VIDEO: 2021 UN Food Systems Summit highlights, outcomes
Animal Ag Alliance’s Hannah Thompson-Weeman weighs in on what she felt were the main takeaways from the recent Food Systems Summit.
The much-anticipated U.N. Food Systems Summit was held on September 23, 2021.
Joining the Chat again to recap the summit, Hannah Thompson-Weeman, vice president – strategic engagement, Animal Agriculture Alliance (AAA), offers her views on the summit and how the event may serve as a catalyst for changes to animal production in the future.
Transcription of Feed Strategy Chat with Hannah Thompson-Weeman, vice president – strategic engagement, Animal Agriculture Alliance
Jackie Roembke, editor in chief, WATT Feed Brands/Feed Strategy: Hi, everyone. Welcome to Feed Strategy Chat. I’m your host, Jackie Roembke, editor in chief of WATT Feed Brands and Feed Strategy magazine.
This edition of Feed Strategy Chat is brought to you by WATT Global Media and FeedStrategy.com. FeedStrategy.com is your source for the latest news and leading-edge analysis of the global animal feed industry.
Today we’re joined on Zoom by Hannah Thompson-Weeman, vice president of strategic engagement at the Animal Agriculture Alliance. She’s here to provide a recap of the recent U.N. Food Systems Summit, held on September 23, 2021.
Hi Hannah, how are you?
Hannah Thompson-Weeman, vice president – strategic engagement, Animal Agriculture Alliance: Jackie, I’m doing well. Glad to be here.
Roembke: Excellent. Thank you so much. Tell us a little bit about the summit and what was discussed.
Thompson-Weeman: The U.N. Food Systems Summit has been an 18-month-long process. So the long-anticipated summit itself was held on September 23; there was also some additional content that ended up being added on Friday the 24th. But the bulk of the Food Systems Summit content was held on Thursday, September 23. The Food Systems Summit was held virtually completely this time, as opposed to the Pre-Summit that was a hybrid of virtual and in-person events. The Food Systems Summit itself was completely a virtual event, of course, being held alongside the U.N. General Assembly going on in New York City.
One of the main components of the Food Systems Summit were statements from Member States. So Member States each had a few minutes to share their perspective on food systems, how they had engaged with the Food Systems Summit process, and what their long-term visions were for food systems at the country level. Those Member States statements had a lot of commonalities. Member States talked about the importance of food security, accessibility, increasing production, a lot of Member States referenced the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on food security, and being important to incorporate food systems in our recovery efforts and our economic efforts moving forward as we leave the COVID-19 pandemic.
In addition to Member State statements, which were again a significant portion of the Food Systems Summit, there were also statements from constituency groups — like youth, Indigenous People’s Civil Society, the private sector — all talking about what their constituencies viewed as the future of food systems and their role in shaping food systems moving forward.
A lot of those constituencies have come up with declarations or commitments for how they’re going to engage in food systems into the future. There were also plenary sessions where speakers from the various action tracks from various other leadership positions within the U.N. talked about their viewpoint on the Food Systems Summit’s progress thus far, and what they saw as the objective for the future coming out of the Food Systems Summit.
Another outcome that generated a lot of conversation were [the] Coalitions of Action. A lot of member states referenced which Coalitions of Action they were going to look at joining. The U.S., for example, is involved with several of the Coalitions, including spearheading one on sustainable productivity growth, and being involved with the Ag Innovation Administration for Climate, the Food Loss and Waste Coalition, as well as the School Meals Coalition.
So those Coalitions were a major talking point both from Member States and other countries’ constituency groups, and that’s a big opportunity to get involved following the summit.
Roembke: Thanks for the recap. Do you have any thoughts about how the outcomes of these discussions may impact animal production in the future?
Thompson-Weeman: Certainly the actions that member states are taking on food systems would be the first place I would encourage the animal food industry and the animal agriculture industry in general to start looking because that is one of the main outcomes of the summit is the actual actions that Member States are taking. That seems to be really the firm direction is that Member States are in the driver’s seat for implementing what needs to happen within their own countries: To make sure their food systems are sustainable, that food is affordable and safe and reduces impact on the environment at the country level.
There was a lot of discussion about how the U.N. will certainly support those efforts, both with country-led teams on the ground in Member States, as well as the Rome-based agencies, all taking a leadership role in helping countries achieve what they set out to do within those frameworks. But those frameworks would be the first place to look. Certainly here in the U.S., as well as countries that you engage with abroad, you can find on the Food Systems Summit website, the outcomes, the frameworks that each individual country has published, and those would be certainly a place to start understanding what individual countries are going to be doing on food systems.
For example, the EU talked quite a bit in their statement about how the Farm to Fork Strategy increases organic production and things that might be a concern potentially for trade. Again, while the U.S. is very focused on innovation, adoption of technology and boosting productivity within our own production of crops, livestock and other important commodities. Understanding what is going on at the country level is going to be a main outcome of the summit.
There are also a few other things coming out that you really will need to dive into and digest. There’s a Commitments Registry, where individual companies or organizations can share what they’re doing to really move the needle on sustainability. The Secretary General had a statement that was shared, talking about the long-term vision for food systems from the U.N. And there’s also the scientific group of the United Nations Food Systems Summit that’s come out with quite a comprehensive scientific document as well.
So there’s a lot to wrap your arms around, a lot of outcomes to be looking for. But I would say those country-level frameworks is the first place to start to understand what might impact the animal food community and the animal agriculture community.
Roembke: Have any timelines been established for these next steps?
Thompson-Weeman: Really, the timeline has been up in the air. One of the things that was announced during the Food Systems Summit is there will be another meeting, not sure if it will be called a summit again, but there will be a meeting to take stock on progress in two years. So that two-year timeline was established by the Secretary General and a few other speakers of when there will be a formal check in on the objectives of the Food Systems Summit, but certainly between now and then a lot of this work will be starting.
There were also a lot of references to upcoming meetings, COP26. The other meetings are coming up on biodiversity and other related subjects were also mentioned as important in this process to continue the conversation. So some of the timelines are a little bit unclear of how things will come together. But we do know there will be a check-in meeting again in two years.
Roembke: Very good. Thank you so much. If you’d like more information about the Animal Agriculture Alliance and its sustainability resources, please visit animalagalliance.org/issues/sustainability.
Thanks again, Hannah, and thanks to you for tuning in.