Chapter 1

Overview of the Food Systems Summit Process


In December 2019, the UN Secretary-General nominated a Special Envoy to the UN Food Systems Summit, Dr. Agnes Kalibata and a Food Systems Summit Secretariat was set up for supporting the efforts of the Special Envoy as well as each of the Summit structures. With a vision toward collective action, the Summit has brought together key players from the sectors who have come together to bring tangible and positive changes to the world’s food systems. To support the Summit process, several structures were put in place as leadership and support mechanisms: the Advisory Committee, the UN Task Force, the Scientific Group, five Action Tracks, the Champions Network, four Levers of Change. The structures of the UN Food Systems Summit work together and connect through regular meetings (Integrating Team meetings) during which they discuss and provide updates on key items and issues concerning the Summit. The Summit has engaged with several constituencies who are central in the process of bringing concrete and positive change to the current food systems. The different constituencies are represented in the Summit Structure as Advisory Committee, Action Tracks, Champions Network.

1. Summit Leadership

Advisory Committee

In order to provide recommendations to the Secretary General, the Executive Office of the Secretary General has established an Advisory Committee. The Advisory Committee is responsible for providing strategic advice for the preparatory process and guidance to the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the 2021 Food Systems Summit. Its members provide input on key considerations and decisions related to the Summit’s vision, development, and implementation, as well as provide leadership across the areas of action to ensure the Summit achieves its intended outcomes. The Advisory Committee is a multi-stakeholder body of leaders across various technical areas of expertise, constituencies, and capabilities essential to delivering a Summit with a transformational set of outcomes and actionable commitments. It is chaired by the United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Ms. Amina J. Mohammed, and consists of 20 Committee members, including the Executive Heads of the Rome Agencies and Member State representatives. The members were proposed by the Special Envoy and her team and approved by the Deputy Secretary-General. The Advisory Committee has met 8 times before the Summit, each meeting providing an opportunity for the Committee to review progress and provide specific guidance on evolving processes, taking into consideration the input and feedbacks from the various constituency groups, and anticipated process milestones.

UN Task Force

The UN Task Force is responsible for ensuring strategic and coordinated engagement of the UN System through the preparatory process to the Food Systems Summit. Task Force discussions focus on: mutual learning around existing efforts of participating members (in terms of programmes, tools, initiatives, knowledge products), supporting the exchange of knowledge and experience gained through the Summit process and contributing to the development of the Summit follow-up. The extended members’ group of the United Nations’ Executive Committee on Economic and Social Affairs (ECESA plus) was invited to form the UN Task Force on Sustainable Food Systems to ensure the UN System’s cohesive and effective involvement and support around the Food Systems Summit. The Task Force is chaired by Inger Andersen, Executive Director of UNEP. The two Task Force vice-chair agencies are UNDP, leading on the coordination of the Member State Dialogues and country-level engagement, and UNICEF, leading on Communications, Advocacy, and Youth Engagement. The membership includes 170 participants from over 40 UN organisations, FAO, WHO, UNCCD, IFAD and WFP anchor agencies for the Action Tracks and others supporting technically. Membership is open to all entities of the UN system and the Chair represents the Task force on the Summit Advisory Committee. The Task Force has met eight times, including two principal-level meetings and one longer workshop presenting the Action Tracks. The Task Force has engaged with the three Rio Conventions to build momentum and find synergies between other key moments in 2021 and beyond. More specifically, a joint paper was co-created between UNEP and CBD to highlight the synergies between the FSS and the Post-2020 Biodiversity Framework and a Ministerial Roundtable took place at the Pre-Summit to explore how the implementation of the Rio Conventions can support transformations of the food systems while strengthening linkages and impacts of these global agreements.

