FAO Liaison Office with the Russian Federation

UN Food Systems Summit 2021: What does Russia have to offer



The COVID-19 pandemic has led to national borders’ closures, restrictions on the movement of labor, goods and services, and has disrupted the functioning of global food supply chains, access to safe, high-quality food.

The pandemic has complicated the implementation by the states of obligations under the 2030 Agenda, and on top of them the implementation of the second Sustainable Development Goal: “End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture” (SDG2).

To draw attention to the issue, on the initiative of FAO, the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is convening a Food Systems Summit in 2021 in conjunction with the High-Level Week of the 76th UN General Assembly. The summit aims to encourage action to accelerate the implementation of all 17 SDGs, each of which is directly or indirectly dependent on more sustainable and equitable food systems.

On November 24, Russia has announced launch of the National Food Systems Summit Dialogue. The initial event within the framework of the Dialogue held as an online forum was organized by member of the Summit Leadership Group, Rector of the Diplomatic Academy of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs Alexander V. Yakovenko and Russian representative to the Summit Advisory Committee, Russia’s Permanent Representative to FAO and other international organizations in Rome Victor L. Vasiliev with the support of the FAO office in Moscow.

“In the architecture of the Sustainable Development Goals, SDG2 plays a critical role. By eliminating hunger and ensuring food security, we will give a powerful boost to the implementation of the entire 2030 Agenda, said Oleg Kobiakov, Director of the FAO Liaison Office with the Russian Federation, in his opening remarks.

“To actively involve all nations throughout the world in the preparation of the 2021 Food Systems Summit, three types of Summit Dialogues on the subject of food systems are being convened,” the head of the FAO Moscow office specified. “The main type is Member State (National) Summit Dialogues, the second is Global Summit Dialogues that will be fuelled by the results of National Dialogues and, finally, the third type is Independent (Summit) Dialogues that can be convened within states, between states, with representatives of interest groups, stakeholders, consumers, producers, scientific circles and public organizations taking part in them.”

“Today, we are kick-starting the National Summit Dialogue in the Russian Federation, which intends to play a leading role in preparing the Summit. FAO is ready to facilitate this Dialogue to unfold dynamically, intensively and with keen interest displayed, so that not only Russian citizens, but also residents of other countries will be aware of its results,” concluded Oleg Kobiakov.

In his speech, Rector of the Diplomatic Academy of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs Alexander Yakovenko noted: “The five years since the adoption of the UN General Assembly’s Agenda for Sustainable Development (2030 Agenda) have shown that the current pace is not sufficient to achieve the goals set for 2030. The pandemic only highlighted the urgency of strengthening international cooperation and mobilizing the efforts of all participants, both states and a wide range of non-state partners, with the assistance of the UN and its specialized agencies.”

“That is why in Russia we plan to build a National Dialogue in such a way that in addition to state structures, large private companies will also take part in it.”

“The problem of hunger in the world has exacerbated. According to the UN, 680 million people are starving in the world at present. Over the past five years, this figure has been increasing by 10 million annually. Our country has attained a historic victory over famine, so the experience of Russia may be appealing to other countries,” the Rector of the Diplomatic Academy continued. “However, there is still a lot of work to be done to consolidate these positive dynamics of domestic food systems and make them inclusive and sustainable.”

Professor Yakovenko concluded that one of the most important goals of the interactive discussions on food systems launched today should be to “identify current issues and summarize best practices.”

FAO Director-General QU Dongyu was the first to put forward the idea for the 2021 Food Systems Summit. The forum is, thus, not an innovation, but a continuation of FAO traditions, recalled Victor Vasiliev, Russia's Permanent Representative to FAO and other international organizations in Rome, and Russia’s representative on the Summit’s Advisory Committee.

The first World Food Summit convened by FAO was held in 1996. The goal of reducing the number of people affected by hunger by half by 2015 was subsequently included in the UN Millennium Development Goals. The second Summit, in 2002, adopted the world programme to fight hunger (Rome Declaration), which contains new approaches to addressing this problem, including improving the sustainability of food systems. At the third Summit in 2009, five “Roman principles” were approved: investment in rural development programmes, coordination of actions at the international level, adoption of medium - and long-term programmes to eradicate poverty, combating climate change, and effective resource management.

