Seven Calls to Action: Ingredients of Food Systems Transformation


With just a few weeks until World Food Day on 16 October 2020, there can be little doubt that ensuring the sustainability, security, and equity of our food systems is quickly becoming one of the most defining issues of our time. In line with our mission to help transform food systems and our belief in the deep and lasting change that dialogue can bring, the Global Alliance has published a first look at the “calls to action” it has identified as critical pathways to create a better future of food.

Elevated time and again by our members, partners, allies, and those we have collaborated with over the last eight years, each of the calls to action address the critical underlying structures that hold back much-needed systems transformation. In the process of developing them, we drew on the outcomes of all of our international dialogues, large and small, that we’ve held since 2012 and on the following global reports: Synthesis of Global Reports, Beacons of Hope, Seeds of Resilience, Climate Change and Food Systems Report, Food-Health Nexus Report, TEEBAgriFood, and others.

Underpinned by a commitment to food systems thinking as a prerequisite for action and acting on our principles, we are publishing the calls to action in draft form and inviting feedback to understand how they can be further adapted and/or enhanced. Crucially, we want to know if these global-facing demands also reflect the calls to action coming from local, regional, national, and international food systems actors around the world. Only then can we ensure that the recommendations for which we advocate are truly relevant and truly equitable.

The seven calls to action, to be enhanced in collaboration with others over time, are:

1) Ensure integrated, participatory, rights-based approaches to governance and policy-making at all levels in order to address the structural inequities and power imbalances in food systems. Build processes and policy platforms on democratic principles, transparent deliberations, shared power, and inclusive participation to ensure that policies are driven not only by evidence but also by ethics and the broader public interest.

2) Increase public research for the public good supporting ambitious, trans-disciplinary, inclusive, and systems-based approaches with an emphasis on the indivisible ecological, health, social, and economic goals. Embrace adaptive learning, diverse evidence such as traditional, farmer, and Indigenous knowledge, and the recognition that holistic understanding of food systems impacts is essential.

3) Recognize and account for the positive and negative environmental, social, and health impacts and externalities of food and agricultural system policies and practices to inform decision-making. Mainstream and strengthen True Cost Accounting and other impact assessment tools, approaches, and methodologies to mitigate risk, increase accountability, and provide transparent, consistent guidance on integrated assessment and accounting for governments, farmers, corporations, the finance and investment community, consumers, and other relevant stakeholders.

4) Direct public sector finance and fiscal policy across the value chain towards ecologically beneficial forms of farming, better and healthier food, and resilient livelihoods and communities. Break from harmful subsidies and perverse incentives with well-designed and durable reforms through collaborations between public servants, farmers, development banks, businesses, interdisciplinary researchers, politicians, and implementing organizations.

5) Unlock private, philanthropic, and multilateral investment opportunities in sustainable food systems and better align those opportunities amongst actors for greater impact. Redirect financial flows of philanthropy, major private investors, banks, and multilateral donor agencies away from harmful actors and practices towards desired actions that incentivize, accelerate, and amplify food systems transformation.

6) Create enabling environments for ecological and regenerative approaches where investments can flourish and benefit all. Ensure a whole-systems approach that supports the advancement of ecological and regenerative approaches including a strong role for local institutions and communities, the protection and expansion of rights, public investment in parallel infrastructure (roads, schools, markets), policy coherence, coordinated governance, true cost accounting, and a greater role for smallholder farmers, Indigenous Peoples, and women.

7) Promote nutrient-dense, whole food diets underpinned by diversified food production adapted to different micro-climates and socio-cultural contexts. Create positive food environments that provide equitable access, healthy dietary guidance, controls on food advertising and marketing especially to children, a precautionary approach to new products, and special consideration for vulnerable groups and women’s role as agents of change.

Since being developed in July 2020, we have tested and refined them with our membership, as well as a few external stakeholders. Today, plans are underway to roll these out through a global and participatory engagement strategy, backed by additional research and consultation, where they will be further explored, analysed, and updated.

Coming out of this process it is our hope that the calls to action will:
– Be utilized by the Global Alliance to advocate for global food systems transformation at the international level;
– Inform the Global Alliance members’ actions and activities at the local, regional, national, and international levels; and
– Highlight alignment with the actions and activities of other groups with whom we can coordinate strategic messaging.

If you’d like to share your thoughts on the calls to action, we’d love to hear from you. You can do so via this online survey. It is our hope that they will resonate with the many other efforts working towards food systems transformation worldwide.

We will be periodically reviewing the text, ensuring that they continuously build upon the insights and feedback received. To keep updated about how the calls to action develop and/or our engagement plans, please sign-up to our newsletter at the bottom of the page or here.