Youth for a better food future

Giulia Jacovella • 5 August 2021

Youth for a better food future

Food systems are failing for our health, failing for our environments, failing for our livelihoods, and failing for youth…we need to create a fundamental turnaround”, said Mr. Victor Mugo, Co-Chair of the Youth Liaisons Group for the United Nations Food System Summit (UNFSS) 2021, highlighting the key role of youth in transforming the food system. His concerns are shared by millions of young people around the world who strongly believe that the success of such a global effort will not be achieved without the meaningful participation of young people.

The UNFSS recognizes this challenge and calls upon all stakeholders, particularly youth, to come together to bring about the transformation that the world needs. Convened as part of the Decade of Action to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030, the Summit will launch bold new actions to deliver progress on all 17 SDGs, each of which relies to a large extent on healthier, more sustainable and equitable food systems.

This year’s International Youth DayTransforming Food Systems: Youth Innovation for Human and Planetary Health’ responds to the urgent call of the UNFSS and highlights the unique challenges the world faces. With the global population set to increase by 2 billion people in the next 30 years, there is an urgent need to rethink the food system and its inter-linkages with poverty reduction, climate change, resilience, and social inclusion. This can only be achieved with the participation of all stakeholders, especially young people.

Transforming food systems

Over the last year, young leaders around the world have participated in deliberations around transforming the way the world produces, consumes and thinks about food. Youth leaders as food systems’ Champions, Heroes and Action Track vice-chairs have been critical in the Summit preparation process. Globally, youth have been organizing Regional and Global Dialogues to identify their priorities on building a better food future. Youth are also leading a global pledge initiative committing their support to ensure an improved food system.

These processes culminated in youth pre-consultations and a three-week long online youth consultation in partnership with the World Food Forum – powered by global youth (WFF). The e-consultation hosted on UNDP SparkBlue platform provided youth an opportunity to propose their solutions and define actions across thematic areas like nutrition, consumption, production, employment, and resilience to shocks.

The vibrant engagement processes over the last year have helped youth to identify and present their priorities before heads of states, industry leaders and decision-makers, at the UNFSS Pre-Summit which took place from 26 to 28 July in Rome, Italy.  

 

 

The top-three priorities which have emerged during these processes include the following:

  • Everyone everywhere should be able to access healthy and sustainable foods: Youth have committed to make choices every day to eat more sustainable and nutritious diets and promote them within their communities and also via various social media platforms. Youth requested member states and other stakeholders to promote access to healthy food through policy incentives and by increasing investment in nutrition while restricting unhealthy food marketing.
  • Climate resilient food production systems: Young people stand ready to support, advocate and act on the climate and biodiversity initiatives needed to drive the urgent transformation towards a livable future, both on the ground and at the upcoming multilateral conferences. However, youth are also asking for inter-generational co-leadership of the development of member states’ revised nationally-determined contributions (NDCs) on climate, with a focus on food systems.
  • Decent and productive employment for youth in the food system. People employed in food systems, many of whom are young people, work very hard but are often paid less than the minimum wage in many countries. Youth demand fair and decent wages for food systems jobs. Youth are also asking member states to eliminate barriers that prevent young people from accessing key resources such as finance, land, and information that enable youth to meaningfully engage in food systems.

 

Pre-Summit

 

The Summit process has demonstrated that young people can and should be leading on finding solutions to critical global issues. Youth-led actions and initiatives can bring about positive change, by often guiding and challenging adult stakeholders to “do the right thing”. After all, as Yugratna Srivasatava, Youth Constituency Focal Point, UNEP and UNFSS Champion, pointed out at the Pre-Summit, it is important to view youth not just as stakeholders but as rights-holders especially since the policies being framed today will impact children and youth in the future.

After the Pre-Summit, youth are hard at work again, refining their priorities and statements from the Pre-Summit and looking to develop a long-term action plan.  They are also advocating a formal and institutionalized platform to be set up immediately after the Food Systems Summit, where all young people and youth organizations working to transform food systems can come together and meaningfully engage in the collective empowerment and decision-making processes. A lot of progress has been made over the last year, but this is just a start and launches the beginning of a long and urgent journey to bring about a better food future for all.

 

Writers:

Tahseen Alam

Youth Partner Engagement Consultant

UNFSS Secretariat

 

Jolly Dusabe

Youth Engagement Lead

UNFSS Secretariat

 

More information on International Youth Day 2021

Register to #YouthLead Innovation Festival in celebration of International Youth Day (IYD)

Check out the IYD Trello board and SparkBlue event page for updates