“For Russia, it is not only the Summit itself that is important, but also the implementation of the road map that it will adopt,” said Russian diplomat. At the same time, Russia has “its own priorities, in particular: the fight against non-communicable diseases, countering the spread of antimicrobial resistance (AMR), as well as zoonotic diseases and dangerous agricultural pests, and sustainable management for soil, water and forest resources.” Victor Vasiliev stressed that it makes sense for Russia to “promote these priorities on various international platforms.”

The upcoming Summit will not be held under the most favorable conditions. Coronavirus pandemic, climate change, environmental pollution. Based on these negative factors, “it is essential to develop a comprehensive approach to the transformation of food systems in the future,” said Vladimir Rakhmanin, FAO Assistant Director-General, FAO Regional Representative for Europe and Central Asia. At the same time, it is necessary to consider all aspects of achieving SDG-2 (elimination of hunger) – economic, social, and environmental.

The coronavirus pandemic highlighted many of the shortcomings of agri-food systems and led to the realization that there is no alternative to a “sustainable” development model. According to Vladimir Rakhmanin, the fact that the concept of “sustainability” has firmly been established and filled with a specific meaning is a success in itself.

Russia is ready to actively participate in the formation and implementation of new principles for the functioning of food systems. In his speech, Alexey Kondratenko, a member of the Federation Council Committee on Agriculture and Food Policy and Environmental Managementnoted the importance of the new version of the Food Security Doctrine of the Russian Federation adopted in January this year, which, among other things, “takes into account the recommendations of FAO on the maximum share of imports and stocks of food resources.”

The Doctrine defines food security as a situation when food independence is ensured, and the physical and economic availability of food for every citizen is guaranteed in the amounts necessary for an active and healthy lifestyle. It is equally important that Russia intends to achieve its export potential taking into account the priorities of self-sufficiency, as well as economic and food security within the framework of the Eurasian Economic Union.

Andrey Guryev, Chairman of the Management Board and CEO of PhosAgro, described the company’s contribution to the creation of a “Green Standard” for Russian agricultural products with improved environmental characteristics, which was initiated as response to the instruction of the Russian President Vladimir Putin. Andrey Guryev suggested that the replication of the Russian experience of creating a “Green Standard” could be included in the FAO agenda. The “Green Standard” implies a “unified approach to technical requirements and production”, absence of dangerous concentrations of heavy metals in the product, and special labelling.

The company’s progress in the field of sustainable development was noted at the UN level. In September, PhosAgro’s status as a leader in the Global Compact, a platform for socially responsible business, was confirmed. Only 41 companies in the world enjoy similar status. Last year, PhosAgro has allocated over 9 billion rubles to measures of environmental protection.

“It is worth noting international cooperation on food safety and quality,” remarked Nikolai Balan, Deputy Head of the Department of Science and International Cooperation of the Russian Federal Service for Surveillance on Consumer Rights Protection and Human Wellbeing (Rospotrebnadzor). “Since 2015, Russia has beefed up its activities on joint FAO-WHO platform on food standards Codex Alimentarius. Currently, the our experts participate in over 20 working groups for the development and revision of standards and other commissions, and chairs four working groups of the Codex.”

Under the auspices of Rospotrebnadzor, Nikolai Balan noted, over 200 foreign specialists have been trained on Antimicrobial Resistance, and more than 3,000 Russian-made devices and reagents have been delivered to foreign colleagues.

The upcoming summit “will set the direction for the transformation of food systems in the medium term,” concluded Ilya Demidov, Head of Division at the Department of International Organizations at the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Given that Russia’s priorities may not always coincide with the position of other countries on all tracks, the diplomat intoned, a national dialogue is necessary to develop a common approach and find consensus solutions.

In general, the participants of the forum shared their views on how to ensure access to safe and nutritious food products in Russia, how to encourage the transition to sustainable consumption patterns, how to teach people to use natural resources prudently, and finally, how to make food systems less susceptible to external negative impacts.

Thus, the launch of the “National Dialogue in the Russian Federation to prepare for the UN Food Systems Summit 2021” has both highly political and practical significance, as it is intended to intensify joint efforts to develop a road map that will ultimately contribute to the eradication of hunger, the creation of more inclusive and sustainable food systems, and the protection of our planet’s natural resources.

Representatives of federal legislative bodies, academia, the private sector, and non-governmental organizations attended the videoconference.