The SDG Summit must be our turning point
Opinion article by Dr. Stefanos Fotiou, Director of the Office of Sustainable Development Goals in the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).
The 2023 SDG Summit is taking place, 18-19 September, in New York.
©UN Photo/Manuel Elias
As we gather on the world stage for the 2023 SDG Summit in New York, scheduled for 18-19 September, to mark the halfway point in the 2030 Agenda, it is with a sobering awareness that we find ourselves far from the 17 Sustainable Development Goals it set out to achieve. Global leaders convene amidst the rippling impact of resurgent conflicts, the triple planetary crisis and a web of social and health emergencies that have given rise to increased hunger, malnutrition, poverty, social disparities and deteriorating global health.
Therefore, this gathering of world leaders tasked with assessing our progress toward the 2030 Agenda holds immense importance. It is a pivotal opportunity to reset, refocus and get the world back on track towards peace, prosperity, progress and sustainability for all by setting concrete steps to turn rhetoric into action. The multiple crises we face demand nothing less than transformative and accelerated efforts from all nations. We will eagerly await and applaud those countries that step forward with bold and tangible actions to address these interconnected challenges.
Agrifood systems transformation as a pathway towards the 2030 Agenda
FAO has proactively participated in the preparatory process of the SDG Summit, offering technical expertise and high-level coordination to ensure its success.
Agrifood systems transformation has been identified as a critical synergetic SDG accelerator and one of the six key pathways towards achieving all 17 SDGs.
For this purpose, the 2021 UN Food Systems Summit (UNFSS) mobilized commitments from Members to prioritize their journey towards sustainable agrifood systems that deliver healthy, affordable, and sufficient diets while reducing climate and environmental impacts. The UNFSS+2 Stocktaking Moment that took place in FAO from 24-26 July, provided evidence that countries are walking the talk of food systems transformation by operationalizing pathways and adopting supportive policies. However it also highlighted more must be done and action taken at scale to achieve the necessary results to meet the targets of the 2030 Agenda.
One of the outcomes of this global Stocktaking was an urgent Call to Action from the UN Secretary General, for a focus on 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 including women; farmers, youth and Indigenous Peoples; and ensuring long-term, concessional finance for food systems transformation.
FAO participation in the SDG Action Weekend (16-17 September), which centres around high-impact initiatives for bringing SDG solutions to scale, will demonstrate select means of implementation of this Call to Action to help accelerate these national processes.
These “levers” for transformation involve mobilizing and targeting financial investments, embracing science, digital and special technologies, rallying individual and collective action to address challenges such as food waste and promoting the true cost of food, creating robust and inclusive policy and governance mechanisms and prioritizing capacity development in support of national needs and in line with the national transformation pathways.
The 2023 SDG Summit Political Declaration
We look forward to the discussion and approval of the draft Political Declaration by world leaders at the Summit. This Declaration pledges to intensify efforts to end hunger, food insecurity and all forms of malnutrition and recommitment to realizing the right to adequate food, promoting sustainable and resilient agriculture and food systems, and ensuring access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food.
One of the most crucial elements of the Declaration lies in its call for innovative financing mechanisms, including debt-swapping for climate, nature and food security, to drive the global transformation. This recognition of the pivotal role of financing to support country responses to the global food crisis and help them transform their agrifood systems cannot be overstated. Enabling longer-term structural, predictable, accessible and affordable financing is necessary for countries to establish a Food Finance Architecture to address the challenges of agrifood systems transformation. Financing serves as the lifeblood of any sustainable development initiative, and it is essential that it reaches those furthest behind.
FAO commends the renewed commitments pledged in the draft Political Declaration and – leveraging our technical expertise, global presence, and unwavering commitment to building resilient agrifood systems – stands ready to support Members in accelerating actions for making those commitments a reality. Let us seize this opportunity of the 2023 SDG Summit to safeguard the 2030 Agenda and build a sustainable future that leaves no one behind.
 FAO, IFAD, UNICEF, WFP and WHO. 2023. The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2023. Urbanization, agrifood systems transformation and healthy diets across the rural–urban continuum. Rome, FAO.
 Independent Group of Scientists appointed by the Secretary-General. 2019. Global Sustainable Development Report 2019: The Future is Now – Science for Achieving Sustainable Development. New York, United Nations.
 UN Secretary-General’s Call to Action for Accelerated Food Systems Transformation, 2023. Rome, United Nations.
 Independent Group of Scientists appointed by the Secretary-General. 2023. Global Sustainable Development Report 2023: Times of Crisis, Times of Change: Science for Accelerating Transformations to Sustainable Development. New York, United Nations.