As the world strives to feed a growing population in the face of declining natural resources and ongoing food security crises, commitment from policymakers to a sustainable food future is more important than ever. Argentina’s G20 Presidency has set sustainability and food security as a top priority for this year’s upcoming Ministerial Meeting, and these priorities were also focus of the recent T20 (Think 20) Summit, held in Buenos Aires in September 2018.

At this summit, the T20 Presidency presented 20 public policy recommendations in a Communiqué which was handed to the current president of the G20, President Macri of Argentina. The document (based in part on a series of policy briefs produced by the Think20 engagement task forces) emphasizes the need for international cooperation and political commitment to address the world’s multi-faceted, multilateral challenges, including climate change, food security, trade and technology, inequality, and needed investment in infrastructure for development. Three of these proposals, based on briefs produced by T20 Task Force 3, focus on food security and sustainable agriculture through establishing sustainable food systems, fostering investment in agricultural and food systems research and development, promoting healthier consumer habits, and reducing food loss and waste.

Food and nutrition security – specifically the eradication of malnutrition (both undernourishment and obesity) play a large role in these three proposals. The Communique calls on the G20 to lead the way in developing a global food system that meets consumers’ nutritional needs. This will include promoting public-private dialogue to establish agreed-upon rules and best practices for the global food system, as well as better harmonizing and coordinating private sector voluntary nutrition and food safety standards.

The recommendations also aim to promote the environmental sustainability of food systems, including through the establishment of ecosystem management programs through public-private partnerships. These programs should provide incentives for investment in the development and diffusion of innovative technologies and practices for more environmentally sustainable agricultural production. The T20 further recommends creating a project-preparation facility for this purpose to overcome existing hurdles to define and prioritize investment projects. To support diffusion of improved technologies, the T20 also called for increased investment in rural infrastructure to improve access to markets and knowledge, particularly among rural smallholders in low-income countries.

The T20 further proposes establishing an international consortium to better monitor agricultural total factor productivity worldwide and address current inconsistencies between existing estimates, so as to contribute to more reliable assessments of the future supply-side challenges to food and agriculture.

The proposals also call for stepping up efforts to reduce food loss and waste along supply chains through incentives for investments in improved (cooled and dry) storage, transportation, and other infrastructure in developing countries, as well as through education campaigns targeted at consumers. In addition, the T20 emphasizes the need for harmonization of methods to measure food loss and waste so as to enhance understanding of the nature and magnitude of the problem among policymakers, private sector agents, and development experts.

Finally, the T20 leadership recognizes the need for reforming the multilateral trading system to address many countries’ growing concerns about the perceived adverse influence of global market forces on their economies. The Communiqué recommends the elimination of certain trade barriers and distortions and the adjustment of others, aiming to make the global trading system more transparent, efficient, and equitable. The adjustments should pay special attention to ways to promote greater integration of small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in regional and global food value chains. As part of this recommendation, the T20 suggests the establishment of a special group of major net food importers and net food exporters within the framework of the WTO. This group would exchange relevant and timely information on production, consumption, and trade-related policies to avoid shocks to global markets that can erode confidence in the world trade system.

The G20 continues to play a pivotal role in the promotion of economic stability and growth around the world. However, one of the major takeaway messages of the Communique is that business-as-usual is not an option – the current challenges faced by the global community require urgent collaborative action founded on evidence-based policy recommendations.

By: Sara Gustafson, IFPRI

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