The Right to Food

UN Food Systems Summit+2 Stocktaking Moment: Global leaders and stakeholders renew calls to ensure adequate, safe and nutritious food for all through transformed agrifood systems

News - 13.10.2023

Rome –“This is a gathering about food systems. But it is essentially about people in need — and the need to fulfill the most basic of human rights: the right to food,” remarked the United Nations (UN) Secretary-General, António Guterres, speaking at the opening ceremony of the UN Food Systems Summit+2 Stocktaking Moment (UNFSS+2).  

The event, held at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) headquarters in Rome from 24 to 26 July 2023, brought together over 2000 participants from 180 countries, including over 20 Heads of State and Government and 125 Ministers, to explore challenges and opportunities to transform agrifood systems.

“Let’s transform food systems for the future, and ensure that every person, in every community and country, has access to the safe and nutritious food they need and deserve," the UN chief urged the Summit.

The UNFSS+2 built on the momentum of the 2021 Food Systems Summit to reach agreement on a global transformative future for food systems, encompassing shifts in production, storage, consumption and waste.

Two years later, the UN again convened the world’s leaders to take stock of the progress made by creating a conducive space for countries to review advances on their commitments to action and identify successes, enduring bottlenecks and priorities.

“Our agrifood systems hold huge power and potential in contributing to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs),” said FAO Director-General, Qu Dongyu, in his opening speech at the UNFSS+2.

The event featured a high-level opening segment, three high-level-sessions during the opening day, four plenary sessions, several leadership dialogues, special events and side events, as well as a high-level closing session.

Over three days of deliberations, participants advocated, among other measures, for decent work opportunities, respect for Indigenous Peoples’ food systems and more extensive social protection systems.

At the plenary session dedicated to school meals, Cem Özdemir, Federal Minister of Food and Agriculture of Germany, underlined that these programmes are “an important element to fight hunger and malnutrition, and poverty,” and announced his Government’s pledge to support the accelerated School Feeding Programme through its investment, over the next five years, of €22 million in Sierra Leone and Laos.

At a leadership dialogue on ‘Food Systems for the People: Transforming Food Systems for People’s Nutrition and Health’, Lilian dos Santos Rahal, National Secretary for Food and Nutrition Security of the Ministry of Development, Social Assistance, Family and Fight against Hunger from Brazil, reaffirmed “the role of states and the centrality of the human right to adequate and healthy food, as the basis on which we can build healthier and more sustainable, inclusive and fair food systems”.

Representatives also heard strong messages about natural resources being the foundation of agrifood systems and the urgency to improve their efficient use, as well as the importance for enabling policies and governance structures, putting people at the center, particularly youth and women. “We discussed the need for high-level, long-term political commitment, and from all partners,” FAO Director-General underscored at the closing ceremony.

The UN Deputy Secretary-General, Amina Mohammed, officially closed the UNFSS+2 Stocktaking Moment by presenting the Call to Action for accelerated Food Systems Transformation  on behalf of the UN Secretary-General. This focuses on six concrete objectives: embedding food systems strategies in national policies; establishing food systems governance with a whole-of-society approach; investing in research, data, innovation, and technology capacities; promoting business engagement and accountability for sustainability; including full participation of marginalized groups; and ensuring long-term, concessional finance for food systems transformation.

 The next meeting, the UN Food Systems Summit +4, will be held in 2025, let’s keep up our work to engage and ensure that national pathways lead to the realization of the right to adequate food for all.

How to re-set the table?

At the side event about the challenges and opportunities for civil society actors and marginalized groups in shaping the governance of food systems transformation, FAO and others discussed the need to put into practice the right to adequate food, applying the principles anchored in human rights instruments that originated from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Claire Mason, FAO Right to Food Adviser, referred to the Right to Food Guidelines, which were endorsed by the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) and will reach their 20th anniversary in November 2024.

“We need to look at this as an opportunity where civil society actors, governments officials, stakeholders and countries come together to bring awareness raising and make change,” she said. “FAO stands side by side with civil society and countries, and we hope to be able to support actions and activities. Let´s work together towards the 20th anniversary, and beyond, so that the right to food is realized for all,” she noted.

The event, organized by the German non-governmental organization Welthungerhilfe, counted with the keynote speech of Michael Fakhri, UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food. “If you look at how governments and people are tackling the food crisis today in real time, you will see that the right to food is more central and powerful than ever,” Fakhri said.

“The right to food is not just a policy tool among other policy tools, but it provides governments with a clear, cohesive, and detailed framework grounded in law and legal obligations. Moreover, it gives people the right to participate in all aspects of the food system,” he explained.

The event showcased examples of grassroots organizations that have facilitated inclusive participation and influenced political agendas. “People’s voice is their power, and citizens know how to secure their livelihoods and ensure healthy communities. Citizens can set development priorities for the government through public participation,” stated Mary Karanu from the Kenya Right to Food Coalition, who provided valuable input, alongside the important national and local experiences provided by Juan Sanchez of the Ecological Agriculture Network in Peru (RAE-PERU) and Shamike Mone from the Inter-continental Network of Organic Famers Organisations (INOFO) in India.

Global hunger levels at a new high

The UNFSS+2 came at a time when up to 783 million people are facing hunger in the world, 122 million more since 2019 due to the pandemic and repeated climate shocks and conflicts, according to the latest State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World report.

The capacity of people to access healthy diets has also deteriorated across the globe: more than 3.1 billion people in the world – or 42 percent – were unable to afford a healthy diet in 2021.

Enhanced actions from all stakeholders are needed, because if trends remain as they are, the Sustainable Development Goal of ending hunger by 2030 will not be reached.

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