UN Food Systems Summit

(Archived from UNFSS-focused website that we maintained in 2021)

The United Nations Food Systems Summit is a corporate food summit—not a “people’s” food summit.

Although the UN has called the Food Systems Summit a “people’s summit”, it marks a departure from past World Food Summits, which developed innovative, inclusive and participatory global food governance mechanisms anchored in human rights. By contrast, the UNFSS follows a multi-stakeholder approach that, while appearing inclusive, ends up privileging agribusiness and food corporations and is conducted in partnership with the World Economic Forum (formed by the world’s top 1000 corporations). The UNFSS has sidelined civil society and and lacks transparency and accountability mechanisms. In response, civil society groups around the world are refusing to participate in the UNFSS and are instead leading parallel events and actions.

The People’s Autonomous Response to the UNFSS in July has argued that the UNFSS detracts from the real solutions needed to tackle the multiple hunger, climate and health crises. The globalized, industrialized food systems advanced at UNFSS fail most people, and the Covid-19 pandemic has worsened the situation. According to the 2021 UN Report on the State of Food Security and Nutrition, the number of chronically undernourished people has risen to 811 million, while almost a third of the world’s population has no access to adequate food. The Global South still reels from Covid-19, unveiling the entrenched structural power asymmetries, fragility and injustice that underpin the predominant food system.

What we need: Food systems and food sovereignty for the people

Food sovereignty: the right of peoples to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods, and their right to define their own food and agriculture systems

Equitable and sustainable solutions already exist—and they need more support. There is much to learn from the networks of solidarity and care that people – often the most vulnerable and historically oppressed – have put in place during the pandemic. Currently, 70% of the world gets food from the peasant food web, which works with only 25% of the resources.

We don’t need “sustainable intensification”, “climate-smart agriculture” or ‘nature-positive solutions,” which often greenwash corporate agendas. Millions of smallholder farmers, fishermen, pastoralists, agricultural and rural workers, and entire indigenous communities practice agroecology, a way of life and a form of resistance to an unfair economic system that puts profit before life. Agroecological farming constantly adapts to local needs, customs, soils and climates. As countless experts have attested, agroecology improves nutrition, reduces poverty, contributes to gender justice, combats climate change, and enriches farmland.

Agroecology, unlike industrial agriculture, embraces and encourages diversity—of crops, people, farming methods, and knowledges—to allow for locally-adapted food systems that are responsive to environmental conditions and community needs.

The movement for food sovereignty is united in our diversity and in our shared opposition to centralized, top-down models of decision-making and agricultural production.

Learn more via the following resources:


Civil society perspectives

People’s Autonomous Response to the UNFSS & 7 Reasons Not to Participate in the UN Food Systems Summit 2021. By People’s Autonomous Response to UNFSS (2021).

Call to Revoke AGRA’s Agnes Kalibata as Special Envoy to 2021 UN Food Systems Summit, call by 176 organizations to condemn and reject the appointment of the President of AGRA as Special Envoy to the 2021 UN Food Systems Summit.

Open Letter to UNSG (Sept 10 2021).

Africa responds to the UN Food Systems Summit: Let’s reclaim our food sovereignty and reject the industrial food system (2021).

Big corporations steer UN Food Systems Summit; Global South pushes back [press release] By PAN Asia Pacific (Sept 25 2021)

Exposing corporate capture of the UN Food Systems Summit through multistakeholderism By People’s Autonomous Response to UNFSS (2021)

Academic perspectives

Weaponizing Science in Global Food Policy. By Maywa Montenegro, Matt Canfield, Alastair Iles (June 25 2021).

UN Food Systems Summit Plants Corporate Solutions and Plows Under People’s Knowledge. By Maywa Montenegro de Wit, Molly Anderson,  Barbara Gemmill-Herren, Jessica Duncan, Nora McKeon, Matt Canfield, Alastair Iles, and Jan Douwe van der Ploeg (July 16 2021).

Scientists Boycott the 2021 UN Food Systems Summit. By Agroecology Research-Action Collective (2021).

Policy briefs

Last chance to make the Food Systems Summit truly a “people’s summit” [policy brief] By Michael Fakhri (Aug 19 2021).

People Vs. Agribusiness Corporations: The Battle Over Global Food and Agriculture Governance [policy brief] By Oakland Institute (2021).

An “IPCC” for food? How the UN Food Systems Summit is being used to advance a problematic new science-policy agenda [briefing] By IPES-Food (July 2021).

Media and op-eds

UN under fire over choice of ‘corporate puppet’ as envoy at key food summit. By Saeed Kamali Dehghan and Kaamil Ahmed, The Guardian (2020).

Farmers and rights groups boycott food summit over big business links. By John Vidal, The Guardian (2021).

Food Systems Summit’s Scientistic Threat By Jomo Kwame Sundaram (Sept 14 2021).

Small farmers have the answer to feeding the world. Why isn’t the UN listening? By Elizabeth Mpofu and Henk Hobbelink, The Guardian (Sept 23 2021).

The Globalized, Corporate-Led Food System Is Failing Us: Boycott Grows of U.N. Food Summit with Million Belay, Raj Patel, and Shalmali Guttal, Democracy Now! (Sept 23 2021).

Interview with Nnimmo Bassey, BBC World Service Focus on Africa (Sept 23 2021).

Did the First UN Food Systems Summit Give Corporations Too Much of a Voice? By Greta Morgan, Civil Eats (Sept 29 2021)

Agroecology Is the Solution to World Hunger. By Raj Patel, Scientific American (Sept 2021).


Agribusiness interests hijack 2021 UN Food Systems Summit. By Anuradha Mittal, Oakland Institute (2020).

Meat industry pushes UN food summit to back factory farming: Leaked documents chronicle behind-the-scenes row over industry calls to boost meat-eating By Zach Boren for Greenpeace’s Unearthed (Sept 21 2021).

Hijacking food systems: technofix takeover at the FSS By ETC Group (July 23 2021).

Note: A more comprehensive list of articles is maintained by the People’s Autonomous Response to UNFSS, on their resources page.


Facing the 2021 UN Food Systems Summit. Video of event held March 30, 2021, 1 hour 27 min.

Call to Revoke AGRA’s Agnes Kalibata as Special Envoy to 2021 UN Food Systems Summit Video by the Oakland Institute, February 13 2020, 1:59 min.

UNFSS and Multistakeholderism. Video by Coventry University, July 14 2021, 3:37 min.

Jeffrey Sachs’ speech at UNFSS pre-summit

Guterres Gives UN Food Summit to Bill Gates and Davos. Video by La Via Campesina, Sept 21 2021, 9:23 min.


Inside the resistance to the UNFSS, with Nnimmo Bassey (Director, Health of Mother Earth Foundation Nigeria) & Kristen Lyons (Oakland Institute Senior Fellow & Professor Environment and Development Sociology University Queensland, Australia). The Oakland Institute, September 2021

UN Food Systems Summit Resistance: Part Two, Elizabeth Mpofu (General Coordinator of Via Campesina), Alejandro Argumedo (Director of Programs, Swift Foundation), and Anuradha Mittal (Executive Director of The Oakland Institute), September 2021.