“The role of law, regulation and policy in meeting 21st century challenges to the food supply”

 

Attended by Amy Lawton from WESTIR Limited 

1 – 4 November 2016

 

The inaugural Food Governance Conference was held at University of Sydney by Sydney Law School and The George Institute for Global Health from 1-4 November 2016. The conference explored the role of law, regulation and policy in promoting food security and safety as well as improving nutrition and preventing obesity and non-communicable diseases. It also engaged with issues related to equity and justice in the food supply, with a strong focus on diet-related health in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. The conference aimed to highlight the interrelationships between the main challenges facing the global food system in the twenty first century and create new opportunities for collaboration and debate between researchers, practitioners and policy makers across all disciplines to debate this important topic.

The conference program can be viewed here: http://sydney.edu.au/law/health/food_governance/conference_program.shtml

 

Keynote Speakers

Day 1: Food and cancer: A game of give and take

(Dr Alessandro Demaio, Medical Officer for non-communicable conditions and nutrition, World Health Organization)

 

Dr Demaio spoke about the United Nation’s work in the field of nutrition, with an increased emphasis on the field with the recent launch of the UN Decade of Action on Nutrition. He highlighted that policy was now considering all forms of malnutrition, from underweight to obesity. With nutrition having a major impact on the likelihood of developing cancer, Dr Demaio argued that this is a powerful narrative for engaging the public and other influencers on non-communicable diseases. He also outlined policy responses by the food industry and highlighted the growing interest in public policy for advancing public health.

 

Day 1: The three biggest challenges facing the food system, and how we fix them (Professor Corinna Hawkes, Director, Centre for Food Policy, City University, London)

 

Professor Hawkes’ talk was based on the argument that the biggest challenge facing our food system was that our decision-making processes are not fit for purpose for developing food solutions. The three core challenges were that (1) policies are disconnected and incoherent so decision makers are multiplying the problems rather than solving them and are disconnected from people’s lived experiences; (2) The language of decision-making is confusing and exclusionary with different languages used in different spaces so decision makers cannot understand each other; and (3) Leadership lacks curiosity and courage to identify the noise of solutions and make decisions about how to manage this diversity. She proposed some simple steps towards decision-making processes, including:

  • Appointing food policy connectors to connect and cohere decision-making,  
  • Create spaces of deliberation where policy-makers, civil society, industry, people affected by problems discuss, define, reflect, learn and redefine decisions about the food system (reflexive governance).
  • Work together to develop a common language to talk about people’s experience of problems in context, their drivers, their solutions, as the basis for decisions.
  • Humanise the food system with inclusive leadership that starts with people’s lives for a people centred approach.

 

Day 2: The governance challenges and potential solutions for obesity prevention (Professor Boyd Swinburn, University of Auckland and Deakin University)

 

Professor Swinburn outlined the governance challenges and potential solutions for obesity prevention. He outlined that every region in the world is trending towards the obesity epidemic, with obesity prevention policy implementation being patchy. The reasons for the patchy implementation included food industry actions, lack of government leadership and weak governance systems, conflicts of interest, belief in market solutions and lack of sufficient public demand for policies. He suggested that all stakeholders need to hold each other to account and proposed a model where governance systems were at the centre to increase balance, accountability and transparency.

 

Day 3: Learning from failure: why good food policy needs good food governance

(Professor Corinna Hawkes, Director, Centre for Food Policy, City University, London)

 

Professor Hawkes outlined that food governance are the structures and decision-making processes that affect and shape the food system. Using her experiences of developing policies on food marketing for children, she suggested that good food governance requires the following elements: connection and coherence, learning and listening, inclusive leadership leading to effective decision-making and a shared vision of knowing what you want to achieve.


Paper Sessions

 

Amy attended the following sessions throughout the three-day conference:

  • Chilean anti-obesity initiatives – what Australia can learn (Andrea Western, National Health Foundation WA Branch)
  • Understanding obesity prevention policy decision-making: A case study of Healthy Together Victoria using political science and complex systems theory (Brydie Clarke, Deakin University)
  • HealthyLaws: Community views on the role of regulation and law in obesity prevention for children (Jackie Street and Annette Braunack-Mayer, University of Adelaide)
  • Managing conflicts of interest in food policy making and implementation (Katrin Engelhardt, WHO Regional Office for the Western Pacific)
  • Regulation and policy to reduce salt in Samoa: Process evaluation of an intervention research project (Jacqui Webster, The George Institute for Global Health)
  • Food policy: What informs its development at the local level in remote Indigenous community stores? (Megan Ferguson, Menzies School of Health Research)
  • Providing incentives to promote healthy food purchasing in a remote Aboriginal community (Cara Laws and Melinda Hammond, Apunipima Cape York Health Council)
  • Opportunities and challenges in positioning food regulatory systems to protect and promote public health (Mark Lawrence, Deakin University)
  • From the ground up: An analysis of the public international regulation of agriculture (Hope Johnson, Queensland University of Technology)
  • Advancing the right to food: Reconciling food and nutrition security with food sovereignty (Bill Pritchard, University of Sydney)
  • Are charitable food services meeting recipient’s needs? (Sue Booth, Flinders University)
  • Governing food security in welfare capitalism (Carol Richards, Queensland University of Technology)
  • US food welfare law and policy as public health governance: The paternalism question (Liesel Spencer, Western Sydney University)
  • Actors, ideas and actions: Governance for healthy and sustainable food systems (Sharon Friel, Australian National University)
  • Food system governance for the common good: A research agenda to better understand current food governance in Australia (Bill Bellottti. University of Queensland)
  • Towards food policy for the dual burden of malnutrition: An exploratory policy space analysis in India (Anne-Marie Thow, University of Sydney)
  • Generating sustained political priority for nutrition and NCDs: Towards a suitable governance model (Carmen Huckel Sneider, University of Sydney)
  • Generating political priority for nutrition: What do we know? How do we move forward? (Philip Baker, Australian National University)

 

The abstracts for these sessions can be viewed here:

http://sydney.edu.au/law/health/food_governance/conference_program.shtml

 

Debates on the second and third day of the conference were also held, focusing on the food futures for Australia’s First Peoples and the role of business in improving nutrition and preventing disease.

 

Masterclass: How to be an effective food policy advocate

A masterclass with Professor Corinna Hawkes was held on Wednesday evening. The purpose of the masterclass was to encourage debate about the role of advocacy in food and nutrition policy, what it is and how to use it more effectively for the public interest.  Professor Hawkes began the session with a brief overview of food policy history and then class members were split into groups to discuss the challenges and opportunities associated with developing and implementing food and nutrition policy. At the end of the masterclass, Professor Hawkes shared her seven top tips for moving the political agenda:

 

  1. Find out what political interests are at play and understand the political processes designed to manage them.
  2. Find out where the most powerful interests lie and leverage them to serve your own interests.
  3. Repackage the language of those you seek to influence to serve your own interests – and make your language their language.
  4. Work with others in advocacy coalitions based on shared interests and shared objectives.
  5. Use evidence to give your political friends something to work with.
  6. Remember the most powerful force for change is the power of ideas.
  7. Find your voice – and encourage others to use theirs.

 

Overall impressions of the conference

The inaugural food governance conference brought together 170 professionals to discuss the role of law, regulation and policy in promoting food security and safety as well as improving nutrition and preventing obesity and non-communicable diseases. It is clear that good food policy needs to be coherent, connected and facilitates inclusive leadership, partnerships and a shared vision. This needs to be underpinned by good governance models that prioritise accountability, transparency and innovation.