The pre-summit took place in July and the full summit on 23 September. The webinar created space in which participants worked together to discern key lessons from the process for food systems transformation.
WCC central committee moderator Dr Agnes Abuom, in her opening remarks, underscored the urgency of increasing numbers of people going hungry.
“We are faring badly,” she said. “The world has seen a 6% increase in the number of hungry people since 2015, the year 193 governments committed to zero hunger in the context of the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development.”
What’s more, Abuom noted, this is happening in a context where 811 million people worldwide (1 in 10) go to bed hungry each night and hunger increased globally by 25% in 2020.
“Two billion individuals suffer micronutrient deficiencies, and three billion people (40% of the world’s population) cannot afford a healthy diet,” she said. "One in five deaths globally (the equivalent of 11 million deaths) is associated with poor diet.”
For the first time in over 20 years, extreme poverty (living on less than US$1.90 per day), increased in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic’s economic impacts, compounded by conflict and climate change.
Food experts shared both their insights and frank critique of the UN Food Systems Summit.
Winnie Mailu, global markets and livelihood advisor at Christian Aid, shared her views on the process, the outcomes, and the criticisms of the food summit, adding that today’s context is an exciting and critical moment for discussions about food and hunger. She expressed her appreciation for the inclusivity of the summit’s discussions. “It was a huge opportunity that everybody was able to share about the global food system,” she said, but expressed questions on how concrete actions will be carried forth.
“How this is going to be done is yet to be determined,” she said.
Andrew Schwartz, director of sustainability and global affairs at the Center for Earth Ethics, agreed with Mailu that it was gratifying to see so many groups at the food summit table.
“I think it was incredible to see so many different people come together from around the world to speak about the state of our food systems, the pitfalls, the gaps, and I think those have become abundantly clear due to COVID-19 and the impacts it has had around the world," he said. But, like Mailu, Schwartz reflected that the UN seems beholden to different powerful voices at the table, so at times voices bringing up topics such as nutrition, meat consumption and transitioning to a plant-based diet tend to get pushed to the side due to geopolitical concerns.
“The times are too dire to not speak truth to the issues that are happening in our world,” Schwartz urged.
Drew Kang Bar, who has been working with the Presbyterian Church USA’s Hunger Program since 2001, offered insight into the counter-mobilization against the UN Food Summit. “Most of civil society opposed the approach of the UN Food Summit and boycotted it, and the processes leading up to it," he said. “It’s a battle against multilateralism.”
Rev. Nicta Lubaale, general secretary of the Organization of African Instituted Churches, reflected on Christ's teaching regarding sharing justly and equitably in the contexts of food systems.
“How do we relate to God, and the resources God has given to us—food as a resource but all other resources that enable us to access food and to share food?” he asked, questioning what motivates us to examine our own food systems. “The world and all that is in it belongs to God.”
In her closing reflection, Abuom concluded: ‘The way we live, relate with each other, and manage our affairs, reflect our lives spiritually as people of faith. Let us continue to deeply engage with food systems—all the complexities of the activities involving production, processing, transport and consumption, including how it impacts the natural environment and our health. Let our faith guide us to heal the world, accompany the recovery of creation, and ensure that all are fed!”