The United Nations Food Systems Summit 2021: Understanding the Controversy About the Structure, Governance Process and Outcomes that Led to Protests and Boycotts

October 27, 2021

Vivica Ingrid Kraak, PhD, MS, RDN
Associate Professor, Department of Human Nutrition, Foods, and Exercise
College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Virginia Tech
Blacksburg, VA USA 24061;    t: @vivicakraak

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On World Food Day in October 2019, the United Nations (UN) Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, announced plans to hold the first ever UN Food Systems Summit as a part of the UN Decade of Action on Nutrition (2016-2025) to accelerate the progress of governments in each countries and regions worldwide to achieve the targets outlined in the Sustainable Development Goals 2030 Agenda. The UN System has been building momentum and support for the UNFSS and is scheduled to take place on September 23, 2021 in New York City.

The 2021 UN State of Food Insecurity Report documented that more than 2.37 billion people worldwide experience hunger or food insecurity that was exacerbated by the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, nearly 770 million people are undernourished, more than 2 billion children and adults experience obesity, and more than 3 billion people cannot afford a nutrient-dense healthy diet. Unsustainable food system practices and diets in many countries are also associated with biodiversity losses and contribute to greenhouse gas emissions and accelerate climate change. The timing for a UNFSS is important.

The 2021 UNFSS has ambitious goals to mobilize diverse constituencies to work together to establish more equitable, resilient and sustainable food systems for healthy diets for all. Over the past year, various groups perceived a lack of transparency for decision-making and accountability for the Summit processes and outcomes.  Concerns were also raised about the lack of clear engagement guidelines for the World Economic Forum and its partners including transnational agri-food and beverage industry firms, alliances and networks that some perceive have contributed to human health and environmental problems resulting in unjust, unhealthy and unsustainable food systems. This presentation will explore the controversy and rationale for the protests by several groups to boycott the UN Summit, organize a parallel Summit, and engage in social media activism. It will also discuss the type of “game changing” actions and outcomes one could expect from the UN Summit. 

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Note: This presentation will be live captioned

Dr. Vivica Kraak's Slide Deck UNFSS.pdf
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