Takeaways: UN Food Systems National Dialogues

In the lead-up to the United Nations’ inaugural Food Systems Summit in September, UN member countries including Australia held Food Systems Summit Dialogues with stakeholders across the agrifood and sustainability sectors to establish priorities and raise issues for further discussion.

Challenges and potential solutions identified by the collective of National Dialogues fed into late July’s Pre-Summit event in Rome, Italy. In the Pre-Summit, political, environmental, business and community leaders from around the world, including Australia, helped to hone and clarify these.

The outcomes of September’s UN Food Systems Summit will be used to guide nations and communities worldwide in how best to leverage the power of food systems to deliver progress on the UN’s 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s).

Each of the 17 SDGs contributes to the achievement of food systems that are healthier, more sustainable and more equitable.

Australia’s Food Systems Summit Dialogues

In its role as Australia’s National Convenor for the Food Systems Summit, the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment ran a series of five webinars over May-July 2021. Together, these provided ‘an open and independent platform’ via which Australian stakeholders could ‘share experiences, ideas, opportunities and solutions on a range of issues and challenges facing food systems’.

A representative sample of Australians was consulted, including experts, academics, industry representatives, farmers, the general public and others.

A synthesis of the feedback from these webinars formed a key part of Australia’s input into the Pre-Summit Dialogues and will inform our contribution to September’s UN Food Systems Summit.

Access recordings of all five webinars on the Have your Say page for the Food Systems Summit.

Webinar 1: Growing Greener – food production and a healthy environment

Topics for discussion included:

  • ways sustainable food and fibre production can help meet the challenges of biodiversity loss, a changing climate and an increasing population;
  • the need to produce more food with less environmental impact; and
  • innovations and technology for environmental sustainability.

Panellists were farmer, NFF President and Future Food Systems CRC Chair Fiona Simson; University of Melbourne sustainability expert Prof. Richard Eckard; Australian National University (ANU)’s Prof. Andrew Macintosh and Melinee Leather of the Leather Cattle Company.

Webinar 2: Future proofing our food systems – boosting resilience

Topics discussed included:

  • challenges and opportunities posed by future trends and risks including climate change, potential trade and supply-chain disruptions, and changing consumer patterns and demands; and
  • increasing resilience to potential vulnerabilities, shocks and stresses to safeguard a future food system.

Panellists were Future Food Systems CRC CEO David Eyre; CSIRO’s Dr Mario Herrero; Prof. Mark Howden from ANU; ABARES’ Peter Gooday; Brianna Casey from Foodbank; and Doug McNicholl, of Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA).

Webinar 3: Eating for our health and the environment – balancing nutrition and sustainability

Topics included:

  • the intersection between diet/nutrition and environmental sustainability in Australia;
  • initiatives, innovations and research along the supply chain that seek to balance environmental and nutritional considerations; and
  • innovative approaches to addressing food loss and waste.

Panellists were University of Queensland’s Professor Amanda Lee, CSIRO’s Dr Bradley Ridoutt, Mark Barthel from the Fight Food Waste CRC, and OzHarvest’s Ronni Kahn.

Webinar 4: Australian Food Systems – addressing shared challenges

Topics included:

  • addressing the triple challenge of providing food security and nutrition, delivering strong livelihoods throughout the supply chain and ensuring environmental sustainability;
  • the notion of ‘trade-offs’ and synergies in food systems; and
  • utilising science and evidence while acknowledging and managing diverse stakeholder interests and values.

Panellists were the OECD’s Lee Ann Jackson; Dr Anne Astin, AM PSM; Howard Parry-Husbands from Pollinate; and WWF Australia’s Krista Singleton-Cambage.

Webinar 5: Agricultural innovation – building better food systems

Topics included:

  • the role of agricultural innovations in building better food systems;
  • policy approaches to support new agricultural and value chain innovations and to promote widespread uptake of innovative ideas and technologies; and
  • innovation to deliver sustainable and efficient food systems.

Panellists were CSIRO’s Dr Lilly Lim-Camacho; Ian Olmstead from Dairy Australia; Dr Michael Crawford, of the Soil CRC; Genics’ Dr Melony Sellars; and Tanya Kilminster, South West WA Drought Resilience and Innovation Hub.

Other Australian Food Systems Summit Dialogues

Multi-stakeholder Partnerships for Scaling Agricultural Innovation

Convened by Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), this Dialogue among high-level stakeholders from various nations identified challenges and opportunities in multi-stakeholder partnerships for developing and scaling innovations, and explored how such partnerships can 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 by CSIRO, this Dialogue among diverse stakeholders identified positive potential future food systems and the science, innovation and actions key stakeholders would need to undertake to achieve them.

What role does food labelling play in helping to shift consumers towards healthier, safe and sustainable consumption?

Convened by the federal government’s Department of Health and linked to the work of Action Track 2– Shift to sustainable consumption patterns, this Dialogue looked at the part food labelling plays in shifting attitudes towards safer, healthier, more sustainable food and beverage consumption. It featured short presentations on the topic from representatives of government, industry and academia. Watch the recording and find out more about labelling.

The UN Food Systems Summit website lists all Australian member country dialogues, along with a feedback report on each event.

UN Secretary General’s Food Systems Summit

The UN Secretary General’s Food Systems Summit is a high-level political event taking place in New York City during the UN General Assembly, 14-30 September 2021. The aim of the Summit is to raise awareness of the crucial role played by food production and distribution systems in ensuring a healthy, sustainable future for the world’s growing population.

More information

Get further information about: