In September 2021 the United Nations (UN) hosted a Food Systems Summit. The Summit was preceded by a series of events that brought together policymakers, farmers, industry, academia and community groups from around the world, to discuss challenges and share potential solutions and innovations.
As a UN member, Australia participated in these events.
The aim of the Summit was to raise awareness of the critical role that agriculture and food systems play in achieving a sustainable future. Outcomes will go towards achieving the UN’s 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG's). Each of these goals contribute to achieving healthier, more sustainable, fairer food systems.
The food system
The food system includes all people, processes and activities involved in the production, aggregation, processing, distribution, consumption and disposal of food products from agriculture, forestry and fisheries, and the broader economic, social and environmental contexts in which these activities take place (FAO, 2018). Food systems are complex and interconnected.
The world’s food systems are facing many challenges, including here in Australia. There is a need to:
- ensure more sustainable food production
- feed more people
- enable farmers and producers to make a decent living from agriculture.
Reducing hunger and malnutrition around the world and managing risks from climate change are also key global challenges.
Australia's participation in the Summit
Australia supports the UN’s goal of delivering more sustainable, productive and resilient agricultural and food systems for producers and consumers alike.
In our role as Australia’s National Convenor for the Food Systems Summit, the department:
- Hosted a series of National Food Systems Summit Dialogues
- Took part in the Pre-Summit
- Took part in the Summit
- Signed on to three Coalitions of Action to tackle global food systems issues.
The Food Systems Pre-Summit event was held in Rome on 26-28 July 2021, both face-to-face and virtual.
With participation from over 145 countries, the event set the stage for the final event in September by bringing together diverse actors from around the world to consider levers for change to help achieve all 17 SDGs by 2030. The Pre-Summit recognised the clear message from the 1000 dialogues involving over 50,000 people – that solutions and actions have to be tailored to local and regional contexts so there is no one size solution to fit all.
The Food Systems Summit was held virtually in New York on 23 and 24 September.
The Summit sought to generate significant action and measurable progress towards the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development by identifying solutions and leaders, and issued a call for action at all levels of the food system, including national and local governments, companies and citizens.
You can view the video of Minister Littleproud’s Summit Statement on the FSS Member State Statements website.
Going forward, Australia will continue to work with our international partners to tackle global food systems issues, and has committed to join three Coalitions of Action:
- The Global Sustainable Livestock Coalition: This coalition is led by the World Farmers Organisation and supports collaboration and sharing of best practice in all aspects of the value chain, including policy, production, trade and communication to support decision making for sustainable livestock production.
- The Sustainable Productivity Growth for Food Security and Resource Conservation: This coalition is led by the USA and promotes agricultural productivity growth that builds the social, economic and environmental sustainability of food systems.
- Food is Never Waste: This coalition is led primarily by the World Resources Institute and builds collaboration between relevant stakeholders to minimise food loss and waste and create more sustainable and resilient food systems.
In the lead up to the Food Systems Summit UN member countries, including Australia, held National Food Systems Summit Dialogues.
These webinars provided an independent platform for Australian stakeholders including experts, academics, industry representatives, farmers and the general public to share experiences, ideas, opportunities and solutions on a variety of issues and challenges facing food systems.
The aim was for the discussion to be open and transparent, and as representative as possible. They were independent of Australian Government processes and views.
Feedback from the dialogues formed a key part of Australia’s input into the Food Systems Pre-Summit and Summit.
This table summarises previous National Food Systems Summit Dialogues held by the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment and provides links to webinar recordings and transcripts.
|Webinar and date||Discussion topics||Presenters||Recording and transcript|
|Growing Greener – food production and a healthy environment 13 May 2021||
|Future proofing our food systems – boosting resilience 20 May 2021||
|Eating for our health and the environment - balancing nutrition and sustainability 27 May 2021||
|Australian Food Systems – addressing shared challenges 9 June 2021||
|Agricultural innovation – building better food systems 13 July 2021||
Additional National Food Systems Summit dialogues convened by other Australian Government departments and agencies include:
Multi-stakeholder Partnerships for Scaling Agricultural Innovation
Convened on 25 May 2021 by Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT).
This dialogue brought together high-level stakeholders from around the world to discuss the challenges and opportunities of multi-stakeholder partnerships for developing new and scaling existing innovations. In small-group discussions, participants examined existing partnerships, shared practical recommendations, and explored how partnerships will support food systems transformation on a global scale.
Achieving healthy diets from sustainable food systems by 2030 – what science, innovation, and actions are needed in Australia?
Convened on 8 June 2021 by Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO).
This dialogue provided an opportunity for interactive discussion among diverse stakeholders to discuss, debate and identify possible food system futures and the science, innovation, and actions needed by key stakeholders.
What role does food labelling play in helping to shift consumers towards healthier, safe and sustainable consumption?
Convened on 13 July 2021 by the Department of Health.
This dialogue considered the role of food labelling to help shift consumers towards healthier, safe and sustainable consumption. The dialogue featured short presentations from key speakers from government, academia and industry.
Organisations and individuals also held Independent Dialogues in support of the Summit and its objectives.
Read more about the Australian Independent Dialogues on the UN’s website.