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Ambassador Mohammad Hossein Emadi,
Chair, U.N. Committee on Food Security,

Dear Ambassador Mohammad Hossein Emadi:

I am writing to you on behalf of the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP), a non-governmental organization based in the United States focusing on fair and sustainable food, farm and trade systems. We want to thank you for sharing the Zero Draft of the CFS Policy Recommendations on “Agroecological and other innovative approaches for sustainable food systems that ensure food security and nutrition,” and for inviting all CFS participants to submit written inputs, focusing on the substance of the document and concrete proposals for improvement in developing the first draft.

At this time of great global turmoil unleashed by the coronavirus pandemic, we are grateful for the continuing efforts by the U.N. CFS to address the sustainability concerns of our food systems while paying special attention to the food and nutrition security needs of over 820 million people, most of who are food-insecure despite being engaged in food production, collection or processing.

Indeed, the global food system is at a crossroads. Our food system, which leaves close to one billion hungry and many more malnourished, accounts for 26% of GHG emissions and 40%of the global biodiversity footprint. Global agriculture by itself accounts for 69% of global water withdrawals. There is no doubt that a profound transformation is needed at all scales in the face of demographic changes, increased pressure and competition over renewable resources, increasingly severe consequences of climatic changes and the loss of biodiversity.

In addition, we are faced with a pandemic that has halted the world in its tracks as it deals with the crisis. As the Hon. CFS Chair points out, “The current situation could represent an opportunity to highlight the importance of strengthening government management of food markets, protecting marginalized populations who have less power and resources to adapt to such an unpredictable crisis, and difficulty accessing nutritious foods already. [….] In addition to saving lives and meeting immediate needs through emergency responses, we need to start planning for longer-term solutions to support recovery, strengthen preparedness, build resilience, and promote sustainable socio-economic development.”

As we are in an emergency, we should look not only for top-down solutions and not just ahead, but also reconsider if we have ignored paths that may lead us to a more sustainable, fairer, healthier and resilient food systems. The decision box must consider the unusual situation we are in, and in that spirit, we offer the following comments and suggestions for the next draft.

Overarching comments and suggestions for the next draft.

1. Refocus on food systems transformation in policy recommendations for sustainable food systems (SFS) that ensure food security and nutrition (FSN).

The CFS-HLPE report, “Agroecological and Other Innovative Approaches for Sustainable Food Systems that Ensure Food Security and Nutrition” (hereafter, the “HLPE report”), recognized that the main recent shifts in the global agenda and priorities must be acknowledged. On the one hand, there is the need to move beyond the current approach primarily focused on food production and to consider the whole food systems approach to address Food Security and Nutrition (FSSN). On the other hand, it is important to look at food systems as a strong lever to achieve Agenda 2030 for sustainable development in its entirety. 

We appreciate the HLPE report for its clarity in recognizing that the multitude of food systems (identified in earlier HLPE reports) are situated in different environmental, socio-cultural and economic contexts and face very diverse challenges and that to meet the ambition and the expectations inherent in the CFS’s request, the report must analyze the many available experiences and evidence from all these diverse contexts. The HLPE report sought to clarify the nature of differing views on the potentials and limitations of various technologies and approaches. The report also highlighted where diverging views, narratives and values can bring different perspectives to a common goal, to help the policy formulation process arrive at an informed decision regarding required policy shifts for transformative changes for SFS that ensure FSN.

The Zero Draft begins on a promising note by recognizing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development’s call for “bold and transformative steps which are urgently needed to shift the world on to a sustainable and resilient path.” However, despite having the policy recommendations start with an emphasis on laying the “policy foundations for transforming food systems to ensure sustainability and enhance food security and nutrition" the Zero Draft falls far short of the promise to deliver a policy framework for transformative change for SFS that ensure FSN. Specifically, the Zero Draft fails to take advantage of the evidence gathered in the HLPE report on the various approaches considered, or to make meaningful recommendations to achieve policy shifts to overcome the structural barriers to bringing about urgently needed transformation of our food systems.

Continue reading our comments and suggestions here

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