Science and Data for Healthy, Sustainable & Equitable Outcomes, at the United Nations

On Wednesday, April 12, the President of the General Assembly Csaba Kőrösi hosted a day-long Special Plenary Science Briefing for the General Assembly, in the Trusteeship Council Chamber at United Nations Headquarters in New York. The event was remarkable in part because the entire day was focused on one worthy, practical, and world-building goal: establishing a new and trusted mechanism for delivering science-based insights and data to decision-makers, as a routine part of the business of the General Assembly.

Ensuring all nations have ready access to the best available scientific data, one speaker said, would allow diplomats to “elucidate and clarify their positions”. The goal of achieving that kind of evidence-based clarification of facts, interests, and positions, would be to get beyond entrenched politics and focus on work that improves lives and makes peace among nations more accessible and more durable.

Olav Kjørven, the EAT Foundation’s Senior Director of Strategy and incoming Chief Executive Officer—and a former Assistant Secretary-General at the United Nations Development Programme—presented the EAT-Lancet Commission 2.0 and offered its work as a contribution to improved, science-based policy deliberations and negotiations at the UN. Open global consultations will feed stakeholder insights into the work of the Commission. He also presented the work of the Good Food Finance Network, including its effort towards building integrated data systems to enable responsible investment and policy decisions, and its ongoing work to create a cooperative financing platform anchored in the best available science, to drive food systems transformation.

Dr. Ravi Kanbur, Co-Chair of the Food System Economics Commission shared some of the core insights emerging from the Commission’s work. The most salient is that the benefits of transitioning to an alternative pathway for food systems far outweigh the costs. Another is that a Global Fund for Food Systems Transformation may be required to drive the necessary systemic shift of capital flows into food systems. 

The logic behind the cooperative financing platform for food systems transformation is as follows: 

  • The platform will serve as both a financial mechanism and a coordinating mechanism, across multilateral, public, private and philanthropic finance.
  • It will leverage integrated data systems to support steadily increasing investments that meet multidimensional performance criteria, to catalyze the transition to healthy, climate-resilient, nature-positive, and inclusive food systems.
  • The Integrated Data Systems Initiative, linked to the platform and supported by the Good Food Finance Network, will produce a blueprint others can use, and then begin exploratory integrations in 2024.

Integrative and holistic action across sustainable development priorities can improve public finances, by reducing hidden costs and supporting investments that deliver cascading co-benefits. Data is critical, both for sustaining evidence-based decision-making and for consolidating sustainable development gains. $1 dollar invested in data has been assessed to deliver $32 in returns.

The day-long science symposium concluded with an important breakthrough—the announcement by the President of the General Assembly, and by three founding member states, of a new Group of Friends on Science for Action. The Group is open to all member states, and will support the development of mechanisms for delivering science-based evidence and data into deliberations of the General Assembly.

The Good Food Finance Network is also represented at the Spring Meetings of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, where core partners and supporting partner institutions are meeting to identify best-case pathways for establishing this new good food finance acceleration mechanism. Cooperative de-risking and co-investment strategies could play a critical role in the reform of sovereign debt arrangements and international financial institutions.

The next opportunity for direct follow-up on this convergence of science, food, finance, and multilateral cooperation is Good Food Finance Week. GFFN partners will host sessions on public finance, private sector investment, data systems, landscapes, cities, and more.

Over the coming months, the effort to design this first-of-its-kind good food finance scaling mechanism will feed into the AIM for Climate Summit, the mid-year United Nations Climate Change negotiations, the Food Systems Summit stocktaking moment, the 7th Global Environment Facility Assembly, and discussions around food, climate, and financing for development linked to the UN General Assembly, with the aim of achieving a finance breakthrough at the COP28 UN Climate Change Conference in Dubai.

Published by GFFN Secretariat

The Good Food Finance Network Secretariat is comprised of the convening core partner organizations’ dedicated team members, who share responsibility for coordinating the Network and its activities. The convening core partners are EAT, FAIRR, Food Systems for the Future, UNEP, and WBCSD.

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