The world’s food and land use systems are in urgent need of reform if we are to meet the targets set by the Sustainable Development Goals, the Paris Climate Agreement. To do so, actors need to break down barriers, build shared understanding and ambition, and drive action through collaboration.

In this spirit, EAT, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, the Food and Land Use Coalition (FOLU) and the World Economic Forum together established the Food Systems Dialogues (FSDs) earlier this year. The FSDs will serve as a platform where people from a range of sectors can share their experiences, cultivate trust and form partnerships to accelerate the transformation of food and land use systems.

“Food is key to deliver on the 2030Agenda – let’s work together by translating global conversations into local action!”

– David Nabarro

The average dinner plate is the result of rich and interlocking supply chains, spanning diverse landscapes and connected to the lives and livelihoods of billions of people. Such integrated systems go hand in hand with sustainable development. But today, our food systems do not enable people to access the nutritious food they need in an environmentally sustainable way.

Global hunger has risen for the past three years, halting a trend of declining rates that had seen hunger drop by 20% since 1990. Over 800 million people are chronically under-nourished, while at the same time 2 billion people are over-weight. Food and land use systems currently account for 24% of greenhouse gas emissions and use over 70% of the world’s fresh water resources. This environmental degradation is deepening the rural poverty trap, creating both chronic stress and heightened vulnerability to the multiple impacts of climate change.

Transforming these systems so that they provide healthy, nutritious outcomes for all, support environmental and climate stewardship and drive rural development and shared prosperity will require collaboration across industries and sectors. People urgently need to join forces to raise ambition and develop a shared understanding of the opportunities, challenges and trade-offs to build sustainable systems.

“I work with food, because food is a connector. Food is key to healthy people & communities, a fair economy and to a healthy planet. If we get it right with food – we get it right for so much!”

– Gunhild Stordalen

The Food Systems Dialogues will be hosted in the margins of international meetings around sustainability and food systems, bringing together decision-makers from local and national governments, consumer organizations, as well as small and large-scale food producers and processors, businesspeople, civil society groups and international organizations. Participants will discuss food systems policies and economics, science-based pathways, the potential of innovation and the absolute need for all stakeholders to be included in dialogue.

The Food Systems Dialogues are designed to be sequential, building on each other, enabling participants to continue debate and the evolve their positions over time.  These “red-thread” Dialogues will be encouraged and advanced at local, national and regional level. Results will be synthesised and then threaded among Food Systems Dialogues at the different levels where they take place.

The first of the international Food Systems Dialogues took place at the EAT Stockholm Food Forum in June 2018. Around 80 participants were hosted for a five-hour session, with two rounds of Dialogue at seven facilitated round-tables.  Key points considered included the need to support a clear vision of what future sustainable food systems will look like and the need to take people into account as well as food, particularly maintaining focus on poorer communities.   The red thread continued to the second of the international Dialogues at the WEF Sustainable Development Impact Summit in New York on September 25th where the focus was on the major innovations that could accelerate successful transformation while taking account of trade-offs necessary for this to happen.

The first national dialogues were held in Oslo in mid-September and a regional programme is in development. Since then, interest has grown. As we round out 2018, more Dialogues are planned around the world. Most notably, the first national Food Systems Dialogues are set to take place in India, where transformation of food and land use systems is critical to drive further equitable economic development.

The Food Systems Dialogues are an exciting and pioneering initiative aimed at creating the conditions for collaboration that will drive an integrated approach to transformation. The FOLU coalition looks forward to participating in and learning through them.

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