Scientific Group

The Scientific Group is an independent group of leading researchers and scientists from around the world responsible for ensuring the robustness, breadth and independence of the science that underpins the Summit and its outcomes. The Group brings together applied science-based syntheses and analyses of the trade-offs in the food systems, connecting with other ongoing initiatives and other relevant knowledge to help advance the quality of evidence for future food systems. The Scientific Group is chaired by Professor Joachim von Braun, nominated by the Deputy Secretary-General. The membership is made of 28 internationally renowned experts from academia, international organizations, research centres and others, who have engaged with many other independent experts across various technical fields and regions and who were gathered by the Group’s Chair with support from the FSS Secretariat. The Scientific Group’s Chair serves as a member of the Summit Advisory Committee to ensure that its advice and ideas are fully considered in the Committee recommendations to the Secretary-General. The Scientific Group also works closely with the other structures of the Summit, especially the Special Envoy and Secretariat, the Action Tracks and Dialogue workstream.

2. Support Structures

Action Tracks

Five Action Tracks (ATs) are a core structure of the Summit, they bring together the expertise of many actors from across the world’s food systems with the aim of creating synergies and accelerating existing initiatives aligned to the Summit Vision and principles. The ATs are multi-stakeholder and multisectoral: they constitute an open space for learning and sharing across constituencies, for generating coordinated action, commitments and partnerships stimulating solutions at local, national, regional and global levels. The Tracks are:

  • Ensure Access to Safe and Nutritious Food for All
  • Shift to Sustainable Consumption Patterns
  • Boost Nature-Positive Production
  • Advance Equitable Livelihoods
  • Build Resilience to Vulnerabilities, Shocks, and Stress

Action Tracks structure and engagement: The AT Chairs, Vice-Chairs and members are experts across various fields, they work with a larger leadership group including other stakeholders (Member States, farmers, scientists, youth, private sector, civil society) to ensure that priority areas for action do not sit in silos and to explore how key cross-cutting levers of change can be mobilized to meet the Summit’s objectives. Action Tracks Chairs and Vice-Chairs were identified by the Special Envoy and her team and subsequently approved by the Deputy Secretary-General. The Tracks teams are structured around three levels: a core team (including a scientific group member, a UN anchor agency and the leads of their working groups); a leadership team (including interested Member States regularly meeting to ensure harmonized and integrated progression on their work); open platforms (allowing crowd sourcing of ideas, perspectives and inputs).


ATs membership, selected by the leadership team is inclusive and balanced on geography, skills, gender, age, stakeholder groups and networks.

Action TrackComposition: Leadership Team (LT) Solution Cluster Working Groups (SCWG)
AT 143 member organizations
AT 2113 member organizations
AT 3321 member organizations
AT 480 member organizations
AT 5162 member organizations


Action Tracks deliverables through the Summit process:

  • discussion starters
  • 10 Synthesis Reports (articulating game-changing and systemic solutions for wave 1 and wave 2)
  • More than 2,200 submissions received consolidated into 59 solution Clusters
  • 15 Open Fora and several consultations held
  • Pre-Summit session on the ATs thematic areas

In addition to the five Action Tracks, the Governance Action Area was formed. Governance, across local and national levels has been identified as a cross-cutting action area in that it relates to many of the solutions put forward by the Action Tracks. This Action Area is constituted by three main subgroups: food systems governance, food systems transformation through policy reform and strengthening territorial governance.

Since its formation in May 2021, frequent meetings took place at group level, solution cluster level and among cluster leads, involving approximately 70 persons from different Action Tracks, Levers and other FSS structures.

The Governance AA jointly developed briefs for all three Solution Clusters and a Policy Brief on the overall Governance of FS Transformation.

Levers of Change

The Summit has identified four main Levers of Change which are key for ensuring that food systems transform in a way that allows them to become more sustainable and equitable in the coming decade. They cut across the different Action Tracks and are relevant across the full range of the SDGs. The Levers Custodians were identified by the Special Envoy and her team and were approved by the Deputy Secretary-General.

The Summit Levers of Change are:

  • Innovation: it includes public, private, social sector innovation partners working together to make innovation a significant enabling factor for food systems transformation both in the lead to the Summit and in alignment with the SDGs and the 2030 Agenda. The Lever, chaired by the World Economic Forum in partnership with Mercy Corps, supports innovation around the Summit ATs as well as cross-cutting innovation agendas. The Innovation Lever focuses on four main innovation areas convening experts and organizations in working groups to fast-track transformation by fostering holistic and inclusive innovation. The four areas are: National and Regional Ecosystems; Societal and Institutional Innovation; Knowledge and Technological Innovation; Data and Digital.
  • The Lever’s stakeholders regularly convened throughout a design sprint process and this collaboration has resulted in: a call for collective action, a set of overarching principles to meet the needs of stakeholders within the food systems, working groups-specific action plans (4 working groups for each innovation area are meeting weekly or bi-weekly to define technical, organizational, institutional and political interventions, and guide member states and communities to fast-track food systems transformation through innovation).
  • The work around innovation was presented during two Public Forums, one in February and one in June 2021. Furthermore, a key panel of member states and private sector actors took place at the Pre-Summit, framing the importance of innovation for the improvement of the future food systems.
  • Finance: it focuses on areas which include assessing investment need, incentives, solutions that address inclusion and risk. The Lever aims at addressing the barriers present in the financial systems which restrict capital flows toward more resilient and equitable food systems. The Lever focuses on: repurposing finance to support better food systems, reducing finance that is destroying/degrading food systems, optimising finance to mobilise investment and increase access and scaling public and private finance flowing to better food systems.

    The World Bank was invited to become the Custodian of the Finance Lever, working with the International Food Policy Research Institute and the Food and Land Use Coalition to form the core Lever group. The Lever is led by Martien van Nieuwkoop from the World Bank and since November 2020, it has met on a fortnightly or weekly basis.
  • Among the main milestones, 1 Global Dialogue on Finance took place in June 2021 (engaging 326 participants including governments, MNCs, SMEs, farmers, NGOs, International Finance Institutions) and one Finance Open Forum was also organized in July 2021.
  • The Finance Lever of Change has created a Finance Network for Food Systems (FNFS) with the aim to raise the ambition, build a community amongst finance leaders on food system transformation, and drive action through 2021 and towards the SDGs by scaling up both offer and demand of finance for sustainable food systems. A Food Finance Architecture Policy Brief is also being developed.
  • Human Rights: it focuses on ensuring that Summit processes and the outcomes are rooted in human rights law and principles. Human rights experts from multilateral institutions, including FAO, from academia, and from other sectors, have collectively informed this effort, advancing a systematic understanding of existing human rights policy instruments, legal frameworks, resolutions, and treaties among Summit participants. Human rights are foundational to food system transformation, and the adoption of a human rights-based approach will ultimately enable meaningful post-Summit action and implementation.
  • An ad hoc Human Rights Working Group (composed by ATs members, governance, and human rights experts) was formed prior to the Pre-Summit preparations. The Group helped to ensure that human rights were mainstreamed across the Action Tracks and other aspects of the Summit process.
  • The Group’s members served within the Action Tracks and the Champions Network, to encourage the adoption of a human rights-based approach; Group members also proposed and shaped game-changing solutions that reflected human rights law and principles.
  • Human rights experts presented at a series of events leading up to the Summit, such as AT4 2nd Public Forum, the AT webinars, Civil Society Public Fora, and the Pre-Summit, which featured a human rights panel. Further informational sessions were also organized within the AT Leadership Teams concerning rights, entitlement and responsibility consistent with a human rights-based approach. A Human Rights Policy Brief has also been developed as part of the Summit Compendium.
  • Gender: the objective of the Lever is to ensure that gender issues in food systems are highlighted and integrated into the solutions and actions evolving from the Action Tracks and other processes of the Summit. The Lever custodian is Dr. Jemimah Njuki, gender focal points are present in each of the leadership teams of the Action Tracks and in the Champions Network with a Gender Champion. Gender representatives from IFAD and WFP are also members of the Gender team.
    • The Gender team has met on a bi-weekly basis throughout the period to the Pre-Summit, it has made presentations to the UNFSS Group of Friends on three occasions to update on progress and has participated in regular integration meetings organized by the FSS Secretariat to ensure coordination of gender solutions across the ATs.
    • The Lever developed a discussion starter on ‘Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment in Rapidly Transforming Food Systems’ and has developed a Gender Policy Brief. Several regional gender dialogues took place in Africa, Asia and Latin America and one global dialogue on finance for women food entrepreneurs was also organized. In addition to this, one Open Forum on gender was held in June, a high-level expert session on gender was organized in consultation with the CSM Private Sector Mechanism on the role of women in food companies and the private sector, and a dedicated session on gender took place at the Pre-Summit.

