Established in 1974, the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) is a multi-stakeholder platform which promotes an integrated private and public partnership to address the urgent challengesfacing global food security and nutrition. While some improvements were made, the progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were offset by increasing food insecurity and environmental regressions (UN, 2020). The Covid 19 pandemic has exacerbated global food shortages where as a result an estimated 2.37 billion people are now faced with moderate or severe food insecurity, an increase of 320 million people from the previous year (FAO, 2021). The widespread economic and social impact of the pandemic has also laid bare the vulnerability of global food systems, highlighting the urgent need for a more resilient and sustainable approach to ensure food and nutrition security for all. The aforementioned issues are presumably to be discussed at the United Nations Food Security Summit, scheduled to meet on September 23, 2021.
In preparation for the summit, several reports on the state of global food security and food supply systems have been prepared and shared with member states. One of these, Voluntary Guidelines on Food Systems and Nutrition (VGFSyN), produced by the CFS, seek to promote “policy coherence, coordination and convergence” between stakeholders and to achieve healthy diets for all by encouraging actions towards more inclusive and sustainable food systems (CFS, 2021).
At this time of rising global food insecurity and failing food systems, we are faced with global problems requiring a global solution. The VG may eventually become a vital tool for national policy makers, legislators, and advocacy agents in their work to transform food systems and nutrition in their respective countries. However, the damaging aspects of food systems are far reaching, especially for those that have environmental consequences, and voluntary guidelines will do little to curb these ever-growing trepidations. To achieve truly transformative food systems without violating the sovereignty of nation states, CFS should also robustly link the VG to existing international law so that member states as well as other stakeholders are held accountable where they fail to act on them. The VG need to be supplemented with rules regarding engagement with private sector to ensure conflict of interests are addressed. Finally, making financial and technical resources available to low-income countries should be prioritized to ensure that evidenced-based strategies are developed and implemented in diverse contexts, with the long-term goal of achieving the right to food for all