that are urgently needed to put the world back on track to achieve food security and nutrition and the entire 2030 Agenda. These shifts, which imply a radical transformation of food systems, taking into account the interconnectedness of different systems and sectors, and developing context-specific solutions to address hunger and all forms of malnutrition, are fundamental to achieve sustainable food systems and the realization of the right to food in this very difficult global crisis.

Notes to Editors

The issues paper is available for download at:


For more information, please contact [email protected]

About CFS

The Committee on World Food Security (CFS) was established in 1974 and reformed in 2009 to become the foremost inclusive international and intergovernmental platform for a broad range of committed stakeholders to work together in a coordinated manner and in support of country-led processes towards the elimination of hunger and ensuring food security and nutrition for all, for the progressive realization of the right to adequate food in the context of national food security.

CFS promotes policy convergence and coherence on global food security and nutrition issues. Its processes ensure that the voices of all relevant stakeholders are heard, particularly those most affected by food insecurity and malnutrition.

For more information, visit the CFS website at

About HLPE

The High Level Panel of Experts on Food Security and Nutrition (HLPE), science-policy interface of the UN Committee on World Food Security (CFS), was created in October 2009 as an essential element of the CFS reform. The HLPE aims to facilitate policy debates and inform policy making by providing independent, comprehensive and evidence-based analysis and advice at the request of CFS.

The HLPE elaborates its studies through a scientific, transparent and inclusive process. HLPE studies are the result of a continuous dialogue between HLPE experts and a wide range of stakeholders (whether public, private or from the civil society) and knowledge holders across the world, combining different forms of knowledge, building bridges across regions and countries, across various scientific disciplines and professional backgrounds.

For more information, visit the HLPE website at: