Voices Wanted: Leland Fellows Seek Local Input for UN Food Systems Dialogue

Leland, Updates

Fellows from the 10th Class of the Mickey Leland International Hunger Fellowship are hosting an Independent Dialogue in advance of the UN Food Systems Summit on June 16, 2021 from 12 to 1:30 pm GMT. Through this dialogue, the fellows hope to bring together people involved in humanitarian assistance and development at a local level, and to improve the representation and empowerment of local leadership in achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The fellows are seeking assistance from the Hunger Center’s network to invite local leaders, community experts, community members and other representatives to attend. If you are interested in inviting a colleague or participating yourself, please RSVP below by June 9, 2021.


In September 2021, U.N Secretary-General António Guterres will convene the UN Food Systems Summit (UNFSS) as part of the Decade of Action to achieve the SDGs by 2030. The Summit aims to launch innovative, new actions that will move the needle on the 17 SDGs, all of which rely, at least partly, on more sustainable and equitable food systems.

The UNFSS is guided by five action tracks and will bring together key players of science, business, policy, healthcare, academia, farmers, indigenous peoples, youth organizers, environmental activists, and others. The action tracks offer stakeholders from various backgrounds a space to share and learn to foster new actions and partnerships, and to amplify existing initiatives. The action tracks are designed to address the intersection of concepts such as food and nutrition equity, climate, sustainable consumption patterns and market development, and draw on the expertise of actors across food systems.

The Dialogues

Independent dialogues are an opportunity to bring more voices to the table and influence how the SDGs are to be achieved. To elevate the voices of people who are most directly impacted by development and humanitarian initiatives, Mickey Leland International Hunger Fellows from the 10th class will facilitate an independent dialogue that is open to development and humanitarian implementers, local leaders, and community members. Field and extension officers, national and local governments, and companies interested in providing contextual perspectives for how humanitarian and development strategies impact communities are also welcome.

Fellows are asking Hunger Fellow alums to help promote the dialogue by inviting local leaders, community experts, community members and other representatives to attend. The fellows encourage alums to invite leaders you have worked with, in and from the communities you serve. Encouraging a diverse and expansive pool of voices will help improve the representation and empowerment of local leadership in influencing SDG action.

Some organizations have expressed concerns about the summit’s bypassing of existing structures for discussing the future of food systems, such as the Committee on World Food Security (CFS). CFS’s existing structures include a comprehensive commitment to the Right to Food, mechanisms for involving civil society and the private sector on their own terms, and a panel of experts providing cutting-edge reports. Other concerns include corporate influence on the summit’s preparation, lack of a human rights foundation, exclusion of indigenous knowledge, and unclear decision-making processes.

However, engaging with the UNFSS also provides opportunities. The summit will raise food systems transformation higher on international and national agendas. It is supported by many organizations and people from different backgrounds and regions within the action tracks and the Champions Network. The outcomes of the summit could provide a foundation for future policy and funding decisions of member states by kick-starting discussions and getting media attention. By holding an independent dialogue, the Leland Fellows can offer a platform for voices normally not heard and bring in input and feedback from underrepresented and vulnerable groups.

The Format

The independent dialogue will be open to any of the five action tracks to allow people to bring their own interests and individual roles within the food system to the table. After gathering topics of interest and the participant’s background, the fellows will create smaller break out groups to allow for more focused discussions. Planned independent dialogues by other organizations have ranged from transforming food systems in Malawi to achieve Zero Hunger to integrating “blue food” into the UNFSS agenda. You can see more past and planned dialogues on the UNFSS website. Possible examples of topics within each of the five action tracks include:


Action Track Example Topic for Discussion
1. Ensure Safe and Nutritious Food for All Foodborne illnesses
2. Shift to healthy and sustainable consumption pattern Reducing food waste
3. Boost Nature-Positive Food Production at Scale Restoring degraded food production ecosystems
4. Advance equitable livelihoods The role of indigenous peoples in local food systems
5. Build Resilience to Vulnerabilities, Shocks and Stresses Food security in emergency contexts


Interested in inviting someone to participate or interested in participating, yourself? Please RSVP by June 19, 2021. For more information on the UNFSS or the dialogues, please contact Leland Fellow Daniel Myers at [email protected]

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