Credits UN Women
Published on October 13, 2023

Transforming Global Food Systems

Our current unsustainable food systems are both among the main drivers and the result of the many interconnected crises facing the world today. While up to 828 million people were affected by hunger in 2021, they contribute up to 80 per cent of biodiversity loss use up to 70 per cent of freshwater, and account for a staggering US$12 trillion in hidden social, economic, and environmental costs. At the same time, economic, climate and political shocks cause stress to agriculture, forestry, fisheries, and aquaculture systems thereby hindering efforts for people to realize their right to food and access the nutrition they need while one-third of all food produced continues to be lost or wasted. With projections indicating that by 2030, 575 million people will still live in extreme poverty (the greatest share in rural areas) and nearly 670 million people will still suffer hunger, the situation is unlikely to improve in the foreseeable future. Food systems must urgently transform to adapt in multiple ways to continuing shocks in multiple settings.

The transformation of food systems entails profound shifts but also an enormous potential to generate multiplier effects, acting as catalysts for broader transformation across multiple systems and SDGs. By reimagining and redesigning our food systems, we can address pressing challenges and unlock opportunities for progress in other areas. The Fund aims to support countries to steer national transitions towards sustainable, resilient, inclusive and healthy food systems, building on and maintaining the Food Systems Summit momentum throughout the Decade of Action on the Global Goals.

"The Joint SDG Fund’s Window on Food Systems, being launched today, is our effort to tackle the support needed to address this lack of funding and turn the situation around. It will bring to life a Food Systems Investment Strategy, supported by the UN and the National Food Systems Convenors. This will catalyse the rapid and system-wide action needed for food system transformation under the UN Food Systems Hub."

- Amina Mohammed, UN Deputy Secretary-General


In particular, it will build on the network of more than 150 National Convenors, the more than 120 national food systems transformation pathways and the global ecosystem of support including Coalitions of Action and multistakeholder networks, birthed by the Food SystemsSummit and supported by the Food Systems Coordination Hub.

By sustaining high-level political momentum to transform food systems for the SDGs, consolidating national food system governance mechanisms (policies, institutions, and coordination structures), closing the implementation gap, reshaping the national food finance architecture, and harnessing knowledge, lessons and communication on progress to accelerate engagement, the Fund’s thematic approach to food systems will drive transitions towards food systems that deliver for people, the planet, and our common prosperity.

Russia’s aggressive attack on Ukraine is one of the multiple factors that have pushed over 117 million people into food deprivation since 2019, including already high fertilizer prices, droughts and shattered economies after COVID-19.



In Georgia, the UN Resident Coordinator led UNDP, FAO, the UN Economic Commission for Europe and ILO in carrying out a multi-dimensional analysis of food and energy prices and their impact on vulnerable people and small businesses to support policy and decision-making in response to the crisis. A new analytical tool will now enable relevant state institutions within the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development and the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Agriculture to conduct a rapid assessment of the impact of changes in key food and energy prices on the vulnerable.


In Zimbabwe, the United Nations Country Team (UNCT) supported the Government to build a robust monitoring system building on IOM’s Displacement Tracking Matrix and WFP’s Hunger Map, to address information gaps on the impact of the global stressors to food and internal displacement. The analysis provided by IOM, WFP, and FAO facilitated Government decisions to provide better social services to vulnerable populations including IDPs suffering from rising food and energy prices.


A nation's food systems transition can only take place if it fully and measurably redresses the food insecurity that is disproportionately experienced by the most vulnerable. In Malawi, the UN Resident Coordinator and UN Country Team contributed towards the enhancement of Malawi’s broader institutional capacity by enabling the government to elaborate its social protection strategy, including critical financing and budgetary inputs. WFP, UNICEF, and ILO supported the Government in leveraging social protection services by integrating social cash transfers, school meals and village savings and loans. The UN's technical assistance enabled the Government to leverage the Social Protection system to reach heightened food needs over the 2020/2021 lean season, igniting linkages and coordination between humanitarian and Social Protection sectors and ensuring that future emergency food assistance is provided. The UN supported development of Standard Operating Procedures for expanding the social protection system, rolled out a national Management Information System for Emergencies (e-MIS) as well as enabled e-payments in rural areas. Increased unconditional cash transfers ensured that over 6,400 shock-affected and vulnerable households could access emergency food assistance. Almost 90% of boys and girls in those households were able to remain in school throughout the lean season, potentially breaking intergenerational poverty and ensuring resilient livelihoods.


In Armenia, the UN provides analytical and capacity-building support to contribute to the development of coherent financing frameworks for the allocation of adequate public and private resources in key areas, including food systems. The country’s first comprehensive multi-year assessment of market functionality and supply chain dynamics as well as public expenditure reviews has unpacked financing gaps while exploring opportunities for national food security investments. A set of feasibility studies and policy analyses of food value chains presented a holistic review of the policy environment for food and agriculture investment, enabling Armenia’s new National Food Security Strategy (2022-2025) and action plan to be developed and cost with targets aligned with the SDGs. It is estimated that implementation of the strategy requires US$66.5 million from the state budget, international donor organizations and the private sector. As the first strategy that clarifies the roles and responsibilities of each involved government institution in ensuring Food Security, it offers Armenia the opportunity to not only enhance the effectiveness of service provision but also align with private sector investors entering their market.


The Joint SDG Fund's joint programmes are under the prestige leadership of the Resident Coordinator Office and implementing United Nations Agencies. With sincere appreciation for the contributions from the European Union and Governments of Denmark, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Monaco, The Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and our private sector funding partners, for a transformative movement towards achieving the SDGs by 2030.