Renowned experts urge action as global nutritional rights are threatened
November 22nd, Stockholm. The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences and The Swedish Institute for Global Health Transformation (SIGHT) welcomed students, researchers, and governmental and non-governmental stakeholders to this year’s Global Health Night event, tackling food security challenges in conflict.
National and international experts from leading institutions including the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Médecins sans Frontières (MSF), and Stockholm Resilience Center discussed how food systems must be strengthened to endure the challenges of climate change, climate extremes, and geopolitical conflicts. Before the speakers took to the floor, Johan Bengtsson-Palme was awarded the Einhorn SIGHT award 2022 by Helena Nordenstedt, one of the evening’s moderators, for his work in investigating the environmental aspect of antimicrobial resistance.
“Currently, we are well off track to meet most nutrition targets, both dealing with underweight, and obesity”, Lynette Neufeld, Director of the Food and Nutrition Division at FAO pointed out. The number of countries entering food crises is increasing, she explained, driven both by conflict and coexisting drivers, like the climate crisis. Anneli Eriksson, former president of MSF Sweden and current research specialist at Karolinska Institutet, echoed Neufeld’s concerns: “Malnutrition leaves people vulnerable to death by nine-fold. This is particularly frustrating since malnutrition is treatable and has a fast recovery time, but too often intervention comes too late.”
Both experts stressed the importance of looking at the underlying structures of the food system, addressing inequities, policy, protection of rights, and safeguarding vulnerable groups. Speaker Omnia El Omrani, Youth Envoy for the 27th Conference of the Parties (COP27), encouraged youth engagement in pushing food and nutrition goals in agriculture, alongside current agendas focusing on economic crops and Global trade.
The transition to a more sustainable food system was at the core of the panel discussion. Line Gordon of the Stockholm Resilience Center, warned that governmental and corporate entities are still not doing enough to transition to sustainable food systems given its challenging complexity and domination by monoculture. Luckily, Mattias Frumerie, the head of delegation to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), said “COP27 has shown some progress in starting these discussions but the world is entering a time of rapidly increasing vulnerability and uncertainty.” As panelists Linet Mutisya and Joseph Llewelyn suggested, both NGOs and food tech companies can help by holding important roles in the dissemination of information and the development of innovative interventions.
Ultimately, what is at stake are the nutritional rights that contribute to life and health. Challenges and tensions between corporations, governmental entities, and civil society on the topic of food security influence and threaten the current food system. Peter Friberg, director of SIGHT, concluded by asking, “Fossil fuel lobbyists were present more than ever at COP27, how do we deal with that? How do we develop policy across sectors that manages the threat of conflict and climate crisis?” Friberg went on to sum up the takeaway from the evening in two words: not enough.
With that, the moderators of the evening, Blanca Paniello Castillo and Emma Bergman Karlsson thanked the speakers, panelists, and over 25 student volunteers that helped make the event a success. Another edition of the Global Health Night will be held next year, with the topic yet to be determined.