13 March 2023

Beirut time

Expert Group Meeting

Arab Food Systems Stocktaking Moment 2023

Logo of the UN Food Systems Coordination Hub
  • UN House, Beirut, Lebanon

The United Nations Food Systems Coordination Hub is holding an Arab regional meeting in preparation for the first global Food Systems Stocktaking Moment (STM) in 2023.The preparatory meeting will be held a day prior to the Arab Forum for Sustainable Development.

The meeting is organized in cooperation with ESCWA, the United Nations Development Coordination Office (DCO), the Regional Offices of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and other United Nations agencies, as well as key regional organizations, including the League of Arab States and the Arab Organization for Agriculture Development (AOAD).

Participants report and exchange views on the progress made in implementing their countries’ food system transformations since the Food Systems Summit in 2021. They outline priority actions towards accelerating those transformations in support of the achievement of the 2030 Agenda. The meeting concludes with key messages that will serve as the collective regional input to the 2023 STM.

Outcome document

  • Rural transformation and inclusive value chains: enhancing productivity and income, focusing on youth employment and women empowerment to close rural/urban divide, empowering farmers financially and technically, integrate agricultural sector within national markets,
  • Food security and healthy diets for all:  focusing on trade, food related legislation, food safety and quality, and nutrition education
  • Greening agriculture: addressing water scarcity and ensuring environmental sustainability and climate action
  • Building resilience to climate change impacts (floods, droughts, extreme events), multiple shocks, protracted crises, and emergency situations along the humanitarian-development-peace nexus
  • Regional cooperation, integration, and solidarity: finding common solutions to common challenges, enhance exchanges through interregional trade, free zones and better infrastructure, south-south cooperation and exchange of knowledge and success stories
  • Meaningful Data for decision-making and monitoring progress towards transformation: to inform decisions and assess the impact of interventions on communities, environment, and economy, in order to manage trade-offs and leverage synergies 
  • Finance for FS transformation: INFFs for FS/ FS country budgeting tool, increasing public investment, role of private sector investments, de-risking investment in conflict countries, tapping into climate finance, making finance accessible to smallholders, promote regional funds, and fund urgent response to people in need or
  • Technology, Innovation and science-based interventions, agriculture incubators, developing remote sensing programs and data to predict risks and crisis to activate urgent funding, launching the regional climate-smart agricultural innovation and development program.
  • Leveraging the power of legislation and the role of Parliamentarians, reestablish irrigation policies and food safety standards and regulations
  • Enhancing risk transfer and social protection policies for a just and equitable transformation

ESCWA and FAO representatives highlighted key challenges facing Arab Food systems and highlighted opportunities to speed up the process of food system transformation to accelerate SDGs achievement.

Representatives from regional UN and Arab organizations also highlighted that crisis faced should be a wake-up call for all Arab Food systems and should open a window of opportunity to accelerate transformation and implementation of pathways focusing on the importance of the regional collaboration and interdependency. Emphasis in discussion was also placed to elevate Food systems transformation to be as important as energy transition in discussions, negotiations and desired outcomes of COP 28.

Countries expressed their needs and challenges and asked about expectations from the STM; measures of success from the STM, and support needed. The main common challenges identified:

  • Productivity levels are low with unstainable use of already scarce resources
  • High dependency on import coupled and high levels of food loss and waste
  • High level of food insecurity as well as triple burden of malnutrition
  • Increasing levels of poverty and high vulnerability of workers in agriculture, with less youth interested in this sector
  • Climate change impacting availability of scarce and depleted natural resources
  • Many Arab countries are facing conflicts and recurrent crisis and associated migration and refugee issues

Diverse representative of key communities involved in food systems monitoring, transformation briefed on existing gaps, actions being undertaken, and initiatives taken at global, regional, academic and legislative levels to enhance Arab food security levels and ensure transformation into inclusive, healthier, resilient and sustainable food systems.

Ideas for financing food systems transformation were presented by the UN Food system Hub and the World Bank. These tools relying on partnerships and coordination at all levels focusing on technical and financial levers. Key issues discussed included:

  • Development of food system budgeting tool;
  • Stepping up investment for FS transformation and financing them differently to achieve sustainability goals
  • Increasing public investment in food system ;
  • Activation of private sector investments;
  • Identifying opportunities to tap into climate finance;
  • Ensuring that sufficient finance is accessible to smallholders’ farmers

Meeting ended with representative from the UN Food system Hub informing about key dates and milestones ahead of the Global Food Systems Stock taking moment due on 24-26 July 2023.

Key messages emanating from the last session included:

  • “Business as usual” is no longer an option as Arab countries risk overlooking some root causes of the food system underperformance.
  • Fitting together successful solutions (trade-offs)
  • Gathering needed and meaningful data, science and information to guide policy making.
  • Enhancing partnership and establishing collaboration between multiple stakeholders and development agencies at local, national, regional, and global levels.
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