The case for a food systems stability board

Date: 2021.09.07

The COVID-19 pandemic, rising rates of global poverty and inequality, persistent conflict, and the escalating climate and biodiversity crises are shocks and stresses that together contribute to increasing hunger, as well as growing food and nutrition insecurity.

To help tackle this urgent problem more effectively, and make the global food system more stable and resilient, governments should consider establishing a new, multilateral, United Nations-led Food Systems Stability Board (FSSB).

Today, between 720 million and 811 million people – about 10 per cent of the world’s population – go to bed hungry every night, and at least 2.4 billion lack access to a healthy and nutritious diet. Absent major international action, these trends are likely to persist.

The latest report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change demonstrates that global warming’s effects have left no region untouched, with significant implications for the food system over the coming decades.

Food systems underpin the security of the global economy, as well as national security in many countries: hunger and lack of access to food have historically driven civil unrest. These systems are also among the principal drivers of ecosystem loss and climate change, with agriculture and land-use change responsible for a quarter of global greenhouse-gas emissions.

At the same time, ecosystems such as forests, mangroves, and the ocean are central to humanity’s efforts to adapt to the climatic changes already underway.

Ensuring the long-term resilience of the global food system will require a significant multilateral collaborative effort. This should build on existing structures and institutions such as the Committee on World Food Security, the Food and Agriculture Organisation, the World Food Programme, and the World Bank.

It will also demand concerted attention from heads of state and government, ministers of finance, and the leaders of multilateral financial institutions.

A quartet of international meetings – the UN Food Systems Summit in September 2021, the G20 summit in October, the UN climate conference (COP26) in November, and the Nutrition for Growth Summit hosted by the Japanese government in December – offer a rare opportunity to focus international attention on the hunger and food-security crisis, and its links to the changing climate.

Each of these gatherings could pave the way for the creation of an FSSB of national governments and international organisations working to address this issue.

This could be part of a broader global effort to enhance food governance and achieve – in the words of the government of Indonesia, which will hold the G20 presidency in 2022 – a “just and affordable transition toward net zero.”

Read more here.

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