Committee on World Food Security

Making a difference in food security and nutrition

Remarks by CFS Chair at the 4th Global Conference of the One Planet Network's Sustainable Food Systems Programme

24 Apr 2023

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Excellences, ladies and gentlemen,

It’s my pleasure to join you in this One Planet Network Conference ‘The Transformation we need: Emerging from global crisis by shaping sustainable, resilient, healthy, and inclusive food systems

It is a great honor to provide the key note for this session on ‘Rethinking the global governance architecture for food systems’ and I thank One Planet Network and all the co-organizers for this opportunity.

I have structured my intervention around four questions:

  1. What drives the need to rethink the global governance of food systems?
  2. What are key challenges for food systems governance?
  3. What are core principles for good food systems governance?
  4. How does the Committee of World Food Security contribute?

My remarks draw, of course, on my experience as Chairperson of the Committee on World Food Security of the United Nations in FAO, the CFS, as well as on my previous experience as a UN official myself, where I served as senior adviser and coordinator of the HLTF set up by Ban Ki-Moon in 2009 to respond to the previous food crisis.

What drives the need to rethink the global governance of food systems?

First, no doubt, is persistent hunger and malnutrition.

An estimated 702 to 828 million people globally were affected by hunger in 2021 − about 150 million more since the outbreak of the COVID19 pandemic.

In 2020, an estimated 149 million children under age five were stunted, 45 million were wasted and 39 million were overweight, while nearly 571 million women experienced anaemia in 2019. With only eight years left to 2030, SDG 2 targets are unlikely to be achieved in many parts of the world unless we drastically change course.

Second, is the wide recognition of the systemic effects of agriculture and food systems on all the dimensions of sustainable development.

Climate change, agriculture, food systems, diets and nutrition are interconnected.  Food systems contribute to roughly one third of all greenhouse gas emissions and place pressure on biodiversity, soils, and the environment.   Also, climate change affects all the dimensions of food security, as well as food quantity, quality, safety and ultimately food prices. This will put healthy diets further out of reach for the 3.1 billion people that cannot afford them today.  Climate change can also contribute to changing nutrient composition of major staple crops, including decreases in proteins, and some essential minerals and vitamins.

Stockholm+50 called for rethinking of the global economic model, which includes food systems transformation within its focus on ‘high impact’ sectors.

The good news is that agriculture and food systems, and agents within agriculture and food systems, may actually deliver simultaneously on the triple win: poverty, prosperity and planet, while ensuring food security and nutrition. Those agents are smallholder and family farmers, cooperatives, indigenous peoples, and responsible agriculture and food businesses that transform their business models to deliver positively on the communities, the environment, on human rights and decent work.

Food systems governance also goes beyond just thinking about food. It touches on core issues of broader global governance challenges related to sustainable development.

Hence, this first challenge calls for integrated governance, for global governance that addresses systemically the trade-offs and the synergies, form multiple disciplines and sectors to harness the co-benefits (on prosperity, people, planet) of achieving SDG 2.

What are key challenges for food systems governance?

Over the past few years, and especially in reaction to the food security crisis we are suffering since the war against Ukraine, multiple initiatives were established to foster global responses to its impact.

We have seen how the G7, the G20, several governments, several UN Agencies and IFIs, have proposed several types of responses. 

This increased attention to food systems is good news. But as global action increases, so does the risk of fragmentation and related governance challenges. It is critical that we recognize points of fragmentation in the current global food systems governance architecture and address it. This means we need to promote more coherence across these processes and bodies and ensure inclusive participation of all relevant stakeholders.

It is urgent to act, but it is even more urgent to act together.

At the same time, this crisis is also an extraordinary opportunity to accelerate Food Systems transformation.

Food systems transformation will depend much on the way in which governments at all levels, respond to the poly-crises we are witnessing. Focusing in the short term only on food security and on subsidizing access to inputs is unlikely to lead to the transformation of food systems we urgently need.

The crisis of fuel and fertilizer prices we are witnessing should be a trigger to accelerate the transition towards sustainable practices –such as efficient use of less input, blending with organic fertilizers, boosting agroecology and other innovative approaches.

What does this challenge mean to governance? We need platforms that integrate also all stakeholders, and particularly:

  1. The UN System as a whole, avoiding competition and fragmentation between UN agencies, programs, funds, and the IFIs. Here is where the leadership of the UN SG is critical, where the GCRG for the Food, Financing, and Energy crises play a key role, and where the UN Food Systems Summit set the UN system institutional coordination for global food systems transformation. Cooperation and solidarity in building trust and leadership for sustainability transformations is key.
  2. Governance plaftforms, at all levels –community, local, territorial, national, regional and global levels- where all the stakeholders come together to negotiate, agree and coordinate action.

