FAO Liaison Office with the Russian Federation

Equitable, inclusive and sustainable food system pathways. An interview with Dr Agnes Kalibata




Dr Agnes Kalibata, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the UN Food Systems Summit, shares her vision on the strategic direction for an inclusive, equitable and sustainable agri-food system transformation as a driving force during the Decade of Action to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The Food Systems Summit has been championed as a “People’s Summit”. When speaking of food systems transformation, why is it important to foster spaces where all voices are represented in candid dialogue?

The 17 SDGs represent fundamental human rights, so any discussions involving basic human rights must be, by definition, inclusive and representative of different people, communities, sectors and visions. It is through a candid exchange of ideas that we can respond to the world’s most pressing challenges together. As such, the UN Food Systems Summit can help us work better, faster and smarter in achieving the SDGs. 

We must come to terms with the fact that the way our food is currently produced, transported, marketed and consumed is leading to harmful greenhouse gas emissions and hurting our planet’s ecosystems and biodiversity. Food systems are at a critical point; the pressures they are exerting on the environment and natural resources are not sustainable. The Summit is anchored in the belief that each of us has a voice and a realm of opportunities to change the status quo.

The recent State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World (SOFI) report states that up to 811 million people went hungry in 2020. How does Food Systems Summit plan to deliver solutions that enable access to sufficient and healthy food for all?

The fact that too many people are going hungry does not mean that we are not producing enough food for all. On the contrary, we are producing probably five times more food than we need to feed every person across all corners of the world. However, we have a lot of food waste and loss, and this is compounded by structural inequalities that have existed for far too long, at the detriment of historically marginalized groups: women, children, youth, smallholder farmers and indigenous peoples.

Through the Food Systems Summit solutions clusters, we have mobilized and identified over 2,500 ideas responding to the most pressing issues in our food systems. These ideas have been consolidated into 52 solutions to tackle technical challenges, structural bottlenecks, investment opportunities and knowledge gaps across food systems. 

How is the Food Systems Summit brokering new partnerships for transformative change?

This global movement is only as strong as the discussions, commitments and initiatives taking place at the country level. More than 1 000 national food systems dialogues have taken place to date, 145 countries are leading national dialogues, and over 50 000 people from local communities and constituencies have actively participated. Thirteen national pathways have also been proposed, building on government efforts, and many more are expected.

These exchanges have shaped priorities around five Action Tracks operationalized by 15 Action Areas, which, in turn, have been informed by over 1 200 game-changing propositions from policymakers, civil society leadership, private sector enterprises, research and academic experts, youth-led coalitions and more. In response to the crosscutting nature of the 2030 Agenda, four levers of change have also been identified: human rights, innovation, finance, and gender equality and women’s empowerment.

The Food Systems Summit online community is growing as well. I encourage everyone, especially youth, women and indigenous leaders, to join forces and work together as food system champions. The ‘Laying Down Tracks’ podcast series, featuring conversations with leading innovators and changemakers, is a fantastic place to get inspired!

What does a successful Food Systems Summit look like to you? 

The momentum built in the lead up to the Pre-Summit in Rome is the type of catalytic energy we expect to see next month and through 2030. A successful Food System Summit is one where all Member States and a wide array of actors agree on an immediate transition towards more efficient, inclusive, resilient and sustainable food systems, and where equity of food is front and center in our commitments. A successful Summit will also support commitments made, join forces and pool resources through national, regional and global platforms, bringing the messages from the Summit to all corners of the world, leaving no one behind. 

Any final thoughts or calls to action?

We have a unique opportunity at the Food System Summit, at the COP26 Climate Conference, and at the COP15 Biodiversity Conference to turn the tide on our food systems. Together, we stand to mobilize the world’s largest compendium of agri-food and climate solutions to ensure food security, safeguard livelihoods, and create new and better jobs, especially among those most in need. 

I invite everyone to join forces and channel this drive into concrete actions and commitments for a sustainable, inclusive and resilient food future for all. We owe it to ourselves and to our collective future to deliver a Food Systems Summit with strong ambitions from all of us.  Now is the time to get involved and don’t forget to register to follow the Food System Summit!

Related links

  • Registration for UN Food Systems Summit is now open.
  • To hear more from the Special Envoy and other food system experts, tune in to the UNFSS podcast.




The interview with Dr Agnes Kalibata has been reposted due to courtesy of the FAO Liaison Office in New York.