To my mind, in creating the Summit the UN Secretary-General has done something extraordinary. Guterres has used his office to raise the issue of food on the political agenda. He has joined the dots about how it has a major bearing on whether we can overcome mounting crises of climate, nature collapse, health and hunger. He has pointed to the urgency. That without fundamental reform of the food system, the world’s government’s will fail to deliver on their own sustainable development goals. And that by missing those fundamental targets for global sustainability by 2030, we will have failed our children.
HRH Prince of Wales, someone who has long raised the alarm on the impact of failed food systems on our health and the planet, captured the mood at the July pre-summit: “It gives me hope that the pressure for change is now being met by a substantial, determined global response,” he said.
The pre-summit in Rome hosted by the Government of Italy saw more than 100 countries represented and 20,000 delegates attending, including food producers, civil society, indigenous peoples and young people.
The momentum behind the UN Food Systems Summit in raising food up the agenda is why I am proud to be part of a UN network of Summit ‘Champions’; I see the event as a crucial and timely stepping-stone for change and encourage everyone to be engaged.
So, what can we expect from the Summit?
Well, its stated ambition is to launch bold new actions to deliver progress on all 17 SDGs, each of which relies on “healthier, more sustainable and equitable food systems”. It should be borne in mind that the Summit itself is not a decision-making process. Instead, it is a gathering of game-changing solutions. A festival of ideas for saving the planet. What happens next is up to us.
Where the outcomes will go will be decided by the various agencies and member states involved. They can be influenced by us. We also need to play our role in making sure that vital elements of the Summit are hand-carried into other forums, for example, insisting that food is addressed at COP26 climate talks in Glasgow later this year. After all, the livestock sector is responsible for more greenhouse gases than the direct emissions of all the world’s planes, trains and cars put together.
Using our influence to shape positive outcomes from the Summit is why organisations like Compassion in World Farming, 50by40, Brighter Green, FAIRR, WWF and many others continue to be involved, as well as encouraging governments, companies and financial institutions to get behind genuinely game-changing solutions.
Like others in the animal welfare community, I am clear about what is the most important game-changing solution: ending factory farming and the over-reliance on animal-sourced foods.
Achieving it will require a massive shift in policy thinking.
But big change starts with recognition of the problem and the need for action; and the UN Secretary-General’s Summit provides just that starting point: recognition. That is why I consider the Summit already to be a success. It has elevated like nothing before, the issue of food on the global policy stage. The opportunity before us is to use its momentum to make change happen. The wellbeing of animals farmed and wild, together with future generations of people, depends on it.
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