Blogs, Systems Thinking

Taking Action for the Future of Food: 5 Pathways for the UNFSS Stocktake

The world is moving backwards in its efforts to reach Zero Hunger by 2030. World hunger is on the rise for the ninth year running, as outlined in this year’s annual State of the Food Security and Nutrition in the World (SOFI) report. 

The message is clear: global food systems demand urgent and transformative change. And there has never been a more opportune time to reflect, ignite essential conversations, and mobilize action towards transforming our approach to the future of food.

It has been two years since the highly anticipated and controversial UN Food Systems Summit (UNFSS), and this week UN delegates and food systems stakeholders will gather to reflect on the progress made and the next steps in our path toward food systems transformation.

Our food system faces multiple overlapping crises: from the acute challenges of geopolitical uncertainty, mounting food insecurity, and vulnerable supply chains, to the pervasive and growing threats of climate change and biodiversity loss. In this context, how can global leaders seize the UNFSS Stocktake moment and make resolute commitments that can bring about real change?

Here are five recommendations to ensure that the UNFSS Stocktake is meaningfully oriented towards the creation of a healthier, sustainable, equitable, resilient and just future of food:

1. Strengthen Global Governance and Collaboration

It is critical to implement more inclusive, transparent, and participatory governance in this stocktaking moment, addressing and remedying the stark structural inequities that exist within the food system. We recommend that the UN embrace rights-based approaches in decision-making and prioritize frontline actors over corporate interests. Truly effective governance goes beyond token representation and instead meaningfully acknowledges and engages with the perspectives of diverse stakeholders—especially small-scale farmers and fishers, Indigenous Peoples, women, youth, and workers. Through shared power, we can co-create appropriate, and just solutions that address the needs of those most vulnerable and impacted.  

2. Empower Indigenous Peoples, Local Communities and Small-Scale Producers

Inclusive governance measures should go hand in hand with supporting small-scale farmers, fishers and food producers to adapt and thrive in the face of economic and environmental challenges. This includes fostering enabling environments for food producers to diversify their livelihoods, secure a fair price for their commodities, improve the sustainability and resilience of their fishing and farming practices, and explore value-addition opportunities. Also essential to empowerment and climate adaptation is respect for local communities’ traditional ecological knowledge, which offers unique, place-based perspectives on the interconnectedness of our food, health, and the land.

3. Adopt True Cost Accounting (TCA) to Support Systemic Outcomes

We call once again on the UNFSS members to strengthen and mainstream TCA for evidence-based decision-making and greater accountability in food systems. In 2021, the Global Alliance and its members urged the UN Secretary-General, Member State Ambassadors and Sustainable Food Systems Advocates for a full and unequivocal commitment to TCA to redefine the value of food.  

The UNFSS Stocktake is a moment to demand further action on this, especially at the national level where governments need to adopt solutions that maximize social, human, and environmental value. Frequent shocks and crises have exposed the profound interconnections between industrialized agriculture, climate change, public health, food, and justice. We need to break away from the status quo and strive for a tangible systems-based approach, one that goes beyond mere words, recognizes the environmental, social, and health impacts of food and agriculture policies and practices, and leverages this understanding to inform decision-making—this is where the transformative capacity of TCA lies.

Discover more in our new study that applies TCA to Andhra Pradesh Community Managed Natural Farming to assess food systems and identify links between agricultural practices and human well-being, with implications and relevance for decision-makers and holistic policy responses.

4. Support Climate Resilient Farming, Agroecology and Regenerative Approaches

This Stocktake must recognize the potential of agroecology and regenerative approaches for locally-relevant solutions to climate adaptation. As a socio-ecological systems approach, agroecology and regenerative approaches practices can boost biodiversity, soil health, and climate mitigation through food production and cultivate justice in the food system by promoting cultural diversity, the co-creation and sharing of knowledge, and positive nutritional outcomes. Agroecology, regenerative approaches, and Indigenous foodways not only repair our relationship with nature but build climate resilience while equitably nourishing our communities. 

5. Prioritize Nutrition, Health, and Wellbeing

Tackling unhealthy diets and malnutrition is vital to food systems transformation. The UNFSS Stocktake needs to address the root causes of food-related poor health outcomes like food insecurity, malnutrition, antimicrobial resistance, and environmental contamination. This requires aligning policies across all sectors and removing the silos between agriculture, aquatic foods, health (human and animal), environment, social welfare, water, trade and more. We must also see food recognized as a public good and promote enabling food environments: so that all citizens can access affordable, healthy, diverse, and culturally-appropriate foods in their communities.

Food systems transformation is the most sweeping, and perhaps the boldest way to deliver on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It is time to go beyond words and hollow commitments: this is the moment to take the bold actions necessary for a future of food guided by our core principles: renewability, resilience, equity, diversity, healthfulness, inclusion and interconnectedness. It is only through principle-led ambitious action that this UNFSS Stocktake can forge the path to authentic food system transformation.