    Champions Network

    The  Champions Network is made of leaders of institutions, mobilizers, enablers and content providers around food systems issues which are of interest for them, for their community and the networks they are connected to. Champions come from the public sector, civil society, the private sector, research communities, indigenous groups, farmer organizations. Since the Summit leadership is committed to developing a Network that is inclusive and representative of all constituencies across food systems and regions of the world, the Network grows and expands over time. The Champions mobilize a broad and diverse range of groups from different regions of the world to call for fundamental transformation of the food systems and they are either appointed by the Special Envoy or nominated through the Champions Network Leadership Team.

    In September 2020, an initial group of Champions was brought together by the Special Envoy and the Summit Secretariat to initiate and lead the Network. They support the Vision and Principles of Engagement and agree to mobilize their networks, to share information, to host and take part in official events or Dialogues bringing forward commitments and actions for the Summit.

    To date, the Network is composed of 109 leaders from more than 50 countries, with a balanced representation from the global North (56) and global South (53), across various stakeholder groups and thematic coverage. The Leadership Group is composed of a Chair (Ruth Richardson, Global Alliance for the Future of Food) who represents the Network to the FSS Advisory Committee and nine Vice-chairs (one each from the youth, indigenous peoples, food producers, civil society, research, and private sector groups as well as from cross-cutting areas of finance, consumption, and gender).

    The Champions Network Leadership Group meets once every two weeks while the full Champions Network meets monthly to update on the Summit process and key outputs coming from the different Summit workstreams.

    • Regular meetings and champions surveys (2 surveys held to evaluate the Champions’ engagement level)
    • Dialogues process: Champions organize and participate to FSS Dialogues. More than 50% of the Champions have been involved in MS Dialogues, 60% of them have (co-)organized and have been involved in Independent Dialogues, many also participated to a Global Dialogue with food producers and other Dialogues on SMEs and Indigenous Peoples
    • Links with Summit structures and workstreams: some Champions participate in the working group on Human Rights, several ATs and Levers members are Champions themselves, some Champions also engage with the Global Hub on Indigenous Peoples’ Food Systems and have contributed to the White paper on Indigenous Peoples Food systems
    • Champions also contribute to communication and outreach (as Podcast Laying Down Tracks, Commentaries and other pieces)

    Integrating Team

    Representatives of the Food Systems Summit support structures and workstreams (Action Tracks Chairs, custodian of the cross-cutting Levers of Change on Human Rights and Law, Gender and women’s empowerment, Finance and Innovation, Chair of the Scientific Group, coordinator of the Food Systems Dialogues, Chair of the United Nations Taskforce, Chair of the Champions’ Network and Chair of the Private Sector Guiding Group) met on a monthly basis to share respective updates and progress, share views on milestones and deliverables and inform the convergence of various workstreams towards the Summit.

    3. Constituency Groups

    Throughout the Summit process, advocacy, communication and mobilization efforts have been made to engage a wide range of constituencies, raise awareness, shape the narrative and inspire action on food systems transformation for the achievement of the SDGs. The communication efforts, in the shape of solid online and media presence, strategic campaigns to drive a global movement toward and beyond the Summit.

