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UN Food Systems Summit

In recognition of the urgent need to transform food systems, the UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, announced a Food Systems Summit (FSS) as part of the Decade of Action to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030. ​

Compassion in World Farming and our Global CEO, Philip Lymbery, played an key active role at the heart of the UN FSS. Philip was appointed as a Food Systems Champion, and Compassion’s policy team worked tirelessly to fully utilise the opportunity provided by the Summit to lobby for an end to factory farming.

The Summit was held in September 2021 in New York, USA, following the Pre-Summit meeting that took place in Rome, Italy in July 2021.

Compassion at the UN Food Systems Summit

Compassion played an active role throughout the 18-month FSS process. One of the highlights was our involvement in co-leading the Sustainable Livestock Cluster. Working in collaboration with others, we led the development of the Sustainable Livestock Cluster Paper C and the subsequent paper: Solutions that aim to optimize and align consumption and production so that the sector stays within all planetary boundaries and contributes to ensuring healthy diets for all.

Building on these papers, and in partnership with 50 by 40, we posted a collective commitment to establishing a coalition for action with four areas of focus:

  • Resizing the livestock industry and meat reduction
  • Shifting to agroecological, regenerative agriculture
  • Supporting a just transition
  • Adopting good standards of animal welfare.

Compassion also convened two independent dialogue events: One Health, One Welfare on 28th June, 2021, and Regenerative Agriculture: Scaling agroecological production for better human, animal and planetary health on 18th October, 2021. Additionally, we organised an affiliated parallel session as part of the UN Food Systems Pre-Summit, which took place on 27th July on the One Health, One Welfare theme. Action for Animal Health, the International Cooperation Committee on Animal Welfare (ICCAW), One Welfare, and the World Federation for Animals (WFA) were supporting partners for the parallel session. 

Outcomes of the UN Food Systems Summit

During the Summit, a procession of national leaders recited reasons for food systems changes with an emphasis on positive, actionable solutions. Profoundly good and much-needed changes, such as aiming for the provision of school meals for every child, zero food waste, and agricultural innovation, were amongst the announcements made by governments.

It was encouraging to hear some governments talking about moving away from industrial farming although although statements offering true game-changing ideas, such as moving away from industrial animal agriculture and tackling diets over-reliant on animal-sourced foods, were much rarer. So far, addressing these issues remains a global policy blind spot.

However, the UN FSS, despite not being a decision-making body, promoted a global conversation and brought the world’s attention to the central role food plays in the battle for the planet. It was successful in changing the global narrative; moving away from business as usual with a few tweaks, to one that speaks to the need for transformational reform.

The UN Secretary-General announced that the Rome-based UN agencies would take forward work from the Summit and that an assessment of progress will take place in 2023.


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