At the national level, policy coordination and coherence across sectors and agencies is critical to transform food systems. This requires leadership to manage the trade-offs between the multiple  sectors and agencies: from  health, agriculture, and education to environment, water, and sanitation as well as gender equality, social protection, trade, employment, and finance. All of these sectors and their objectives need to be aligned to transform food systems.

What are core principles for good food systems governance?

So now I will briefly reflect on core principles for food systems governance.

First: The right to food needs to be at the center of food systems transformation. Applying a Right-to-Food Lens to food systems transformation must underpin transparent, democratic and accountable governance.

Second: Inclusive multistakeholder governance is critical to promote better coordination and policy coherence among sectors and stakeholders. Only then can food systems deliver healthy diets for all, while also contributing to climate change mitigation and adaptation, reducing biodiversity loss and restoring ecosystems. Governmental actors should ensure that dialogue with all stakeholders is transparent and follows clear roles and responsibilities for engagement to safeguard the public interest.

Leaders at the global and national level must strengthen full and effective participation of indigenous peoples and local communities, in particular women, girls, marginalized groups and peoples with disabilities, in food systems governance. For indigenous peoples this should be based on an effective and meaningful consultation, through their own representative institutions in line with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Third, good food systems governance is characterized by accountability and responsiveness.

Fourth, good food systems governance is knowledge-based. At the global and national level, science-policy-interfaces can guide private and public sector activities to transform food systems. They should institute effective accountability mechanisms that promote good governance. Central to this will be creating spaces for public deliberation, as well as independent bodies that monitor compliance and performance. Governments must identify and manage conflicts of interest and vested interests, and institute safeguards against power imbalances.

How can the Committee of World Food Security contribute?

Finally, I would like to highlight the role that the Committee on World Food Security and its High Level Panel of Experts can play in promoting such policy coherence and stakeholder participation, and how this in turn can support the implementation of National Pathways for Food Systems Transformation.

The CFS is the UN intergovernmental body in FAO, formed currently by 137 member states, structured mechanisms for the participation of CSIPM, PS, Research, the UN System, IFIs, with the mission of working together for advance the progressive realization of the Right to Food, food security and nutrition for all and the achievement of SDG 2. It’s mandate is defined around enhancing global policy coordination, fostering policy convergence –achieving global non-binding agreements on key issues for achieving FS and Nutrution, providing support to country-led strategies.

CFS deliberates, negotiates and agrees on global policy recommendations and guidelines that cover a wide range of food security and nutrition topics. They touch on all aspects of food system governance, and are strongly grounded in the right to food and scientific evidence from its High Level Panel of Experts.

These policy products are tools and resources for advocacy and further policy development – including for shaping national policies, investment plans, legislations and development programmes that are inclusive and respond to country needs.

Examples include, recently, the Voluntary Guidelines on Food Systems and Nutrition, PR on Agroecology, on Youth employment, or the Framework for Action for Food Security and Nutrition in Protracted Crises, the Principles for Responsible Investments in Agriculture and the Voluntary Guidelines on Responsible Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security

They inspire the development of policies, programs and interventions to address malnutrition in all its forms from a holistic food systems perspective. They empower all actors to advance transformative policies in such key areas, and they increase accountability.

In the case of the Voluntary Guidelines on Food Systems and Nutrition, they have a strong focus on governance, intended to support the development of coordinated, multisectoral interventions within and across food systems and their constituent elements, and to promote policy coherence and reduce policy fragmentation between relevant sectors, such as health, agriculture, education, environment, gender, social protection, trade and employment.


Dear colleagues,

In closing, the fragmentation of food systems governance is a real challenge, and we need to work together to promote policy coherence at all levels. Efforts to transform food systems need to be underpinned by the right to food, include all relevant stakeholders from governments to private sector and civil society, and be built on scientific evidence. Only then, will we be on a path to achieving zero hunger.

The CFS is a multi-stakeholder platform, which is a global intergovernmental body for developing inclusive responses to food systems challenges, that was reformed in 2009 to respond to governance challenges as I have described.  

In the face of the multi-layered global food crisis, that the world is experiencing in the face of the aftermath of COVID-19, and in the face of conflict, and climate change, the of the Member States and stakeholders of the Committee agreed to leverage the convening power of this Committee for arriving at coordinated policy responses.

As the Chairperson, I strive to make this coordination and convergence function a reality.

It is not an easy task to make such intergovernmental yet fully inclusive platforms work.

But there is no other way to go if we aspire to end hunger, malnutrition, while advancing all the SDGs.