    Civil Society

    The Food Systems Summit aims to be an inclusive and participatory space for civil society, thus, it has been fundamental that civil society proactively joined and contributed to the Summit agenda. Civil society has engaged at all levels of the Summit: in the Advisory Committee, Action Tracks, Champions Network, as well as in Dialogues at both regional and country levels.

    The engagement with the constituency has had the objectives of reaffirming the open invitation for civil society organisations to participate with dedicated outreach to key partners and future partners, establishing a mechanism for participation, feedback, and open public consultations and encouraging civil society to proactively engage with local and grassroots organizations to enhance legitimacy and ownership.

    • Series of introductory calls and webinars leading to the formation of the “Civil Society Group of Friends” (about 30-40 NGOs developing a ToR, with the objective to self-organize and advocate on behalf of the civil society interests and meeting nearly monthly throughout the Summit)
    • Nearly 30% participation of civil society in the Action Tracks
    • 3 Civil Society FSS Open Fora (March, May, July 2021) each gathering 500 attendees
    • Civil society was invited to take part to the Action Tracks Open Fora and encouraged to provide inputs by joining them directly or submitting ideas and through the Summit Community Platform

    Food Producers

    Food producers have been engaged in the Summit process to build awareness about the key role of farmers, fishers, pastoralists and all types of food producers in building sustainable and equitable food systems, to identify key support request of producers towards other stakeholders and demonstrate key commitment in transforming the food systems.

    This constituency has been represented in the FSS governance structures and through a dedicated Producer Taskforce of network leaders representing millions of producers worldwide. More specifically, the constituency is made of a diverse group in terms of sector, size and geography: they are farmers, fishers, pastoralists, renderers, and about 10 relevant producer organizations (WFO, AFA, PAFO, SACAU among others), engaged in the Summit process.

    • A producer Task Force was set up and meetings with about 10 relevant producer organizations have taken place once every two weeks since February 2021 for regular updates and discussion (15 meetings convened so far)
    • 3 FSS producer Open Fora (May 2021) with about 370 participants;
    • One producer-led session at the Pre-Summit with over 450 participants (both in-person and virtual)

    Private Sector

    The private sector has been engaged throughout the Summit process to showcase the roles and the responsibilities of both multi-national corporations and small and medium size enterprises (SMEs) in transforming the food systems globally and to guide and demonstrate key commitment from the constituency in accelerating food systems transformation.

    • Private Sector Guiding Group (PSGG) convened by Peter Bakker, President and CEO of WBCSD and Member of the Advisory Committee to represent the constituency at the Summit. It has led the development of The Business Declaration on Food Systems Transformation.
    • 5 CEO consultations organized since September 2020, regularly engaging over 300 companies regarding the Summit process.
    • One global survey conducted with 2,673 SMEs from 137 countries participating One SME Pledge developed and a Best Small Business Competition organized (gathering over 1,700 applications from 135 countries and with 50 final winners).


    The Summit engagement with the youth has the objectives of mobilizing young people worldwide to connect and actively participate in the process, of providing a platform to elevate youth voices and ideas, enhancing their leadership, creating a strong network of self-organizing groups to lead the cause for food systems transformation. Through connections with young influencers, activists and youth-based institutions, the Summit has reached thousands of youth engaging them in different processes as discussions around Action Tracks, dialogues and consultations. 

    • FSS architecture intentionally built to incorporate youth as co-leaders: one youth representative as Vice-Chair in each AT, 10 young people leading as Food Systems Champions and a strong network of young Food Systems Heroes advocating for food systems transformation. A self-organizing Youth Liaisons Group with over 60 youth networks representatives, and nearly 80 youth organizations are part of a loose network supporting the engagement process.
    • Bi-weekly Youth Liaisons Group meetings, monthly Food Systems Summit Champions calls, youth constituency meetings with the FSS Special Envoy and youth Champions monthly meetings with the Deputy-Special Envoy.
    • The #Act4Food #Act4Change campaign was launched in May 2021 together with a global pledge initiative in which youth are committing their support for better food systems.

