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The global food and economic crises have driven tens of millions more people into food insecurity, leaving 925 million living in hunger today. Shortfalls and volatility in global food supplies and prices will likely intensify due to rising demand for food, energy, increased costs of production and intensified climate change.

Food insecurity can be mitigated through policy reform, targeted investment and innovation aimed at increasing production and access to food. Achieving a large-scale impact requires coordination across a complex landscape of issues and stakeholders. Although, historically, efforts at food security have suffered from insufficient investment and coordination, new initiatives, funding and partnerships are creating momentum.

The World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Food Security seeks to build a common agenda, to help raise awareness, leverage support for priority actions and develop synergies to strengthen the global response to this challenge. The Council meets once a year at the Summit on the Global Agenda in the United Arab Emirates and via four to five virtual meetings by teleconference throughout its term. In addition, there is strong cross-council interaction on related topics including climate change, water, energy, poverty reduction, and region-specific councils to build on links and synergy.

Insights and Impacts


During the 2011-2012 term, members of the Global Agenda Council on Food Security have (a) deepened their areas for strategic focus and advisory support of the Forum’s New Vision for Agriculture initiative; (b) strengthened and enlarged networks of key stakeholders; (c) pursued an expanded strategy for events at global level including the G20 food security agenda and Rio+20. The Council members have contributed to transformative change in national agriculture sectors through public-private collaboration, especially in Africa; within inter-governmental negotiations and as part of the international movement for sustainable agriculture and food systems within the Rio+20.

The Council has played an important advisory role in the Forum’s New Vision for Agriculture initiative, which works to transform agriculture, while simultaneously improving food security, environmental sustainability and economic opportunity worldwide. Led by 28 global companies in collaboration with 14 governments, and a wide range of international organizations, civil society, academic and farmers’ organizations, the initiative has set concrete goals to achieve this vision through targeted investment, greater collaboration, and improved efficiency; balancing growth with sustainability. The initiative has outlined the role that the private sector can play in realizing sustainable agriculture through multi-stakeholder partnerships. Over the past three years this Council has played a significant role in advising and supporting the initiative, which has been a strong factor in its success. In the 2011-12 term, in line with the framework of the New Vision, this Council made achieving insight and agenda-setting issues priorities; seeking to identify accelerators, moving from “what” to “how”.

At the invitation of the French Presidency of the G20, a group of private-sector leaders formed a CEO Working Group on Food Security, coordinated by the Forum, to contribute recommendations and action proposals areas of increasing investment, improving markets, expanding access to technology and R&D, ensuring environmental sustainability and meeting nutritional needs, to the G20 on its 2011 food security agenda. The Global Agenda Council on Food Security played a pivotal role in the success of this process by advising on content and leveraging links and synergy enabling the Forum to engage directly with the French Government and the official inter-governmental process of the G20 food security agenda.

In the 2011-2012 term, this council deepened its strategic focus in three areas:

a. Food and nutrition security by investing in sustainable agriculture and food systems. The Council adopted an integrated approach (i.e. nexus of topics), recognizing the interdependence of access to water, food, energy and land, and advocating economic analysis, multi-stakeholder action and governance that takes these into account. The Council championed sustainable increases in productivity and more resilient farmer livelihoods in ways that are environmentally sound and climate smart, contributing to reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and increased carbon sequestration.

b. Maximizing the nutritional impact of investments in agriculture and food security: Council members recognized that the amount, quality and stability of nutrients delivered through agriculture and food systems are an important determinant of people’s nutrition. They sought practical ways through which governments, businesses, farmers’ organizations and other stakeholders could better link their policies and actions for agriculture, nutrition and health.

c. Improving links between smallholder agriculture and commercial production systems: This is a critical and often neglected step in the effort to help smallholders obtain investment capital, increase incomes, improve resilience, manage risk and access decent opportunities for employment.

