The Blue Pacific has spent the better part of the last year gearing up for The UN Food Systems Summit (UNFSS) held on September 23 in New York. SPC has been supporting member countries as they prepare for the Summit, and engaging with UN agencies, civil society, and youth to support a broad dialogue and strong evidence base for the Summit. The Summit seeks to launch bold new actions to transform the way the world produces, consumes and thinks about food to contribute to all 17 Sustainable Development Goals.
The Pacific region has a unique place in the global food system. Our shared Blue Pacific identity connects our diverse cultures and ways we manage our food systems. Between 50 – 70 percent of Pacific people depend on agriculture and fishing activities for their livelihoods and the region contributes up to 50 percent of the global tuna catch. Pacific nations continue to sustainably manage this catch, making a significant contribution to the global food supply chain.
Despite its diverse and rich contributions to global food systems, the region continues to be challenged by health burdens such as having some of the world’s highest rates of non-communicable diseases, and malnutrition – burdens that are magnified by COVID-19 and climate change. Climate change already significantly impacts the Pacific food system, particularly agriculture, and will continue to do so. More immediately, the COVID-19 pandemic has considerably affected Pacific food exports. Lockdowns and a reduction in tourism have continued to impact communities supplying food to local markets.
However, in the face of these challenges, the region is rapidly moving to develop solutions that take a systems approach to manage food. At SPC, we are working with our member countries and other partners by developing innovative solutions that link agriculture, health, coasts and oceans, forests, and consumers. Through a growing Integrated Programme in Food Systems that will be embedded in the upcoming 10-year Strategy, SPC is designing new projects and activities to work toward a future where everyone in the Pacific is well nourished by food systems that are accessible, regenerative, equitable and resilient to shocks.
Commitment to this vision is being demonstrated in preparation for the global summit in New York. SPC has facilitated a regional intergovernmental dialogue on food systems through a process that involved over 300 participants and produced two publications that highlight the current state and solutions for transforming future food systems. Food systems discussions have also been central to recent Heads of Agriculture and Forestry Services (HOAFS) and Heads of Fisheries (HOF) meetings for the Pacific. SPC has played an active role in the Blue Foods discussions, emphasising the role that ocean and aquatic foods can play in sustainably transforming food systems and strengthening Pacific countries.
The discussions highlighted solutions that integrate culture, traditional knowledge and science, economics, trade, and innovation to move the region toward sustainable and resilient food systems while navigating climate change threats and non-communicable diseases. They also emphasised the central role of the Ocean in the region’s contribution to the global food system, in addition to the critical role of blue foods for nutrition and prosperity in the region.
Beyond the Food Systems Summit, SPC stands ready to support its member countries in the transformation of their food systems and to complement resilient food systems for the future that contribute positively to health, environmental, social and livelihood outcomes for the Pacific.