• Key points emerging from the webinar on September 2021, co-sponsored by Mali, WHO, ILO, OHCHR, HLPE, UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, IPES-Food, CSM. Program available here

COVID19 has severe and lasting impacts on food security and nutrition and on the right to food and related human rights, particularly of the most vulnerable. The pandemic has revealed and exacerbated existing structural fragilities and injustices in our food systems and has increased inequalities within and between countries, calling for a radical transformation of our food systems in the direction of greater resilience, equity and sustainability. Countries that suffer from debt and dependency on food imports are particularly affected and will continue to be so over the coming period. They require support and solidarity at the global level in order to help them strengthen domestic food production, improve links between producers and consumers, valorize traditional knowledge, and put in place needed social protection.

The crisis is multidimensional. Strong interconnections operate between food systems and a wide range of other factors, including health, livelihoods, workers’ rights, gender equality, the climate, and others. Public health, human rights and economic recovery all have impacts on food systems: food affects everything, and everything affects food. A siloed approach to addressing specific impact areas of COVID19 cannot succeed. Given the complex, deep-rooted causes of the crisis it is also necessary to build capacity to foresee the likelihood that the current pandemic could be followed by others in the future and to attenuate such occurrences;

Action has been taken, and continues to be, by different actors and authorities at local, national and regional levels to address both the short and the long-term impacts of the pandemic. It is important to understand the territorial context in which local initiatives are being developed, to share experiences and strengthen synergies between the different levels and groups of actors, and to ensure that their efforts receive the coherent and coordinated support they need from the global level. An ‘everyone for themselves’ approach will not get us out of the pandemic.

At the global level, UN agencies have developed and adopted relevant policy instruments and programmes in their respective sectors. The ‘One Health’ initiative points to the importance of coordinated frameworks, as does the transversal need to adopt a human-centered approach, an economy based on care and solidarity, and a human rights framework that can address the underlying structural problem of inequalities by protecting people from factors of discrimination. The FAO-African Union covid task force is a promising support initiative in the area of agriculture.  What has been missing thus far is a process that makes it possible to put the different perspectives and initiatives together into a multisectoral, multilaterally coordinated approach to identifying and effectively responding to immediate needs engendered by COVID19 while laying the bases for a transformation of food systems. We have enough knowledge now, what we need is action.

The UN Committee on World Food Security is the appropriate forum in which to undertake this task due to its mandate rooted in the right to food, its inclusive composition and mode of working, its capacity of outreach from the local to the global levels, and the strong knowledge-based support provided by the HLPE. Governments need to assume their role as agents of change, regulators of food systems and protectors of the planet, but they cannot do it alone. COVID-19 is the priority issue today particularly for the more vulnerable countries, an inclusive, multisectoral, multilateral approach is required to address it, and the CFS is the place to begin to build it. WHO, ILO and the OHCHR express their willingness to participate in a CFS-based initiative in this direction. CFS49 should agree to insert into the rolling section of MYPOW the activity of developing globally coordinated policy guidance to the impacts of COVID-19 on food security and nutrition.


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