Reconfiguring Food Systems Governance: The UNFSS and the Battle Over Authority and Legitimacy

Matthew Canfield, Jessica Duncan, Priscilla Claeys

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)
62 Downloads (Pure)


The UN Food Systems Summit was an ambitious and hotly contested event that brought competing approaches to global food governance into relief. In this article, we unpack the rival visions that circulate around how food systems should be governed, focusing on two issues that we feel are at the heart of these divergences: authority and legitimacy. We illustrate how both corporate-philanthropic and food sovereignty networks are struggling to establish epistemic authority of food systems as well as produce legitimacy through very different approaches to participation and accountability.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)181–191
Number of pages11
Issue number3-4
Early online date13 Oct 2021
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021

Bibliographical note

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Funding Information:
The leadership of the Summit was selected by the UN Deputy Secretary-General. It was given the prerogative to frame the issues discussed, design the structure of the Summit, hire staff, and invite experts to participate in the UNFSS. The Summit’s two most important leaders, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy and the Chair of the Scientific Committee were both deeply embedded in the corporate-philanthropic network that has promoted market-based and technology-driven approaches to food systems. The former, Dr. Agnes Kalibata, was simultaneously the President of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The latter, Joachim von Braun, served as a member of the World Economic Forum’s Council on Food Security from 2008–2011 and continues to serve simultaneously as the co-Chair of the Programs Committee of AGRA. Together, Kalibata and von Braun developed a structure and process for the Summit that bypassed existing institutions.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021, Society for International Development.


  • Multilateralism
  • Multi-stakeholderism
  • Multilateralism · Multi-stak UN Committee on World Food Security
  • UN Committee on World Food Security

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Development


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