Global governance for nutrition – updates from the CFS

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, 2020 has seen many big events and conferences postponed or moved to virtual platforms, including the Committee on World Food Security (CFS). The plenary week for CFS47 which was initially planned for 12 to 16 October has been rescheduled to 8-12 February 2021. In lieu of the plenary in October, the CFS also decided to organize a virtual High-Level Special Event on Global Governance of Food Security and Nutrition (13-15 October 2020) to keep food security and nutrition front and center on the global sustainable development agenda. 

Over the course of these three days, CFS organized three high-level virtual plenaries. Each focused on a topical issue of relevance to global food security and nutrition. Plenary 1 (Tuesday 13 October) took stock of the global food security situation, with a discussion guided by presentations of the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2020 (SOFI2020) and the HLPE report on Building a Global Narrative towards 2030, followed by a Ministerial roundtable on country-led action. Speakers underscored the importance of doubling investments in food security and nutrition during the Decade for Action for the SDGs and acknowledged the unique contribution of CFS as the most participatory and inclusive body for FSN policy convergence and collaboration, particularly in the context of the planned 2021 UN Food Systems Summit (UNFSS).

The second plenary 2 explored the impacts of COVID-19 on FSN and food systems and discussed stakeholders’ role in “building back better” and strengthening resilience of food systems by making them more sustainable. Discussion centered on the HLPE issue paper which includes six specific recommends including implementing robust social protection programmes to improve access to nutritious foods, better protections for vulnerable food system workers, and supporting resilient and sustainable food production systems.

Plenary 3, on Thursday 15 October the International Day of Rural Women, explored how the two major ongoing CFS policy processes (CFS Voluntary Guidelines on Food Systems for Nutrition and CFS Policy Recommendations on Agroecological approaches and other innovations) will contribute to achieve sustainable food systems. More information on the CFS High-Level Virtual Event can be accessed on the CFS website.

The CFS Voluntary Guidelines on Food Systems for Nutrition represent CFS’s main contribution to the UN Decade of Action on Nutrition 2016-2025. Because of COVID-19 all negotiations took place through virtual platforms. UN agencies are fully committed to contribute to this crucial CFS policy product, and they have worked together under the umbrella of UN Nutrition to speak with ONE voice for nutrition and support the process by providing inputs based on scientific evidence.

The first week of negotiations took place in September, followed by a second one from 14-18 December 2020. Negotiations will continue in January. Despite the long and tough negotiations CFS stakeholders still want the document to be endorsed prior to the Food Systems Summit later in 2021. Sustainability of both healthy diets and food systems is a fundamental consideration – together with issues such as biodiversity, human rights, social protection, trade and regulations – and stakeholders have spent many hours discussing how to best reflect these concepts in the Voluntary Guidelines.

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