How we work

A new panel guided by new ways of thinking about research, sustainability, and food systems

How we work

Established in 2015, the International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems (IPES-Food) works to shape debates on food system reform through policy-oriented research and direct engagement with policy processes around the world. The panel brings together environmental scientists, development economists, nutritionists, agronomists, and sociologists, as well as experienced practitioners from civil society and social movements. The panel is co-chaired by Olivier De Schutter*, former UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, and Olivia Yambi, nutritionist and former UNICEF representative to Kenya. IPES-Food employs a holistic food systems lens and focuses on the political economy of food systems, i.e., the differential power of actors to influence priority-setting and decision-making. 

IPES-Food’s work is guided by the following principles:

  • A holistic approach that addresses food systems in their entirety and understands issues such as hunger, obesity, environmental degradation, biodiversity loss and the pressures on smallholder livelihoods as component parts of bigger systemic problems, requiring systemic levers of change to be identified.
  • sustainability approach that includes environmental, health, social, cultural, and economic dimensions of food systems, and considers this full definition of sustainability as the benchmark of food systems reform.
  • A political economy approach that recognizes the power relations and influences exercised by actors within the food system, and the ensuing enablers and constraints they pose on decision-making.
  • A democratic approach to knowledge that identifies the value of state-of-the-art research in the natural and social sciences, while recognizing the importance of experiential, indigenous and traditional knowledge gained through action and lived experience. This approach recognize the need for scientific experts to collaborate with actors across food systems in order to produce policy-relevant knowledge

Read the full 10 Principles document 

Expert analysis that is fully independent

IPES-Food is a fully independent panel, without financial or organizational ties to any corporations, governments or intergovernmental agencies. The topics addressed by IPES-Food reflect what the panel of experts considers to be most relevant for the transition to sustainable food systems. IPES-Food's research agenda will be relevant to those actors, institutions and processes, but will not be set by them. If the panel’s analysis and recommendations are to be commensurate to the challenge of sparking a shift to sustainable food systems, they cannot be made to fit within the parameters set by specific actors, organizations or processes. The principle of independence is central to the panel’s work.

IPES-Food is currently funded by the Daniel and Nina Carasso Foundation, the Open Societies Foundation, and the Fondation Charles Leopold Mayer pour le Progrès de l'Homme. 

*During the European election campaign, April-May 2019, Olivier De Schutter will temporarily step down from his role as IPES-Food co-chair, and will not be taking on new public engagements on behalf of IPES-Food.


Based in Brussels (Belgium), IPES-Food operates as an 'Association International Sans But Lucratif' (AISBL).

IPES-Food AISBL's statutes can be found here