    Indigenous Peoples

    Indigenous Peoples have been engaged in the Summit process to highlight the importance of indigenous knowledge, traditional practices and technologies on food systems to a global audience and ensure that the world benefits from this knowledge, wisdom and values.

    Indigenous knowledge and practices have evolved over thousands of years to create food systems that are sustainable from environmental, social and economic perspectives. The Summit provides an opportunity to integrate this extensive knowledge into the solutions and actions emerging from the Summit processes. 

    • Indigenous Peoples’ representatives participate in the Leadership Teams of Action Tracks 2, 3 and 4, in the Champions Network and Advisory Committee.
    • Regular meetings (nearly monthly) with Indigenous leaders, FSS Secretariat, FAO and IFAD focal points to update on progress. Technical meetings were organized between the Global Hub on Indigenous Food Systems and the ATs.
    • A Global online Consultation was carried out among indigenous organizations representing 3.5 million people.
    • The Global Hub on Indigenous Peoples’ Food Systems was launched in October 2020 and the Wiphala Paper on Indigenous Peoples’ Food Systems was produced by the Global Hub on Indigenous Peoples with support from FAO Indigenous Peoples Unit (it has been accepted by the FSS Scientific Group as a reference document)

    4. Advocacy, communications, mobilization and UNFSS Community Platform

    Throughout the Summit process, advocacy, communication and mobilization efforts have been made to engage a wide range of constituencies, raise awareness, shape the narrative and inspire action on food systems transformation for the achievement of the SDGs. The communication efforts, in the shape of solid online and media presence, strategic campaigns to drive a global movement toward and beyond the Summit.

    The Summit Communication workstream has reached more than 30 communications departments with the roadshow January-March, managed a communication working group of 15 communication professionals from across the Summit workstreams (Action Tracks, Champions Network, Scientific Group, UN Task Force) and has held monthly meetings with the UN Food Systems Summit communications network, which has more than 400 communications professionals across UN and NGOs.

    Actors engaged through the process converge and gather on the UN Food Systems Summit digital Community Platform. The Platform has provided a universally accessible, dynamic and inclusive space in which information and updates concerning the Summit process, structures and relevant documentation is accessible at all times, and where various communities exchange information, resources and ideas. The Platform is a powerful tool in support of knowledge management across all Summit workstreams, it enables outreach, mobilization and coordination of different stakeholder groups as well as contributions and actions in support of the Summit objectives.

    UNFSS Community Platform 

    The Food Systems Summit Community Platform launched in January 2021 and has grown to a registered user base of over 6,300 active and engaged food system actors, supporting up to 10 languages. The Platform averages more than 7,000 unique visitors per month, peaking to 7,000 unique visitors during the pre-summit. Users share and engage in a range of conversations, on dialogues and official UNFSS activities, with photos and links related food systems content, and discussions on broad topics and particular issues in the food system, just to name a few, with a native mobile app for iPhone and Android launched ahead of the Summit. There are 19 active communities on the Platform, including those for the Action Tracks, Levers of Change and other official entities of the UNFSS, and thematic communities such as youth, private sector and producers, as well as a couple of campaign specific communities for the Bites of Transfoodmation and Youth Act4Food Act4Change. The Platform hosts a document repository for official documentation relating to processes (such as regular Advisory Committee meetings), Action Tracks and solutions. The Solution Clusters repository is also hosted on the Platform, accounting for all of the clusters and solutions formed throughout the process. The Platform also showcases several pledges for the private sector and announced the winners of the best small business competition. As we get closer to the Summit the commitments registry has also been launched to capture commitments from various multistakeholders (individuals and organizations), which will be made publicly available.