Could the Food Systems Summit be the Biggest UN Event of 2021?

2021 is set to be a massive year of Environmental Summits. The UN Biodiversity and Climate negotiations were postponed in 2020, and they’ve already been pencilled in for May and November this year.

Before that, we’ll have a series of critical Summits aimed at pressuring governments to update their environmental commitments. Already in the calendar is the UK’s Climate and Development Summit on March 31st, and new US President Joe Biden’s Climate Assembly on April 22nd.

Add these Summits to what is meant to be very busy diplomatic year, and you can see that the pressure is certainly going to be on any leaders who might have hidden behind Trump’s anti-environmental shadow. Though even with all of this added pressure, many of these summits have a questionably long history of relatively incremental change.

One of the newest Summits on the UN schedule, however, could shine a powerful light on an all-too-often overlooked environmental crisis.

In 2021, the UN Secretary-General António Guterres will also convene a Food Systems Summit. This is designed as part of the Decade of Action to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.

The culminating Summit will hopefully take place in New York in September 2021, in conjunction with the UN General Assembly. This will be preceded by a pre-Summit gathering in Italy in July 2021, though this may be online.

The Summit is divided into 5 Action Tracks. Each of these focuses on a uniquely critical element of the food system that we need to rapidly overhaul.

At 50by40, we believe that positively changing our food systems could powerfully transform so much of the environmental and social damage we see around us. Simply changing what we grow, cook and eat, has the power to positively transform our health, our climate, our biodiversity and our relationship with the world.

That’s why we believe that this Summit could even be the most critical Summit this year.

In fact, we believe so strongly that it could be a powerful moment for change, we’re taking on the role of global civil society lead for the UN Food System Summit Action Track 2. This action track aims to catalyse a ‘Shift to sustainable consumption patterns.’

We see this role as a massive step up for our organisation, and an incredible opportunity to help shape such a critical conversation.

We’re also acting as a liaison to Action Track 5, which is hoping to ‘Build resilience to vulnerabilities, shocks and stress.’ We hope we’ll be able to use this opportunity to help Democratise the Summit process by empowering civil society from across socioeconomic settings and geographies.

If you want to know more about the Summit, or how we can support your work in helping to transform our global food systems, please feel free to reach out.

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