 Key achievements in the 2011-2012 term

  • Council members engaged with ever-widening groups of stakeholders across the range of sectors that relate to sustainable systems for food production including water, energy, environment, climate and population. Council members pursued these strategic issues with a number of influential organizations to which they have access. These included research consortia (such as the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research); think-tanks (including the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, the UK Royal Institute for International Affairs); United Nations’ processes (the High-Level Task Force on Global Food Security and Advisory Group of the Committee on World Food Security) and international initiatives such as the World Food Prize symposium and the Bonn conference on the Water-Food-Energy Nexus, both in 2011.
  • Council members contributed to transformative change at country level by expanding the reach and depth of the New Vision for Agriculture initiative. The Council contributed to the report, Putting the New Vision for Agriculture into Action: A Transformation is Happening, launched by the initiative at the 2012 World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerland. The Grow Africa partnership, generated by the New Vision for Agriculture in collaboration with the African Union and the New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD) Commission, as well as some African governments and companies, seeks to catalyse intensive engagement of businesses, government, farmers’ organizations and civil society in principled frameworks for increasing investment. These include multi-stakeholder partnerships designed to improve smallholder productivity in a sustainable way, with a strong focus on sustainable increases in productivity including gender and nutrition, green growth, value chains and links between smallholder producers and markets. There has been substantive progress in commitments from all stakeholders in the vanguard Grow Africa countries in 2012.
  • Council members contributed to the transformation of strategies for sustainable investment in agriculture and food systems. Taking advantage of the Network of Global Agenda Councils’ meeting in October 2011, members of the Council on Food Security engaged with the Councils on Water, Energy and Climate Change (joining those working on environment, population and sustainable consumption) to establish a new narrative for connecting policies on food, water energy and climate, so linking environmental social and economic dimensions of agriculture and food security. This broadened narrative has helped to weld together the three pillars of sustainability: it ensures that strategic thinking about the Nexus is given a practical application within the United Nations and other global forums. The strategic transformation, nurtured by the Forum and supported by the Council, is set to encourage a much wider array of stakeholders to focus on implementable actions for sustainability in the preparations for the Rio+20 Summit and follow-up .
  • The Council is now part of a multi-stakeholder effort, championed by Brazil, to create platforms on which multiple actors can contribute to implementing the new narrative on sustainability at local, national and global levels in ways that complement the official intergovernmental processes.

The Council has taken advantage of the broadened narrative on food security, nutrition and sustainability; the engagement of a much wider array of stakeholders in food and nutrition security (made possible through interactive and task-oriented sessions at World Economic Forum Annual and Regional Meetings); and the transformational multi-stakeholder partnerships, supported by the Grow Africa partnership and the New Vision for Agriculture initiative. This has enabled the Global Agenda Council on Food Security, working with other Councils, to contribute to agricultural transformation through key political processes and in particular the G20 and the G8 agendas on food security.

Next steps

In the coming year the Global Agenda Council on Food Security will encourage

  1. Continued integration of food and nutrition security within the sustainable development nexus, recognizing the complementary areas of green growth, environmental sustainability and agricultural productivity.
  2. Innovations in the agriculture, water, and energy sectors that contribute to increased productivity, adaptive buffers against emerging challenges and enhanced nutritional value of food crops ¬¬¬all at the heart of approaches to green agriculture.
  3. Accounting for the full costs of food production and processing through the use of new metrics to evaluate the costs and benefits of using natural resources in food production, to assess the social and environmental costs of different systems (including the impact on climate change and health), and to establish incentives for both producers and consumers to adopt resource-saving technologies and practices (including sustainable diets, an end to biofuel mandates and environmentally damaging subsidies, and reductions in waste and losses along food value chains).
  4. Building human capacity to design and implement strategies for sustainable agriculture and food systems that protect natural resources, including institutions for the design, implementation, monitoring, and evaluation of policies related to food and nutrition security, and use of natural resources.
  5. Engagement of multiple stakeholders through principled people, public-private partnerships that benefit smallholder farmers and their organizations through incentives for effective and sustainable investment, harnessing and building expertise, fostering innovation through better risk management and the engagement of civil society.


The opinions expressed here are those of the individual members of the Council, and not of the World Economic Forum or any institutions to which they are affiliated.