Committee on World Food Security

Making a difference in food security and nutrition

Multilateral Policy Convergence Catalysing Food Systems Transformation

03 Aug 2021

The United Nations Food Systems Summit (UNFSS) is a moment in time to galvanize global action to address the mounting global hunger challenge simultaneously with malnutrition, biodiversity loss, environmental destruction and other major challenges. The UNFSS Pre-Summit took place in Rome, 26-28 July 2021 to build coalitions around the many food systems solutions that have been proposed.

CFS, the UN’s global platform for policy action on SDG 2, organized a session on the place and role of multilateral policy convergence for food systems transformation with a focus on the Committee’s recently-endorsed Voluntary Guidelines on Food Systems and Nutrition (VGFSN).

The VGFSN are an important contribution to the UN Food Systems Summit as they are a global policy instrument negotiated at a multilateral level among governments and other stakeholders on the connections between food systems and nutrition.

The CFS session highlighted the voices of many key CFS constituencies and called for greater use of CFS’s platform, its flagship policy products, and its science-policy interface modelled in 2009 on the UNFCCC’s IPCC – the CFS High Level Panel of Experts.

Kicking off the discussion, Chris Hegadorn, CFS Secretary who moderated the event reminded everyone that more than 4 million people have died from COVID-19 since 2019, ”but, even more sadly, 11 million people die due to diet-related diseases – heart disease, cancers, diabetes.  The costs and the suffering are incalculable.  That is why we are here, and that is what CFS is fighting to change.   Our VGFSN are a significant contribution to that effort, as are our other products and reports,” added Mr Hegadorn.

Addressing participants through a video message, H.E. Gotabaya Rajapaksa, President of Sri Lanka, noted that transforming the global food systems is necessary as COVID-19 has shown.  “Even as governments act individually to safeguard this right for their people, they must broaden their understanding of the complexities of the global food system. Transforming this system is an essential part of the adaptations we must make to sustain humanity and our planet.  In this context, the vital work of CFS in driving global policy convergence on these critical issues is very commendable and must be encouraged,” he concluded.

Thanawat Tiensin, CFS Chairperson and Permanent Representative of Thailand to FAO, IFAD and WFP underscored the centrality of multilateralism embodied in the CFS model to food systems transformation. “To be successful, the Summit needs to use the tools, mechanisms, and existing institutions, of which the CFS and its High-Level Panel of Experts (HLPE) are part. CFS has the tools and guidance needed for the transformation of food systems. Its inclusive model should be replicated in all countries.”

The Chair of the CFS - HLPE, Martin Cole cautioned that now - when the trends on food security are negative, is not the time to reinvent the wheel. “HLPE is a legitimate science-based forum for policy innovation, anchored around the right to food. Instead of calling for a new science-policy platform, focus should be on strengthening HLPE.” 

  • Other speakers included:
  • H.E. Ambassador Hans Hoogeveen, Independent Chair of the FAO Council, who spoke on the legitimacy of the CFS policy convergence process and his astonishment that the CFS VGFSN are not a central focus of the Pre-Summit and Summit;
  • H.E. Gabriel Mbairobe, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development of Cameroon who shared national level experience and its involvement in the CFS processes since the CFS reform in 2009 arguing for the Summit to benefit from CFS products and experience;
  • Naoko Yamamoto, Chairperson, UN Nutrition, who underlined the position of the UN Nutrition as a strong ally of the CFS, as well as the role of the UN in the promotion and implementation of the VGFSN;
  • Michael Fakhri, Special Rapporteur on Right to Food, highlighting that CFS’ legitimacy derives from its inclusive structure and how the VGFSN can help address human rights issues; and
  • Rick White, Chair of CFS Private Sector Mechanism (PSM), focusing on what transformative actions are needed from the private sector to promote sustainable food systems that deliver healthy diets.

In conclusion, the session underscored that CFS offers a valuable set of negotiated policy products, scientific reports, and an essential multilateral platform for combatting malnutrition in all its forms.

As affirmed during the UNFSS pre-summit, now is the time to act together, as no one can achieve the goals of the 2030 agenda alone.  Member countries and all interested stakeholders are expected to commit to a dynamic and impactful CFS that adds value and momentum to our global efforts of transforming agro-food systems for better production, better nutrition, better environment, and better lives.

A recording of the session and more information including all statements delivered available at: