SPEECH: Champions Network address to UN Food Systems Summit 2021

On 23 September 2021, Ruth Richardson, Executive Director of the Global Alliance for the Future of Food, delivered a speech during The People’s Plenary to UN delegates and Summit participants on behalf of the Multi Actor Food Systems Champions Network.


Your Excellencies, Summit participants, fellow food systems actors, 

We, the Champions Network of the United Nations Food Systems Summit, stand in our differences and we stand in our commonalities. We stand in humility with the millions of true food champions who work tirelessly to bring food to our homes every day, even when faced with Covid-19. We stand as food systems Champions recognizing that global, anthropogenic problems are so severe, threatening the future sustainability of the planet and humanity, that major and rapid systems transformations are needed.

And, we stand on a set of principles – reflected in the five Action Tracks of the UN Food Systems Summit- that define that transformation:

First is the principle of equity – The future of food must be squarely situated on intergenerational, gender, racial, and socio-economic equity and must uphold peoples’ right to food and secure livelihoods

Second is the principle of health – We must act into a future that delivers health for all – human health, animal health, environmental health, and community health

Third is the principle of diversity – We must act into a future that values agricultural, ecological, economic, and cultural diversity upholding agrobiodiversity as well as diversity in diets, markets, and local knowledge

Fourth, is the principle of integrity – Food systems of the future need to restore the integrity of social and planetary boundaries and protect the Earth’s ecosystems, climate system, societies, and inhabitants from the harmful impacts of food systems 

Fifth is the principle of resilience – We must act into a future of ecological and social resilience so that our food systems can both mitigate and adapt in the face of a changing world and ensure resilience to future crises especially for future generations 

These five principles must be underpinned by the principle of agency so that all can fully participate in, and prosper from, food systems, especially those historically marginalized including women, youth, Indigenous Peoples, smallholders and fishers, refugees, and food system workers. We must leave no one behind, especially the poorest and most vulnerable. And we must do no harm by ensuring that transformation pathways lead to stable and sustainable systems for people and the planet. 

We recognize that the path forward is complex and controversial. As Champions, we came up against what we agree on, and we came up against what we don’t agree on, highlighting the need for deep dialogue and continued ambition toward radical transformation.

Principles lead the way. The principles outlined here all reflect, in some form, negotiated and approved principles of the United Nations underpinning the Rio Conventions, Sustainable Development Goals, and others. Now is the time to acknowledge the severity of the historical moment we are in as we face the upheaval of climate change, biodiversity loss, poverty, hunger, political unrest, and covid, and to allow these principles to be our guide in navigating these troubled waters. 

We, the Champions Network of the United Nations Food Systems Summit, stand in our commitment to dialogue and debate, to food champions around the globe, and to the work ahead. We stand ready – inspired by an ideal of human solidarity – to come together in common cause to realize a healthy, equitable, resilient, and diverse future of food with integrity. If we can practice these principles, strengthen these principles, hold ourselves to account to these principles, we might just have a chance of bending the arc of history in a positive direction. 

Ruth Richardson
Chair, Multi-Actor Food Systems Champions Network (“Champions Network”)