Solution Cluster 6.1.1

Food Systems Governance

What is the solution cluster? Food Systems (FS) Governance provides an integrated, cross-cutting imperative to complement emerging solutions. Many solutions offer cutting-edge ideas on what needs to be done. FS Governance offers resources on how implementing solutions through integrated, participatory, and inclusive governance leads to substantive, impactful, and long-lasting food systems transformations. By offering characteristics, design considerations, and solutions to support FS transformation, it offers ways to build capacity to adaptively and jointly solve problems over time, recognizing the complexity of food systems.

Governance for Food Systems transformation recognizes that food systems comprise complex, overlapping, multi-sector, -jurisdictional, and -stakeholder forms of decision-making and implementation, with varying degrees of autonomy, participation, coordination, competition, and cooperation.

How can governance support food systems transformation? Guiding Principles for FS Transformation provide both vision (destination) and an implementation tool (compass). By embracing this suite of principles, emerging implementation pathways will attend to ambitions of supporting the SDGs through healthier, more sustainable and more equitable food systems:

  1. Uphold peoples’ right to food. Build food systems based on the culture, identity, tradition, social and gender equity of local communities that provide healthy, safe, accessible, affordable, diversified, nutritionally and culturally appropriate diets.
  2. Ensure intergenerational, gender, and socio-economic equity so our right to food does not compromise the ability of future generations or marginalized populations to achieve their own right to food.
  3. Ensure agency so that all can fully participate and prosper from food systems, including the most vulnerable constituencies including but not limited to Indigenous peoples, women, youth, refugees. small holder farmers/peasants//producers, pastoralists, fishers, and workers.
  4. Leave no one behind, ensure access to safe and nutritious food, end poverty, hunger, and malnutrition in all their forms and dimensions with a focus in particular on the needs of the poorest and most vulnerable.
  5. Do no harm and ensure that transformation pathways, food system actors and stakeholders prevent and mitigate any negative impact on the environment and health of affected populations.
  6. Prioritize the conservation, protection, and restoration of the health and integrity of the Earth’s ecosystems including through sustainable healthy food consumption and production based on ecologically sound methods within and restoring planetary boundaries while ensuring resilience to future crises.
  7. Prioritize the protection of the climate system from the harmful impacts of food systems and enable food systems as well as people to adapt and increase resilience to climate change.
  8. Ensure that the economic, social, and technological initiatives related to food systems occur in harmony with nature and take into account Indigenous, farmer, and local traditional knowledge as well as the best available scientific information in all implementation decisions.
  9. Ensure urgent, timely, effective, and complementary humanitarian responses to crises are linked to development interventions, so as to strengthen food systems.

How do we pursue a systems approach for food? Sustainable development design considerations support collaborative deliberation and implementation across diverse sectors, stakeholders, and scales. These include:

  • Ensuring meaningful and substantive participation of food system actors at different levels by building participatory capacity for collective action, including for vulnerable groups generally excluded from governance.
  • Reframing problems as sustainable development opportunities helps to engage diversified interests of sectors/stakeholders and supports a compelling case to decision-makers for new or recalibrated policies/programs by demonstrating positive social, health, environmental, and economic outcomes.
  • Assembling diverse and relevant information from across the system to identify underlying causes/enabling conditions of unsustainable practices.
  • Transparently and genuinely communicating conflicts, trade-offs, divergences, and asymmetries.
  • Generating a shared understanding of how multiple processes can identify synergies, mutually beneficial interventions, and develop innovative governance arrangements to manage trade-offs. g
  • Identifying the most promising leverage or entry points in the system, where intervention shows potential to yield multiple benefits and governance will be most effective, transparent, inclusive and accountable.
  • Creating a compelling portfolio of actions and policies ensures that resulting actions reflect the complexity of the challenges and yield multiple benefits across food systems.
  • Designing living, flexible instruments to respond to new information and evolving context as actions are taken.

Emphasis is on characteristics and the design considerations for governance of food systems transformation, though two solutions are referenced as action-oriented approaches to FS transformation. Solution 1.20 fostering shared learning on Food System Transformation Pathways recognizes collaboration across ministries and stakeholders, and between national and sub-national levels as necessary to bring a food system perspective to policy planning and implementation (elaborated in Policy Solution Cluster). It calls for shared learning across countries to build a knowledge base that supports food systems planning and pathway development.

Solution 2.7 strengthening accountability and incentive systems for sustainable practices calls for transforming power dynamics and empowering governments and civil society to monitor, track and report on business practices and impacts on human well-being, ecological health, and economic prosperity. Fostering accountability includes evidence-based health and sustainability targets and metrics, mandated public reporting, policies on conflicts on interests, and celebrating business leadership and progress.

About this Solution Cluster

Acting on solutions requires ongoing decision-making for implementation, which the characteristics and design considerations are intended to support. Shared learning and exchange are key for institutional change (1.20). These can be strengthened by empowering government and civil society to build evidence-based accountability mechanisms to support changes in the market (2.7).

Transforming food systems requires convergence and alignment across the agenda, actions, networks, individuals and organizations working within relevant sectors to build critical mass and momentum behind system changes. such convergence can only be achieved through iterative processes of bargaining and coalition-building process. Summit solutions support momentum; these resources inform implementation decisions.

Credible and effective governance is fundamental for all solutions, hence why Governance is cross-cutting. Embracing transformation characteristics, translating challenges into sustainable development opportunities, and ensuring shared understanding and accountability creates collaborative pathways for change, through which solutions can be realized.

Cross-References | SDGs: Food systems underpin every single SDG.

Linkages to Food Systems Dialogues (FSDs) | themes from national FSDs included: emphasizing coherence and consistency; evidence of diversifying and deepening stakeholder engagement; lack of knowledge/data to support a systemic approach; recognizing relationships and tensions that require attention; cross-cutting issues including inequalities and pervasive environmental degradation. A major theme from independent FSDs (iFSDs) was the importance of diverse, inclusive, and equitable engagement of women, youth, small farmers, and Indigenuous people in food systems transformation decision-making and governance. iFSDs offer guidance on how decision-making and implementation processes should be undertaken and evaluated (e.g., ensuring transparency, engaging in systems thinking, continuous learning, and acknowledging complexities and trade-offs).

Governance-related Propositions: it is strongly encouraged to explore related solutions. For instance, 4.1: 4.04, 4.06, 4.07, 4.10, 4.15, and 4.19 emphasize rebalancing agency. Solutions 4.09, and 2.2, emphasize cities and local governments. Solution 3.3 integrating international governance instruments with national food system policies and plans. Solutions 1.10, 2.17, 2.6, 3.24 address groups such as women, youth, and indigenous peoples, which deserve special consideration for participation and inclusion.

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