Systèmes alimentaires

Multistakeholder Guide Underscores Crucial Role for Collaboration in A Food Systems Approach


Three United Nations Agencies, the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO), United Nations Environmental Programmed (UNEP) and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) held an engaging side event, on their upcoming Guide to Multistakeholder Collaboration during the recent 4th Global Conference of the One Planet network's Sustainable Food Systems Programme entitled “The Transformation We Need”, which took place in Hanoi, Vietnam from 24-27 April,

The side event was convened in the context of the UNEP-FAO-UNDP upcoming publication "Rethinking food systems: a guide for multi-stakeholder collaboration”, produced with technical contribution from the OPN SFS programme. The opening remarks introduced multi-stakeholder collaboration as a meaningful yet challenging endeavor, as it involves listening to and considering others’ interests and sharing power, involving taking risks and going out of our comfort zones. The guide was presented as a powerful resource to ease the use of multi-stakeholder collaboration.

"This important guide brings together learnings from 3 UN agencies & explores Mutilstakeholder Collaboration which is meaningful & helps unblock blockages to change but is also really hard. The guide makes all of this work easier," Corinna Hawkes, Director of Food Safety and Food Systems Division at FAO, noted in her keynote speech.

The opening remarks were followed by a presentation of the 5 key building blocks for successful multi-stakeholder collaboration, as described in the guide: 1) fostering broad multi-stakeholder participation, 2) ensuring a good understanding of the food system, 3) nurturing inclusive and effective collaboration, 4) defining a compass and a roadmap, and 5) securing the sustainability of collaboration.

During an engaging panel discussion held after the presentation, good practices as well as challenges faced where highlighted from Vietnam, Bolivia and Ireland. In Vietnam, smallholders’ limited access to third party certification was highlighted. The recognition and understanding of this limitation led to the creation of a Participatory Guarantee System (PGS), that provides trust-based food safety assurance (certification) to producers based on their participation in the mechanism. Ten years after its inception, the PGS has been expanded to over 100 cooperatives and food entrepreneurs, and is integrating a food systems approach in its functioning by involving members in participatory food system and stakeholder analyses, and the co-development of a strategy and roadmap.

Another initiative that was showcased during the discussion involves Vietnam’s Mekong Delta where they are supporting communities in integrating shrimp and rice production. A wide range of stakeholders (from local communities and government to international NGOs and academia) are involved in different components of the transition from a traditional single crop input-intensive approach to a holistic shrimp-rice model.

Examples of initiatives were also illustrated from Bolivia. In particular, in the city of La Paz, Bolivia, a host of issues (high levels of malnutrition, increased dependence on foreign markets and changing diets, among others), together with the identification of a gap in policy debate and citizen participation, led to the creation of the Municipal Food Security Committee. Meaningful interactions between a wide range of stakeholders and government buy-in allowed the Committee to focus on identifying each actor’s strengths (both in terms of soft and hard skills) to close the gaps that are thought to be catalytic for the transformation of the local food system.

A further example of multistakeholder collaboration was evidenced from Ireland where a Stakeholder Committee has been tasked with developing the vision and objectives for the country’s 10-year agri-food sector strategies. The selection of a neutral facilitator and secretarial support were also mentioned as important contributions to the Committee’s deliberations. A key principle of the Committee’s existence is that if people are involved in the design of a strategy and its implementation plan, they will likely also take actions that align with the strategy, making the case for participatory design.

The session showcased similar motivational factors to embark in multi-stakeholder endeavours across different levels, from national to local and sectoral. One of these key factors is about assuring inclusive dialogues among many voices of the food system.

A powerful message resonated as to the way forward: to move towards sustainable food systems, we need to focus on each other’s competitive advantages in order to better work together to create the future food systems we need, ones that are sustainable, resilient, efficient, and inclusive.